“Jesus didn’t come just to die for your sins. He came to teach you how live a full, earthy, gritty, and marvelous life.” Hugh Halter wrote that in his powerful book, “Flesh: Learning to Be Human Like Jesus”. Later in the book, Mr. Halter asks the poignant question, “If someone were to ask you, ‘What is the gospel?’ what would you say? How much of your answer would reflect the afterlife, and how much would reflect this life?”
We Christians have arguably become well accomplished at selling the benefits of Heaven. We can describe the horrors of Hell and then the wonders of Heaven, which should make following Jesus a no-brainer for anyone, right? The problem is that this type of evangelism has little precedent in the teachings of Jesus Himself.
The focus of Jesus’ ministry was not to teach people how to live after they die, but rather to teach them how to live while they are still alive. It’s ironic that there is constant debate among Christians about what Heaven will be like and what we will do once we get there. If Jesus felt that was the most important issue, don’t you think He would have talked more about it and made it clear to everyone in His day? Meanwhile, what Jesus modeled and did make very clear was the way we are supposed to live our lives here on earth. That’s why He came, to show us what the life God intended for us really looked like.
Yet for some reason, when we attempt to tell someone about Jesus, we focus on the things about which He said very little. No wonder people become confused and resist the murky message we are presenting to them. The best part of Christianity is not escaping Hell. The best part is the privilege of having a relationship with the One who created us and learning to live the life for which He designed us. Everything else is just a bonus.
Jesus prayed that His Kingdom would be on earth as it is in Heaven. His desire was to restore earth to the way it was before we messed it up with our prideful sin and mistrust of the character of God. He longs for things to be like they were; a paradise in which He could walk and talk with each one of us. Jesus came to restore life on earth, not to offer you a cloud to sit upon for all eternity.
Our mission is to live as Jesus lived, and by so doing to bring a little bit of Heaven to earth. When we live like Jesus, others will naturally be drawn to His light emanating from us. We won’t need to make grandiose promises of a far off Utopia; we’ll be building the Kingdom right in front of their eyes. That is enough to draw others to the truth. That is all we are called to do. Jesus will take care of the rest.