I see a new world coming! This is my hope. This is my faith.
What’s this new world look like? A great question to ask in the context of an election year where “the shaping of things to come” is cast in apocalyptic rhetoric that demonizes divergent pictures of the America we long to become, or reclaim, depending on who you’re listening to. So let’s remember the future. For God has given us a picture of God’s Future, the end of all things. It’s not a picture of tomorrow, or likely in your life. It is the way God is working to make things, the goal to which all of God’s energies are taking us.
We can best remember the future through understanding Jesus as the embodiment and announcement of the Kingdom of God. His inaugural sermon, “Change your lifestyle, for the kingdom of God is now here!” proclaimed the current presence of God’s intent for all things, where up is down and the poor are rich, and the powerful are brought low. Luke reminds us of a future where the poor, the captives, the blind, and oppressed all experience goodness and the completeness of Jubilee.
Jesus’ announcement of kingdom (God’s Future for all things) is rooted in the ancient prophets and deepened by those who came after him. Micah, for instance, imagines our future with powerful images of transforming weapons into tools of agricultural production, where war is no more and no one needs to be trained for war. To this peaceable kingdom he adds vision for economic justice and a community where everyone has enough. Rather than defining “justice” as people getting what they deserve, Micah clearly defines justice as people getting what they need. (Of course Jesus did as much too, as in the parable of the workers in the vineyard Matthew 20:1-16).
Having walked with Jesus for at least 3years, John captured this vision of God’s kingdom and reminds us of our future in Revelation 21 where God makes “all things new” (a key difference than if he had said “I am making all new things”). Or in Revelation 7:9 which envisions the diversity of God’s creation worshipping as one in the kingdom to come.
This vision cuts directly through debates about whether Christian faith is about the personal or the social, Jesus or justice. No! It’s all of that and more. God’s love for the world includes all people, all social systems and all cultures. The end result of such grace is the full workability and health of all people and peoples.
This is the future towards which God is working. This is the kingdom and reign of God, present with us today through faith and discipleship. Yet, as any newspaper in the world will reveal, it’s not yet fully present.
What to do in this period between the times?
Like a movie trailer put out weeks before a movie is released, we are a glimpse for the watching world of all that God intends for people. We live today as if the kingdom were already here: as people of peace, in full diversity, securing economic and social justice for all, in the fullness of God’s presence in all areas of our lives.
Jesus said as much in his own teachings, using the language of his day, “The kingdom of God is like yeast that a baker mixes into her dough. She kneads and kneads until the leaven is worked into all the dough.” (Matthew 13:33) As a small prophetic and imaginatively living minority we season all of culture, and everyone we meet.
As Christians we drag God’s Future into our present and help usher in God’s beautiful new world. We live it, embrace it, imagine it, we defend it. We ask ourselves what people or systems will look like when they’re fully functioning as God designs and we give them that today, no matter the cost or sacrifice. We resist the old at every turn, calling out the lies of the world that are counter to the kingdom of God. And we boldly spread the new where we live, work and play. Not just where we live – but through the way we live. Not just at our work – but by the very work that we do.
As the author of Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (11:1). Of course, what we hope for is nothing less than Jesus! The shape of things to come is the shape of Jesus in our world. Our families, churches, and communities will look more like Jesus when our prayers “Your kingdom come, your will be done…” are answered. As we are “transformed from one degree of glory to the next” our future too is Jesus. This is my hope. This is my faith.
More than anything, we pray this transformation into existence. Walter Wink says we must “believe the future into being.” Through prayer, he says we “infuse the air of a time yet to be into the suffocating atmosphere of the present.” I love this image, as it connects my prayers less to the need to find “answers” and more to my own allegiance to Jesus and to the closeness of my following him. “The future belongs to whoever can envision a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.”
I see a new world coming. And I think I like it!
Jesus, your kingdom come; your will be done; in Houston as it is in heaven. AMEN.