A young friend recently expressed her disappointment, or at least confusion, at what she perceives to be Christians’ focus on heaven. If we focus so much on the eternal destination after death, is it at the expense of the life we’re living now?
Eternity doesn’t begin at death. It reaches well into our past and into our future. It is our forever. I’ve mulled it over repeatedly since the conversation. I think, if directly asked, most Christians would say their faith impacts daily life and where they end up at the end of life isn’t the focus. But what if we look at their actions and listen to their words? What does daily life reveal? I’m not suggesting tearing people down because of it, but I think it’s important to look at how certain beliefs manifest through daily faith. We can learn a lot and consistently be leaning into and discerning what is consistent with God’s character and Word and what isn’t.
For example, I was briefly involved in a denomination that, like many, started with truth but had to reframe in ways that seemed acceptable in order to fit with a set-upon doctrine. I was young in my faith, but there were so many questions I had that were answered with simple terms, vague generalizations, or unbending specifics. I’m not complaining. My curiosity pushed me forward, and I still learned a lot in the church. I learned some important basics as well as some pitfalls and distractions I didn’t want to fall into. And I picked up a little baggage, too, that I grew through as I unpacked years later.
But back to the topic of heaven being a focus at the expense of an alive and active daily faith. Seeing the impact that environment had on one person has made me sad. As long as a person he loves repents before death, he has peace. The person he loves will be in heaven, and that is the ultimate goal. But little is said or done to confront behavior in the meantime. Little investment is poured into the loved one’s faith condition right now or how it negatively impacts others he loves. Of course, he prays, but he has determined the details of his loved one’s daily life is none of his business. And that’s true to some extent; it’s actually all God’s business—and he places us in communities to live faith well together. But like others, this person sticks to topics that are comfortable, because he’s frightened to lose the relationship. I understand that concern. Sometimes stepping away is the healthiest option for us and others, but sometimes we step away in some areas because it’s all we think we can handle.
The end of life decision is not the only point of redemption. Redemption is a process. We might be working up to it or working through it or growing within it. But we should never turn a blind eye and waste a precious moment, day, week, month, or years that we have and are responsible for within our faith with God. We cannot choose well today for other people, but we can choose well in how we live out our faith, including how we do so with others. God put each of us into faith community so that we can encourage each other and admonish each other as a type of encouragement. Let’s live well in that community and with that responsibility—today and the forever tomorrows.