“Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.” You know it. I know it. The bullet holes are many. Natural disasters, racial tensions, gun violence, overlooked lower class, overworked middle class, over-criticized upper class - gaping bullet holes.
Millennials complain about the lack of connectivity with the local church. Minorities feel their issues are swept under a rug. Marriages are crumbling under the weight of enlightenment and infidelity. Life now as times past “is largely a record of crime, war, disease, and terror.”
This is not news to any of you. As a matter of fact I would venture to say at this point you feel like you know the rest of the article: “Choose Christ, He makes it better. It will all be over when we get to heaven”. But before you skim the rest of the article and move on with your day, let me start by saying, “I get it”.
I get that the “pie in the sky, sweet by and by” seems cushy and sometimes even tiresome and offensive. “When we all get to heaven,” feels like hello-kitty patch. Future glory sounds like the quilted blanket of the old saints - itchy, irritating and useless in the scorching sun of the very real and present pain.
What we are going through is hard. There is a place where we don't band-aid it with scriptures and one-days. But there is also a place where we realise that scripture and future glory is not a band-aid. Eternity is reality. It is everything - future hope for the present pain. The present very real pain of the marriage that leaves you gasping for an out.
The very present pain of a child who throws his life away with drugs and alcohol after you have poured years of love and affection into him. The ache of waiting for a spouse to return to your union. Feeling alone and at your wits end with a friend. All of it is temporary pain juxtaposed against an eternal joy.
Eternity not a band-aid
Eternity is not a band-aid. This future glory we are called to, starts here and now, and is the only thing that compels us to live “self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the present age, when it's easier to live it up and enjoy the spoils of this world. Abraham faced very real pain, loss and discord but was able to live out a life of faith because he looked forward to an eternal city. Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God than to “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season”. (Hebrews 11)
Peter says we should live with a clear mind, love each other, offer hospitality without grumbling because the end is near (1 Peter 4:7). Me living for eternity doesn't mean I stick my head in the sand. This isn't the picture of the child who sticks their fingers in their ears, covers their eyes and rambles on and on to drown out reality.
Because eternal life has been made accessible to us through the gospel, both our present realities and our future hope are experienced with a marked significance. We love hard because of this eternal life. We endure like a good soldier because we have eternal life.
We forgive, are patient, fight the good fight, love those who are different, stand up for the destitute all because of this eternal hope. We can even face the pain of losing a loved one because of this future hope.
What we are going through is hard. Looking forward to the end seems like an escape hatch. But it is not. It is the permanent solution to the temporary pain we now face. Like Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus, I pray “that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened to the hope to which he has called you.” Ephesians 1:18a
Stacy-Ann Smith is a young writer from the West Indies and the 2017 International Young Writer Theology Award.