Resurrecting a Dead World

This past Sunday my wife and I returned from a somewhat impromptu vacation to Sanibel, Fl. This little island just off the Gulf coast was our honeymoon destination a few years ago, and we have been back each year since. As nature-lovers (and beach lovers), the largely conserved Island yields to us beautiful and unique environments full of incredible wildlife (the birds being by far my favorite to seek out). This past trip I got an unexpected chance to swim within feet of Dolphins just off-shore, see three birds that I’ve never spotted before, and got snuck up on by an alligator (which took away my one assumed consolation about walking around where giant reptiles also live: that I would hear them coming).

Sanibel has become for us a place that brings joy like nowhere else. For me, it may be the spot where I feel closest to God. Admiring the beauty and complexity of the unique ecosystem brings about a sense of awe that I can’t quite describe or even quite remember when I come home. It’s a wonderful experience.

But then I do get home. I hear about police brutality, I hear about gun violence, I hear about border crises, and it all comes as a painful reminder of the ugliness that exists in contrast with the beauty of places like Sanibel. In a strange way, all of this contributes to my decision to follow Jesus and embrace a Christian worldview. It’s the only things that makes sense of the two conflicting realities. A secular worldview simply doesn’t make satisfactory sense of my appreciation of beauty, or the sheer complexity of the life around me. At the same time, the Christian worldview proposes a supreme lawgiver, and grants me a standard by which I can actually call murder evil of abuse unjust.

The thing is, I think most of you recognize this. Seeing as you are on a church blog, most of you probably already believe this. The main reason I want to share all of this with you is that there is a misunderstanding in Christianity many of us grew up with that doesn’t actually make sense of the beauty. It’s not altogether wrong, but it is insufficient and should be corrected so that we can present the best possible vision for our world, and the vision Jesus seems to have had in mind.

We have often reduced the Christian hope to a far off “Heaven”. One day God will destroy evil and the world and take us away to the good place. The problem with this view is that, while it deals with evil, it fails to make much sense of the beauty I see around me. Is this world just a waiting room? Will God just throw it all in the garbage? Do these 70-100 years most of us live not actually matter much?

The beauty of the Christian worldview is that it isn’t as simple as evacuating to a mystical Heaven. The Bible begins when God makes this world as a temple for himself, with humans as his co-rulers and caretakers of it. It ends with all creation made new, and a restoration of that initial calling to mankind. The Bible validates the beauty of this world, despite the evil that corrupts it, and its solution is not to throw it away and save some, but rather to do away with evil so that it can be restored- new, yet familiar. Paul rightly says that all of creation was subjected to evil but is yearning for something better (Rom 8:22-23). I think I see that every time I am on my happy little Island.

For some, this is a fairly unfamiliar idea that may be a little uncomfortable. How can we know that this is what Jesus’s future world looks like? How can we be so sure it’s not just about escape? The best example I can give is that of Jesus- the first piece of new creation. (1 Cor 5:20). When Jesus appears to his disciples, there is something objectively different about him. His body is new in quality, and yet it is not a completely different one either. It bears the scars of the old and retains its desire for good food among friends (Luke 24:36-42). Jesus has been made new, but he is still the old Jesus. This is a Christian understanding of our world’s current state and destiny. It is a place where both goodness and evil currently exist, and the hope of Jesus is that he will soon do away with the corruption and make glorious what is already good.

All of that said, I want to leave you with 2 thoughts on how this effects your life every day. Firstly, it means this world matters, not just as a holding tank for souls to be sorted, but as our home that desperately needs to be made right. While only Jesus can bring the fullness of his kingdom here (come soon, Lord Jesus), in the meantime he has given us authority to spread the goodness of his rule throughout, announcing that he reigns and creating spaces where that is evident- places of love, justice, and peace. Those things will not pass away- they will carry over into the new creation. You don’t have to look around and say “it’s all going to burn”, you can be excited to see it all redeemed.

The other things is that I hope you will integrate language like this into your dialogue, especially with non-Christians. Many in the world see Christians as people just holding out for a pie-in-the-sky when they die- many may be. Confront that idea with a more beautiful, more accurate idea- that Christians are people partnering with Jesus to redeem creation, waiting for the day he does it in full and working hard in the meantime to do so in every way we can.

Dan Vandzura