Piel: Is it possible to get heaven into Earth people?

Our neighbor George recently commented that although he is no Biblical scholar, in studying the Holy Scriptures he believes that the mission of Jesus was not to get people into heaven but rather to get heaven into people on Earth.

He went on to say that every time he prays the “Our Father,” the Lord’s Prayer, he is caught by the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is on the Earth where God wants heaven to take place. The responsibility of making it happen is entrusted into our hands.


Where did all of this come from, I asked.?

It came from an interview that Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, had in order to defend some comments made by President Trump.

I don’t want to get into our president’s tweets and comments — that’s another issue — but the way Falwell explained the mission and teaching of Jesus is not only bad Bible, really bad Bible, it is scary. He said there are two kingdoms — the earthly and the heavenly. Jesus was concerned only with the heavenly not the earthly. Politicians and their followers are responsible to handle life on planet Earth.

Anyone who reads the New Testament gospels knows that this suggested dichotomy is false. Scripture points out that Jesus was concerned about eternal life but even more about eternal life right here. His statement about “the first shall be last the last shall be first” (Matthew 20.6) is a reminder that the poor, the marginalized, the dispossessed, the forgotten would all be first in line. Born in a lowly manger rather than in a sterile hospital and a visit by shepherds rather than a prime minster, king or even a president sent a message for a new world order. It was a radical message of change and it was met with fear by those who occupied the head of the line by their power, wealth and tradition. Jesus was not put to death because he advocated a new home in heaven but rather, as author Mike Slaughter put it, “he was crucified for advocating a revolutionary movement that threatened the religious and political interests.”

“Weeping may linger for the night,” writes the Psalmist, “but joy comes with the morning.” (30:5). I love the passage in the “good news” of John that goes “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5).

When Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest of all he responded (Mark 12.28ff) “to love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength.” And then he quickly added “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The command is to love your neighbor even if your neighbor is not lovable. Striving for a strong loving community built on meaningful human relationships are foundational to Jesus’ message of a vision for a peaceful and better human race here on Earth.

Let us go back to the earth-heaven dichotomy that Falwell was proposing. The truth is that the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom are not two kingdoms but one. I like the line that goes, “Where is God? God is in heaven! Where is heaven? That’s where God is!” I believe the Scripture that goes, “The earth belongs to the Lord and the fullness there of” (Psalm 24). I also take seriously the words “see, the home of God is among the mortals, God will dwell with them, they will be his people, and God will be with them.” (Revelation 21.3). I don’t know if the streets of heaven are paved in gold, but I do believe the Creator desires us to live in a community of peace and harmony right here on Earth where each life has value

At the same time, George pointed out, there are serious issues in our society that need to be dealt with. They are real but my concern is that some are making the most of them to their own advantage.

We know that change often produces anger and fear in the lives of people. We saw that in our last presidential election. Fear in turn creates a feeling of the loss of control. Your beliefs are being attacked, the future is uncertain, economic insecurity is all around us, the country is “browning,” your rights are being taken away. Many Americans are worried that they or their families will be victims of violent crime or terrorism and the list goes on.

Although often at odds with one another, both faith and reason are critically important. They need to work together if we are to fully comprehend the meaning of Holy Scripture.

Lets us go back to the question “how do we create heaven on Earth?” Maybe a better question would be, How do we — with the presence of God in the Holy Spirit guiding us — create heaven on Earth?

First, because I believe in a community of love, peace and respect I also believe this is God’s will for all of creation. I also believe this is the foundational message of Jesus.

Second, what is my role and responsibility to make this happen? We are called not only to deal with issues like fear and anger but also homelessness, poverty, conflict, violence, migrants, health care and the list goes on. We are called to deal with them not as Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives but as humans who desire to live in a community where no child goes to bed hungry and no one has to live in fear.

Third, what is my role and responsibility to chose leaders who will not feed themselves but have a vision of what might be for others? We are not only called to respond personally but leadership is critical. In a time of rapid change, anger and fear, the role of a leader should acknowledge what people are feeling — empathy — while at the same time hopefully offering stability and a vision for the future. The darkness is dispelled by the light of hope. Rather than stoking fear for one’s own benefit as is often done a true leader offers a pathway built on humility, confidence, integrity, honesty and a call for unity.

Let the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.