"Believe in God and believe in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also." -John 14:1b-3
What's the hardest thing for people to believe regarding Christian thought? At first I was thinking resurrection, but after reflecting on today's reading, I'm not so sure. In some ways I wonder if resurrection is more believable than Jesus coming back again. Here's my thinking.
1) Christians are pretty much unified in believing in Jesus coming back from the grave. I would argue that it's pretty hard to be a Christian if you believe otherwise, since all of Christian faith revolves around resurrection. However, there is a wide diversity of opinion regarding if Jesus is coming back. It seems like a wider and wider swath of evangelicals in America don't consider Jesus returning to be all that important. We die. We go to heaven. God burns up creation...the end. Jesus doesn't need to come back. Instead, we're taken to him.
2) Christians can treat resurrection as a historical fact. In other words, it's something that has already happened, so we can take it for granted and don't worry about it. But Jesus coming back is an unknown. It is a future oriented thing, and no matter how many times people try to predict when it will happen, the obvious reality is that no one knows when it will happen.
3) Which leads to my last thought. Christians are getting embarrassed by the non-Christian world suggesting that Jesus's watch must have broken. It's been over 2000 years after all. Where is he? If he was coming back, wouldn't he have done so by now? What's the hold up? And with each passing year, the criticism and cynicism only increases.
4) Yes, three was supposed to be my last, but I just thought of this. American Christians can't think about Jesus returning without approaching the subject through the fighting millennialistic lenses of the 19th century. There is some embarrassment over that too, specifically that we were arrogant enough to believe that we, as Americans chosen by God, were better than everyone else and that God would usher in his era of peace through us. Manifest destiny for the win!
Okay, anyway, resurrection continues to be a linchpin of Christian belief, but the idea that Jesus will return and when he does heaven and earth will become one has, at best, become secondary, if not optional altogether. Christians may be uncomfortable giving voice to their doubt, but I think most Christians are asking the same question the non-Christians are. If Jesus truly came back from the grave and is the living Lord of the Kingdom of God, where is he?
I think I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Christianity is not for the faint of heart. You have to be gutsy to claim to be a Christian. If we're going to find the courage to stay true to what has been passed down to us over the last 2000 years, we better be prepared for some ridicule. As Jesus said in another verse I read today, "Remember the word that I said to you, 'Servants are no greater than their master.' If they persecuted me; they will persecute you..." -John 15:20
Stopping point: John 15