When you think of heaven what comes to mind? Streets of gold? Angels singing? Maybe talking with a loved one who has passed away? The imagery of heaven has captured our imagination for centuries. Numerous stories, books, and even movies have filled our minds with ideas. We wonder what it will be like. Is it possible to get a glimpse of heaven here on earth?
As sojourners in this world, we long for our homeland. We can’t wait to some day be with God in heaven. In the meantime, we are God’s ambassadors in a foreign land. In this role we are to live such compelling lives that we inspire people to be interested in our home and our king. It is through us the world is to get a glimpse of heaven.
What kind of glimpse does the world see? I turn on the news and I see stories about the church. These stores are filled with bitterness, judgment, harshness, arrogance, anything but the love and beauty of Christ. It is easy for us as Christians to dismiss these stories as media bias. Attacking Christians seems to be in vogue. While there is beauty and love being shared in the Christian community, my research for my dissertation describes a much bleaker picture than we want to admit.
I found that conflicts, gossip, lies, and power struggles abound in our churches. Surveys show that over 50% of pastors leave the ministry for good within five years after graduating from seminary. The conflicts are so bad that 80% of pastors’ wives wished their husband had chosen a different profession. My heart grieves as I listen to pastors and their wives share their stories of conflict and pain. What kind of glimpse are we giving to the world?
God has called us to be engaged in this world. We are to be blessing to people. J.I. Packer puts it this way:
Actualized powers of expressing, celebrating, displaying and so communicating Christ in one way or another, either by word or deed… from heaven Christ uses Christians as his mouth, his hands, his feet, even his smile; it is through us, his people, that he speaks and acts, meets, loves and saves here and now in this world.
When people encounter us, do they see God’s love? When people encounter a community of believers do they encounter the beauty and grace of God? As Christ’s ambassadors we are called to give the world a glimpse of heaven.
I want to encourage us to not stand on the sidelines and judge others or the church; rather, each of us needs to ask ourselves:
- Am I engaged and interacting with the world as Christ’s ambassador?
- Am I living a lifestyle above reproach?
- Am I an expression of God’s grace?
- Does the world see the joy of Christ in my life?
- How can I be a blessing to my family, friends, neighbors or co-workers today?
As Christ’s ambassadors, we are Christ’s hands and feet. We have the opportunity to give people a glimpse of heaven by the way we live and treat others. May we live in such away that those around us are compelled to explore the Christian faith.