I just finished watching Parks and Recreation S4E6, End of the World. It’s a funny little show in which a radical religious group holds an all night vigil to welcome the end of the world which would be arriving at dawn. It was, of course, all in good fun, but it did open my eyes to a somewhat sobering reality: as Christians, when we focus all of our attention and faith on the other world, or the rapture, or the tribulation, or whatever kind of spiritual escapism that different interpretations of the Bible can provide—when we disconnect from this world nobody takes us seriously.
Did you know that in 2015, we are expecting 2 solar eclipses and 4 blood moons, and according to some, the end of the world? I believe there is a book and everything. There is also a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. And Hitler used to be the Antichrist. And you can find lots of somewhat ancient literature about Jesus coming back in A.D. 1000 And, and, and…
All of this is profoundly uninteresting, and I’ve already spent too much time on it. The point is this: we have work to do, and it’s here, and it’s now. The Kingdom of God is among us. We have good news, really good news, to take into the world. God is madly in love with humanity, and it’s up to us to let people know that. And sharing this news requires more than saying, “Jesus loves you,” and then moving on. People need to see the light of Christ in us, and sometimes that takes a while. Sometimes you have to know and love and live alongside someone for a few years before they really understand that you approach life differently. Sometimes people are so jaded by circumstances, or past hurts, or even tragically by other Christians, that you may have to go live alongside them for a very long time before their hearts are soft enough to even care about what you believe.
I have a friend at work who I’ve known for about eight years now. In that time, we have talked about politics and food and board games and yoga and raising kids. A few times, we even talked about faith and Jesus and the church. She just put in her notice so that she can work full time as a massage therapist, and we’ll probably keep in touch on a Facebook level, but those spontaneous life conversations are unlikely in our future. From here, I hope and pray that she never got the feeling that I was somehow “evangelizing” her, but instead that she at least knows that Jesus isn’t about condemnation or money or hypocrisy, and that Christians are at least a mixed bag. Those are the seeds I was able to sow of the course of the past eight years. And in the meantime, we enjoyed a real friendship as we worked alongside each other.
And I’m sure I haven’t been the perfect friend or the brightest light, but this is the Kingdom of God. We must be deeply involved in this world. Yes, we’re rooted in Christ. Yes, we are a holy priesthood. But what good is any of that if we’re constantly looking to somehow escape the world? Whether that’s looking for the rapture or surrounding ourselves exclusively with Christians, you can’t pursue the Kingdom of God in the absence of unbelievers. You can’t extend grace to those who don’t need it. The way Jesus put it is “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” That’s the one we follow.