Actively bringing about much needed change in our communities and hope to the broken and disheartened.
Let’s suffice it to say that I don’t know anything. I think that’s a fair assessment.
You see, when I try to know stuff, I find out I don’t know stuff. Like my last post – I put a lot of stuff out there. Stuff I’m trying to learn about. I’ve got about 3 people in my life who think what I said was getting “warmer” so to speak, and about 300 who felt that I was getting “colder.” So all of that to say that mentally, it’s been a journey.
Grace feels like it should be bigger than most people are a proponent of. That somehow grace is available to all, but unless they accept it then it doesn’t apply to them seems to make grace pretty small in my mind. But ya know what, I have no idea what I’m talking about here. Literally none. I have no ability to make any theological treatises based around this way of thinking because frankly, what’s the point? Who am I trying to convince? And why?
I had a conversation with a friend not long ago, and this is a very dear friend of mine, that bothered me to a point that I’ve spoken about their statement to me with many other friends in our faith/grace/God/Christian discussions (whatever you want to call them). My friend told me that they weren’t worried about the outcome of the election because they are not a citizen of this earth, that God had everything under control, and that their citizenship rested in Heaven with God and if this world went to shit that it wouldn’t matter cuz in the end their destination is Heaven.
I know that this individual said that but doesn’t really live that way…you know, apathetically. They are super involved in all kinds of crazy good stuff that makes this world better – but it’s the statement that threw me for a loop. Because so many Christians actually use that as an excuse to not care. So this post is about that…caring about the world, in light of God’s grace. I think.
I had another conversation with two friends over wings and beer at Shifty’s on Tuesday. My one buddy revealed that he doesn’t really think about grace and faith in terms of heaven and hell, but rather, that he believes Jesus came to live a life for us to model after – that it wasn’t so much about being able to be saved from sins so we don’t go to hell, but that his life was an example of how God created us to live here on earth. With love, with humility, that the goal is to try to “bring order” to the created world – and through that bring peace to every created thing. Not through war or manipulation, but through love and care and humility.
I found that super profound. The interesting thing about this conversation to me was that when I write about things like grace and the overwhelming response to it is “are you saying all people go to heaven?” I tend to start thinking along those lines. That grace is all about saving us from hell. But in reality – what do we really know about heaven and hell? I mean seriously – you think you know things about them. Hell is real bad…burning people, the devil, chains, lake of fire…it’s all speculation though. Because whenever Jesus talked about it, was it in metaphor? Was it to illustrate a point? Or was it to scare us into following him? Did he tell us it was remedial punishment or eternal suffering with no way out? Heaven is pearly gates, singing all the time, being in God’s presence, mansions, angels, crazy scrolls… You think you know. Personally, I do not know. Nor am I convinced that it matters.
If we spend all of our time thinking about the afterlife, speculating about “who’s in and who’s out” – then we’re missing the point I think. There’s a quote that I totally love from this band I listen to called Stick to Your Guns…here it is:
“The question of, ‘What is death, what lies beyond death?’ becomes rather meaningless if you don’t know how to live.”
If you waste your life away here, the questions about the afterlife become meaningless because truthfully, it’s speculation. People might write to me and say “Oh but Ryan, the Bible clearly states that Hell is a place of eternal punishment for those who reject God, that it’s a real, physical place of torture and torment. Jesus is very clear about that.” But ya know what, I’m not convinced that the Bible is super clear on that – ya know why? Because for 2000 years scholars and parishioners alike have all been wrestling with the same questions you and I are wrestling with – some of them feel that they have come up with the answers, others don’t. It’s not always clear-cut when it comes to the Bible.
You may think you have it all figured out now, but what happens when you die and roll into God’s presence and you see Adolf Hitler enjoying a nice meal with Mother Teresa? Are you gonna blow up? Go crazy? Be like – yo God, that’s not right, man. Adolf was a bad dude! How is he here? And then you’re gonna be like that worker who toiled in the field all day, who gets paid the same amount as the guy who worked for 1 hour. And naturally, you’ll be upset. Because for you, it’s all about what you’ve earned. It’s all about being a part of the club…you’re in, and other’s are out. They have cooties, and you don’t.
So if we cut the crap and say, truthfully, that we seriously don’t know what God is gonna do when we all die, that leaves us with one thing left for us to be concerned about…
Right here. Right now.
What if God’s grace was less about us having fire insurance and more about us being able to tap into a life that is full of meaning, full of joy, full of peace. Just…peace. Holy shit, all I want is a little peace in this crazy mess. Everything is just crazy. Christianity is crazy. The world is crazy. It’s always a fight, it’s always an argument about who’s in and who’s out or who’s right and who’s wrong. Fight, Fight, Fight. Just…I just need some peace. That’s all.
The Bible talks about God giving us “peace that surpasses all understanding” – that the peace of God rolls in and tells us to shut the hell up and just take some time and enjoy God’s love. To stop trying to prove to each other what the “real deal” is and just know and understand that we’ve been given the opportunity to live here, to be alive, to interact with others around us and also to interact with a God who loves us. That being the case, it’s God’s grace that gives us the ability to live fully, right here right now, and it’s here for everyone. Of course people can choose to live differently, that’s a choice we are all given, but we have this new nature – one where God doesn’t see us as lowly sinners, but as righteous people who he loves. We can embrace that and live accordingly, or we can not. It’s a choice. But all I’m willing to speculate at this juncture is that the decision we make to live in peace and harmony with each other, under the influence of God’s grace on our lives, impacts us here on this world, right now while we live here. How it impacts you later – I don’t know, and if I choose to care too much about it then I’ll be missing my chance to live life today to the best of my ability.
So, YOLO baby, let’s make this world a better place.