One of Soren Kierkegaard’s famous lines (also the title of the book) is: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” A person who is “pure in heart” is undivided in his or her intention. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt 5:8).
In a wonderful scene in the movie “City Slickers,” Curly (Jack Parlance), the tough-as-nails, wise-to-the-ways-of-the-world, trail boss, asks Mitch (Billy Crystal) if he wants to know the secret of life. Curly says, “It’s this,” holding up his index finger. Mitch retorts, “The secret of life is your finger.” Curly, never batting an eye says, “It’s one thing. The secret of life is pursuing one thing.”
According to Jesus, the one thing his disciples are called to pursue is the kingdom of God. In a context where Jesus tells his disciples not to be anxious about how they appear to others, nor about their daily needs (what they will eat, drink, and wear), he says, “Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s justice, and all these other things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33). In other words, everything else in life will find its place around life’s central priority—the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God as embodied and proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospels relates to this world, not a different heavenly world. Unfortunately, a lot of popular Christian preaching and teaching emphasize that the world is not our home and that we are just passing through. That’s partly true. Christians are a pilgrim people. And certainly we are going to die and enter a new stage of existence. While Jesus believed in an afterlife, he taught that the kingdom of God has to do with God’s good, gracious, just, and peaceable will being done “on earth” as it is in that dimension of reality called heaven.
I’m convinced that we will always be a pilgrim people, a people on the move. Whatever may ultimately be involved in the realization of God’s kingdom on earth, this will not be the end of our spiritual journeys.
As children of God, I believe that we will always be growing, developing, and becoming in God’s unfolding plan. (I can’t imagine living forever in some heavenly mansion singing endless praise songs; well, maybe if Bob Dylan is the writer/singer). Perhaps there are new worlds, creatures, and universes yet to evolve in which we will have some part.
My point is that, for now, this earth is our home and we are charged to be good stewards of it. (Some Christians are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good). Here, on this planet, is where Jesus envisioned a flourishing world of justice, peace, and abundance for all people.
Eternity is right now; it is what we are living at this moment. God expects us to learn how to love one another and take care of one another right now. What else does it mean to be the body of Christ—the presence, the hands and feet of Christ—in the world? Disciples of Jesus are called to be collaborators and partners with God in God’s project to heal and redeem the world, right now!
Jesus promised that those committed to this cause “will see God.” Throughout the Gospels “seeing” is a way of talking about understanding, perceiving, and grasping the truth in a transformative way. It’s the capacity to see through our many deceptions, illusions, and subtle lies, and recognize what is real, true, and good. No one will ever see the essence of God, but we can see the beauty and goodness of God in one another, in life’s experiences, and in creation.
As we give ourselves to the healing, wholeness, and well-being of others, we will find our own redemption. We most certainly will become “more” and “better” than what we are now when we truly “see” God in ourselves, others, and the world.