GALEN HOLLEY: Christian hope is a bit of a paradox

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

There’s an old joke pastors tell that says that if Jesus were to announce what day he was coming back there’d be several clergymen pleading with him to postpone it because they already had something planned.
We’re a hive of busy little bees we are, a race of little empire builders, like the rich fool in Luke 12, who after a good crop decided to tear down his barns and build new ones.
Jesus smacked him across the face with a warning about getting caught up in the rat race.
The little fool’s life, so Jesus said, would be demanded of him that very night.
We live in an age completely absorbed with the present. In the world we’ve created, life – its fulfillment and even its prolongation – has become our ultimate goal.
We sing about it every Sunday, but we don’t really live as though the great beyond takes priority over what’s in our day planner.
Christendom is what we call the relationship between the church and society as it was in the Middle Ages. Essentially, the church was society.
Life was harsh back then. Warfare, pestilence and general savagery made life expectancy about half what it is today.
In an environment like that the church did pretty well peddling its product, namely, hope in the hereafter, because when folks looked around they didn’t see much that made them want to stay on this earth.
The Enlightenment and the liberal revolutions it spawned changed all that. The values of liberty, equality and brotherhood and the social improvements that came with them, such as a culture of human rights, eventually made life a whole lot more tolerable.
Today, life has become so tolerable, and so comfortable, the end times are little more than an abstract thought.
This isn’t an altogether bad thing. Nobody’s arguing against the abundant life, here, and it’s pretty clear that the culture of human rights could never have developed within Christendom.
Still, as good as things are today, Christians have to resist the temptation to focus so much on the present that they lose sight of eternity.
In an age when man has never been more lionized and fussed over, when he’s never been healthier or more in control of his surroundings, it’s easy to neglect the transcendental hope that underlies the Christian faith.
No matter how comfortable we make things, it’s our relationship with the great not yet of the gospel that sustains us.
Living in hope of the end times doesn’t mean indulging in bizarre apocalypticism. It means living an existential paradox, acknowledging, as Jesus told us, that the kingdom God is already breaking in, and that it is yet to come.

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.