This world is our laboratory for Christian living. Though our future is assured in heaven, our present is in this context full of hatred, violence, loss, grief, betrayal, backstabbing, lies, idiocy, destruction, and self-centerdness.
God intends for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling here in the muck of human existence. If this world wasn’t important to God and essential to his salvation story then Jesus would have never been sent here to take on human limitation and experience the worst that humans can offer and ultimately provide salvation for this glorious and wretched place.
I have seen many Christians that stick their head in the sand and practice denial of the realities of human life just wishing that their eternity was already here. Countless Southern gospel songs are about the “Sweet By and By” and that is appropriate as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that God is still working in the here and now.
God’s Kingdom, as Dallas Willard has said, “is where what God wants done is done.” For us to turn our back on the problems in our own heart, in our neighborhoods, in our community, and in our world as we focus on a not-yet future is to miss the opportunities we have now to live like Jesus for the benefit of those closest to us and for the broader good that is possible.
It is true that our eternal life starts now. We can experience the good, eternal things of God now but we have to be willing to live that out in situations that might not be our preference; with people that get on our nerves; and in crisis that we cannot easily get out of. God has designed our development in this way, as hard as that may seem at times.
Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Our lives are an experiment of how to bear good fruit as we let the truth of Christ dwell in us and we in him. We take on practices that cultivate this abiding and our heart and mind starts to resemble the heart and mind of Jesus and we share our transformed self with a hurting world – doing what God wants done when he wants it done. This is the reality of the Christian life and until Christ returns there is no other way.
You are not going to live out your Christian life outside of the realities of this world. That is not a possibility and is not God’s intent. Christ has given us a model and a framework for living the good life here and now. The Jesus life is the best way to live and the only hope for a dying world. Our denial of reality and obsession with eternity is not helping the world that Christ died for.
We are in the laboratory of this world whether we want to be or not. What is God going to develop in you here and now?