Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why heavenly minded Christians care about earthly realities (even premillenialists!)

There seems to be a common perception that Christians in my faith community’s confessional stream – those who take a premillenial view of eschatology – only care about getting people saved out of the world, and not taking any action to make their world better. I have seen many, however, who are highly active in helping the poor, seeking to create or transform culture, and even caring for the environment. I think that premillenialists have some good reasons for being involved in these activities. While we do in fact look to heavenly realities as of greatest importance, we ought to work hard to prove false the accusations of being useless on earth. There are some good and coherent reasons why dispensational premillenialists should do this, and I want to discuss some of them in this and forthcoming posts.
We clean our houses even though we know that they will get dirty again. We mow our lawns, even though we know that the grass will grow again. One day that house will become old and dilapidated, and it will be torn down. Perhaps one day that lawn will be overgrown with weeds or seized by the EPA because it is home to a certain kind of potato bug that has become an endangered species. However, we don’t throw up our hands and say, “If that’s how this is going to end, I’m not going to put any effort into making it better now.” But why do we continue to care for it? Because most of us enjoy living in clean, attractive, and somewhat orderly places. Because the condition of our living spaces reflects on our character as individuals and our level of responsibility. And because we want to honor the preferences and expectations of our families and communities.
As believers, our care for society ought to represent the character of Someone much greater than we are. We are members of a community that will last much longer than the few years of our earthly lives. When we stand up against injustice to the poor, give generously to their needs, and invest in their lives to give them the skills and resources to overcome poverty, we do so because we want to reflect the character of Christ. Meeting their temporal needs shows them the reality of love and compassion of Jesus. If, despite our best efforts, those we help never rise out of poverty, our efforts were a success because we demonstrated the love of Christ to the observing world. Our care for society as believers, and especially a compassionate concern for the poor, reflects the character of God to the watching world. If we are never successful in eliminating all poverty (and we never will be in a fallen world), we are still successful if we are consistently showing the character of Christ by concern for the welfare of our communities, culture, and environment. Christian social action should display to the world the character of Christ.

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