As you might know, tomorrow is the wrapup of this year's "40 Days of Purpose" campaign. My church has joined in on the campaign, and I have been reading through the accompanying book "The Purpose Driven Life." The fifth emphasis in the book -- the fifth purpose of life -- is our mission to take the Gospel to everyone. As I was thinking about this mission, I was reminded of all the typical excuses and typical reasons why I don't usually share my faith like I should and why I think if I did people wouldn't listen. Because it came up earlier in the book, I want to focus on just one here -- the "eternal perspective" clause.
First of all, if you've been around me much, you know that I have often made light of "eternal perspective", because at times it can serve as a convenient copout to explain away things that are hard to explain. But, in this case, I'm going to relent from making light of it, and admit that eternal perspective is a key element of missions and conversion and understanding what the Christian life is all about.
I would like to relate a brief story. A few weeks ago, as I was on one of my common trips to Dallas, I was flying high above the clouds. At that altitude, I was immersed in this Purpose Driven Life book, and the author was commenting on the reality of eternity. It is not just a nice idea that we can easily ignore, and (surprisingly) it's not JUST the hope of resurrection from the dead (since that only takes us as far as the first moment of eternity), but rather it really IS real, that it IS forever, that it IS important, and it IS to be our motivation. 30-something thousand feet up is a good place to read such lines. It provides adequate separation from the normal trials and triumphs of life to realize that there is an entire plane of existence that far transcends what we are used to. That is the eternal perspective, that is the paradigm shift that we must have to understand the Gospel in its fullest.
I want to address the point of this little page here to those who perhaps are struggling to figure out what the point of this whole Gospel thing is. Perhaps you have friends who are Christians and seem committed to "saving the world" and such, and it simply makes no sense. You might say, "Saved from what? The whole world? Huh? Why can't you be a Christian and let me be a Buddhist or Atheist or Muslim, etc? What difference does it make, really? If it makes me happy in this life, shouldn't I be able to believe whatever I want, as long as I maintain a proper moral ethic in society?"
Well, basically, a necessary starting point is this eternal perspective. If life is life and that's it, then what's the point really? If it's only this life we are concerned with, then whatever leads to the most comfort and the most justice for now is all that's necessary. If it's only this life, then it's good to live a good life, it is good to help out those here on earth, but the massive Gospel effort might be unwarranted. But the point is that this life is just the first blip on the radar screen. I hate to say such things, first because all such things are cliche-ish, and second because to describe eternity we always use a measurable quantity...this life is just one radar blip among the <big number> radar blips of eternity, we say. But that is inaccruate. More correctly, it is one blip among infinite blips. One mile among infinite miles. It makes no sense. Infinity I cannot comprehend. Eternity is weird and like trying to fathom a huge limitless number. But, to understand the motivation of Christian missions, I think we have to grapple with that infinite/eternal concept. With that in mind -- that FOREVER destinies hang in the balance -- the Gospel missions thrust makes a whole lot more sense.
Now, if we can get over the eternity paradigm shift, then we can begin to discuss the finer points of the Gospel -- God's plan and sin and redemption, etc. And of course things like God's plan have echoes of eternity in them as well. But only through the focusing lens of eternity can Christian missions take its rightful importance. For those of us who are Christians, and especially for those of us who are lazy about missions like me, I hope we will remember to place the lens of eternity before our view when thinking about missions -- really, and not just in a half-hearted sense -- and in so doing I think our own drive for missions will be greatly enhanced. I also think that when we are witnessing and sharing our faith, some understanding of this foreverness is required for many people to see the importance of what we are telling them.
So my message is twofold: 1) to non-Christians, if I or another Christian come on too strongly and it seems like I make a big deal out of nothing, realize that I am expressing my views based on this eternal perspective, which implies an imperativeness that otherwise may not be there. 2) to Christians (myself most definitely included), I want to encourage a refocusing on eternal things, and a continual reevaluation of priorities of life in light of eternity.
This is a deep topic, and I probably haven't given it justice. But sometimes discussing topics like this one just lead me around in circles, as if I am getting ever closer to the truth but never quite reaching it (maybe I'm meandering around the figure-eight of the infinite...). If you have questions, or if you'd like to make a comment like, "Eternity makes no sense at all!!" I'd be glad to listen. Email me, or visit the bulletin board and start a "Wise Thoughts" discussion topic at http://joeclark.no-ip.org/bb.