At the suggestion of a friend, this morning I watched the documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia on Netflix. [WARNING: Do not watch this film unless you are prepared for some really strong language and really rough content.] It is not a suped-up so-called "reality" show for bringing in the bucks, with a lot of staging...like Amish Mafia and the like. It's REALLY real. Unbelievably real. Like, unless you know people like this, you will think it IS staged. But it's not (I can say that because I do know people like that). And so it left me in deep thought about the human condition.
Immediately afterward I came across this blog post by Donald Miller discussing human depravity. Please read it - it is brilliant!! It goes so perfectly well with what I was pondering after watching the documentary on the Whites.
I like to take into consideration varying views on the eternal destination of humanity - whether some will go to heaven, some will go to hell, or all will go to one or the other, or it will all end in "nothing", etc. Some of these alternatives would appear to render evangelization completely pointless (and isn't evangelization the mission of the Church?). Pointless, that is, unless....
For so long, I think the Church has emphasized what Christ does for us in death - what He accomplished through His own death in order to offer us eternal life. And eternally, this is probably the most important thing. But as living, breathing beings, we cannot truly comprehend the conception of death, so life after death does not mean nearly as much to us as the life we are living right now. Hence people choose to remain in sin even when they believe it will result in hell after death. "Now" is what is real to us. So perhaps the renewed focus of what Christ does for us in life - through the life He lived as one of us, and the life He wants to live through us now - would be much more effective (not to mention motivational) in our efforts at evangelization, or bringing the world into personal relationship with Christ. Joel Osteen gets a lot of flack for Your Best Life Now, but isn't that what we all want? Isn't that truly what we need?
So many people I talk to admit that their biggest hindrance to believing in God is the undeniable existence of evil in the world - the fact that horrible things happen to good people. And if you sit for a minute and think about the things that go on - human trafficking, homelessness, child abuse, gang activity, torture... - you must be moved, as a decent human being, by the yearning for justice!!
We have allowed our species to get itself into a huge mess. And yes, I do believe sin is the root of the problem. But I believe a huge part of the gospel is that we can change it, to a degree, through Christ! That's the part of the Bible that talks about Him coming so we could have "abundant life" (John 10:10). It's what Isaiah declared in 61:1-3 about binding up broken hearts, releasing prisoners from darkness, and through Jesus offering beauty in exchange for ashes, joy for mourning, and praise for despair. It's why Jesus emphasized going and teaching all nations...teaching them to observe all things He taught. It wasn't so they would all get their theology right; it was so their lives could be redeemed!
The Good News is that redemption happens before we die. The Christian message is not just, "Come to Jesus so you can go to heaven." The Christian message is, "Come to Jesus so you can live!" Eternal life starts now!