by the Rev. Jay George
“Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” – Lk 17:21
If we were to accept the admittedly implausible idea of heaven and hell as some sort of geographical-spiritual territories, might it be that earth is the border between them and that’s why we recognize them? Every post-modern author and director in the world strives desperately to convince us of our mixed spiritual heritage. Each bad cop a hero, every heroine with a tragic flaw.
The broken hero/redeemed villain characters speak so clearly to us because we recognize ourselves and our lives in their stories. We recognize too readily the images of our world given to us by media and social networks.
Hell on earth is easy to imagine. And too easy to find. Carnage and death, oppression and pain, disease and destruction spill upon us from every arena. If you think Hell is only found in history or Hollywood then stop reading this and buy a plane ticket. Go anyplace where people live in fear. Afghanistan. Darfur. Drug-riddled neighborhoods. Alcohol-soaked homes. Abusive relationships. We know hell is no mythical realm of fire and brimstone because torture and torment are burning realities too particular to ignore.
And what of Heaven?
We’ve lived so long with the myth of “pie in sky in the great by and by” that we still struggle to wrap our arms round the simple proclamation of our Lord: “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus doesn’t say maybe, or tomorrow, or over there. Jesus says here and now. Heaven doesn’t begin when we die. Heaven begins today. If only we will recognize the reality of its existence as quickly as we do that of Hell.
For every death, there is birth.
For every tear, laughter.
For every addiction, sobriety.
For every hunger, satisfaction.
For every loneliness, relationship.
For every sorrow, joy.
For every darkness, light.
For every sinner, redemption.
Heaven isn’t something that will happen. Heaven is something that is happening. All around us. Every moment. Every day. Heaven is the abundant life we can choose to live in Christ. Whenever we seek first the Kingdom of God, we find Heaven. Wherever we love our neighbor, we find Heaven. However we allow Jesus to calm our storms and heal our blindness and carry our burdens, we find Heaven.
If we dare to do unto others, unto the least of these, unto the orphan, the widow and the alien in the land, then we touch the Heavenly realm. Jesus didn’t give us the Holy Spirit so we could go to Heaven. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit just so we could be in Heaven. In redemption. In justice. In mercy. Wherever and whenever and however we find ourselves living in Christ, there we live in Heaven.
About the author: The Rev. Jay George is vicar of Grace Church, San Antonio. Reach him at Revjay@gracechurchsa.org
This article is from the fall/winter issue of Reflections magazine. To read the entire issue, click here. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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