where we look

Opening up my moleskin notebook I read: “Christianity has become a past looking faith (forgiveness of sins, guilt, cross). It must speak to the past, to the present, and to the future. This adds hope and peace (future and present) to the idea of forgiveness.”

Any ministry, mission, or theology which only takes into account one aspect of time is going to be inherently incomplete and likely will cause massive dissatisfaction. Indeed, we can see the dissatisfaction in various movements, causing adherents to drift away for shared reasons.

An emphasis on the past never allows people to press on in their faith. They rejoice at forgiveness and may get excited about telling others, but they are stifled in their maturity. If Christianity is only about forgiveness and getting more people into the club then people are stuck on the question of “what next?” Since God is not only about the past, Christians who are growing towards God feel an increasing distance from their Christianity and their church. They mature past the milk that is offered, the constant sermons and presentations on how to find forgiveness. They begin to starve and they then can drift away or fall into persistent blandness, showing up but not doing much more.

An emphasis on the present tends to always get a person emphasizing the nice things of this world. God is blessing us! Giving us peace! Enlarging our territory! Yay! Only we define these things in terms of our present interests, desires, and values. We lose the humility the past brings us, forgetting we were saved by God for his sake. Like lepers who are healed and then forget the healer we carry on trying to satisfy our desires and bring a worldly peace, and a worldly honor. Lacking a sense of God’s future we think his promises are for us in this moment. Our desires and our hopes and our understanding of peace are anemic, not understanding God’s fullness. This is a position that settles, even as its settling often seems impressive to worldly concerns.

An emphasis only on the future generally means a very negative view on life in the present. End of Times becomes an overarching concern, while social works are seen as a waste of effort. In terms of salvation this often involves the threat of hellfire. The world now doesn’t matter, only the world to come. So eager to see God win, and thus justify a held position, those who hold this perspective become terrors in many cases, forgetting love as they scramble and jostle their way to finding God at the end. God, for such, is distant, far away, and so there is no peace, and often fear rather than hope. History becomes meaningless. Time is shadowy. Everything is sacrificed for their view on the future where they will finally see God.

Instead of being limited to once place on the timeline, Christianity embraces past, present, and future. The past informs the present which informs the future which defines the past. Because of what Christ will do at the end we can look with peace at what already has happened and live in hope during our present. Because of what Christ has done with our past we can, in forgiveness and freedom, embrace a thorough peace of the present in which we can find contentment in all circumstances, a contentment and joy that will increase as God’s future dawns and Christ is revealed in all his glory. Our present peace in the Spirit means we can act as though eternity is upon us, embracing the Kingdom among us, and living as those who are saved by God. Our pasts can not condemn us and our future can not panic us. Without guilt and without fear we can live as lights in this world.

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