What does “heaven” mean to you? I put “heaven” in quotes, because in addition to what we usually think of when we hear the word “heaven”, I’m also talking about where do you want to be? What is paradise for you? What is the point and goal of life to you? More to the point, wheredo we believe “heaven” is? I ask this because I think what we make of heaven has a big influence on how we care for this life and this planet. Culturally it seems we’re both biased and told to view heaven as a place located elsewhere, which we go to afterwe die. The problem with this mentality can be summed up by this question: Since I’m going to spend eternity in a blissful space elsewhere in a glorious “body”, why should I care for this body and this location?
I bring this up because while running the other day I was listening to a podcast on the problem of climate change and global warming. The hosts were talking about how millions and millions of people think there’s a problem, but we aren’t doing much or anything to solve it. Why? My theory is a big reason why good people either don’t believe humans are causing significant changes in our climate for the worse or do, yet aren’t doing much to address the issue, is our view of heaven. As long as our forever home after we die is elsewhere and later, or nothing at all as some would say, we don’t have much motivation to make the BIG changes in our economies, industries, transportation, etc. many experts say are required to save or sustain our planet. The pain simply isn’t worth the gain.
Now, let me briefly pause to ask anyone who doesn’t think global warming or climate change are problems to pleaseread this with an open mind and heart. Calling each other wrong and closing our ears to the beliefs and arguments of those we disagree with isn’t helping anyone. The more open to and curious of one another we can become, the better we’ll all be. What is more, I used to think the shrinking polar caps, rising waters, warming climates, and so on weren’t big deals, but now I do and I’ll just throw this out there: I’d rather believe climate change is a issue, do things to care better for the earth, and be wrong, than believe it isn’t a problem and be either right or wrong, because doing good for people and nature is NEVER a bad thing.
That was a longer pause than I meant for it to be, LOL. I come at this from a Christian perspective, meaning I relate heaven to salvation, which it seems, could be alternately named as paradise to bliss. I bring that up because in my experience of Christianity for a good chunk of my life our forever home in heaven was characterized as elsewhere, which led me to not care much for our planet here and now.
Then, nearly 15 years ago I was introduced to author N.T. Wright, and a host of other voices, who said Jesus and the biblical witness more accurately describe heaven as an alternate reality where peace, joy, and love fill every nook and cranny of existence in the presence and reign of God … only heaven has ALWAYS been meant to be joined with earth, and WILL fully do so in the “end”! While we see the culmination of heaven invading earth (so to speak) beautifully described in the Book of Revelations’ conclusion, we also get many pictures of paradise bursting forth in our planet NOW.
While MUCH more could be said on this, I’m just going to point one more thing out, before wrapping up. The Book of Acts is our earliest history about Christ followers and the Church. It contains many recollections of people preaching the Gospel, i.e. telling people about heaven and salvation. Interestingly, as I read it and have heard from good sources, there are exactly ZERO instances of these Christ devotees saying paradise and bliss are elsewhere and later. Instead, the focus of these early Jesus people was heaven HERE and salvation NOW. I don’t know about you, but this change in thinking places more urgency than ever on loving and caring for our planet. What do you think?
Grace and peace,