My old school chum Harry started an interesting conversation yesterday on his Facebook page where he posted this simple statement: “Heaven is more a journey than a destination.”
For most of us, I suspect we generally conceive of Heaven as the destination. Life is the journey that takes us there.
But the more I dwell in scripture and the life of Jesus, the more I am seeing that Heaven is not a “destination” at all. Rather, I believe it is an ultimate experience of reality. The more we are able to love, absolutely and unconditionally, the more we are able to experience life in the way of Jesus.
When Jesus refers to “the kingdom of Heaven,” he’s not talking about some place for us to go, but an experience of life that is available to us here and now. And the more and more we emulate Jesus, the more and more able we are to live in that experience of reality, or to “dwell” in “the kingdom of Heaven.”
One of the concepts attracting much of my thought lately is that perhaps in our present physical condition, there is a limit to how much of that “kingdom experience” we are fully able to perceive. How much we are truly able to love our neighbor. How much we are truly able to love our enemies. How much we are truly able to love ourselves. How much we are truly able to love God.
We live a broken and fallen existence dominated by that which we have labeled “sin.” And the essence of sin, ultimately, is the absence of love.
And so when we talk about “going to Heaven,” I wonder if what we’re really talking about is escaping the limitations that prevent us from fully experiencing that kind of love that is the full essence of life and reality.
I suppose in a sense we could conceive of such a concept as a sort of “destination.” But I tend to believe that paints for us a picture of the “afterlife” as being more or less just an extended vacation. And, unfortunately, that is very much the picture our churches have been teaching us to believe for the past couple of centuries: Heaven as the “destination” for our disembodied souls to somehow exist in an eternal holiday. Sadly, in many ways I fear it points us away from what is really real.
While we may indeed rest from the troubles and strife of the world as we now know it, what if we began to think more of the work of Jesus in us and through us continuing on both sides of the grave. Not in some faraway fantasy land, but in an experience of reality that we cannot yet fully perceive: truly and completely in the “presence” of Christ, of the living God, continuing to carry out his mission in ways we may not yet even imagine, but which we can still begin to live out even within our current sin-inhibited limitations.
In that way, Heaven, as my friend Harry stated, very much is the journey. A journey we begin to take the more we let love enter into our lives, rule our thoughts, influence our choices and inform our decisions. One that opens the doors to the kingdom and allows us to experience God’s loving presence in our lives today the more we share it with the world around us. And one which does not end when we shake off this mortal coil, but continues in new and amazing and totally unexpected ways on the “other side.”
“Why would I wait till I die to come alive?” I think the boys from Switchfoot say it best: