Read Matthew 5:1-16; 6:7-15; 13:1-34; Mark 12:28-34
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.'” (Matthew 10:7)
I was just listening to the song “Imagine” by the late, great John Lennon. The song has long since been heralded as the global anthem of world peace and was Lennon’s best selling song of his entire solo career. The song challenges the listener to imagine a world without possessions, without war, without greed and poverty. John takes things that are commonly held to be the cause of war and suffering, and challenges the listener to imagine a world where those things didn’t exist, which John assumes would be a world where the “world would be as one.”
At the top of John Lennon’s list of things to imagine the world without, was the notion of heaven, and conversely, the idea of hell. To the Christian, such lyrics should make us pause. Why would John Lennon want us to imagine a world without heaven? What would such a world be like? John then takes it one step further and ends that verse with this, “Imagine all the people living for today.” For John Lennon, the concept of heaven is one that is foreign to this earth. It is a place far, far away; it is a place that is someplace other than this earth.
Christianity has often taught that this world is something to be discarded, that we are to await “a place that is far better than this world.” Heaven has been taught, by Christians, to be the very antithesis of Earth. Yet, in the Bible we find a different understanding of heaven. Jesus didn’t speak of the Kingdom of Heaven as a place that was far, far away; rather, for Jesus heaven was right here, right now. Jesus taught that not only could we see and experience heaven on earth, but that we could inherit it. All that we needed to do was open our hearts to God and see the world through God’s eyes.
For Jesus, heaven and hell were the opposite sides of the same coin. As he walked the streets of Galilee and Judea, he saw hell all around him. Starvation, extreme poverty, disease, neglect, abuse, and other terrible things are all examples of the hell Jesus witness all around him. His entire country was experiencing the hell of being occupied by the oppressive and tyrannical Roman Empire.
Yet, despite all of the hell Jesus saw, he also witnessed to the very real presence of heaven in the world. When he chose to heal instead of harm, when he chose to love instead of hate, when he chose to forgive instead of bear grudges, when he chose to stand up for right rather than sit down for the status quo, he was not only witnessing to the presence of heaven but he WAS THE PRESENCE OF HEAVEN…the very presence of God in this world.
And we can be the presence of heaven too. We just need to be willing to get a little dirty, to feel a little uncomfortable and to step outside of the boxes we put ourselves in. We need to be willing to reach out and be LOVE in the lives of those around us. We need to be willing to become vulnerable, just as Jesus became vulnerable, for the sake of those around us. To do such things is to bear witness to the reality of heaven on earth.
While John Lennon is calling for us to imagine there to be no heaven out there in the sky, he is also calling us to imagine a world in which heaven exists here on Earth. But he has missed an important truth that Jesus has been pointing us to all along: we don’t have to imagine heaven on earth…we only have to live it. Pointing to others not living it is not proof that it doesn’t exist. It does exist if WE choose to LIVE it!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Imagine what would happen if you stopped imagining and started living what you imagined.
Lord, I thank you for my imagination and for equipping to make what I imagine become a reality. Guide me to be your shining light, witnessing to the reality of heaven! Amen.