I remember when I was just a boy hearing people telling me to keep the match out of the tank, the spark away from the gas main, and my lighter away from the big brown bag of fireworks. “You’ll blow us all to Kingdom Come.” I finally figured out what they meant. They were talking about Heaven. It’s the only Kingdom I know that literally comes to us.
So why all this talk about “flying away?” Why all the songs about how this world isn’t our home? Heaven is coming to us, so why are we so eager to get the heck out of Dodge? If you know me, you know I’m a faithful follower of the teachings of Jesus. One of my informal teachers on eschatology (the study of the end time) is N.T. Wright. Wright has written extensively on the simplicity of the coming of the Kingdom. For the best and last word on the subject, pick up Wright’s Surprised By Hope.
Suffice it to say that I’m not a big fan of ‘escape hatch’ theology. That’s the brand of theology that says, “One of these days, I’m out of here. Why bother fixing the world? We’re all just going to fly away someday.” Jesus intends for us to put forth a little more redemptive effort than to wave goodbye as we are ‘raptured.’
But ‘escape hatch’ theology is pretty prevalent. The place this shows up most often is in our Christian music.
Let me be clear: I love music. I really love contemporary Christian music. And I’m a big fan of Building 429. They have a sound that reminds me of my 70s and 80s ballad roots. Best of all, they really know how to put lyrics together.
But there’s a problem. And it’s in one of their latest songs. When the guys put out the hit single, “Where I Belong,” you can imagine my dismay.
Have a listen.
Believe it or not, bad theology set to catchy music is a major issue. And this bad theology all goes back to gnosticism and dualism, two ideas that have been heretical for hundreds, nearly thousands of years. Gnostic dualism claims that the world is evil and we must flee it. And with the right knowledge and the right prayers, we can get on the Gloryland Express and hightail it outta here. Just get your ticket punched and settle back for the long wait before the train heads out for the bright lights of Heaven.
Pardon my bluntness, but that kind of Christianity is a load of baloney. Here’s the real deal in six easy and faith-filled statements:
- Discipleship takes more than our “saved behinds.”
- This world is redeemable.
- God will make that happen.
- We will be a part of that redemption if we are faithful to our calling as disciples (see also #1).
- Anyone who reads the end of Revelation realizes that we end up right back here — where we belong.
- Our final destination was never a fluffy cloud with a harp in hand.
The problem is that folks who are ready to check out and grab a harp have a tendency to ignore the plight of culture. Instead of working to make the world a better place, the goal becomes all too narrow: “Convert the heathen and get ready to die and go to heaven.”
Great, except that Jesus taught us that the Kingdom is at hand. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone alive who has a hand in the clouds without having their butt in an aircraft of some sort first. The work of the Kingdom of Heaven is here. The work of the Kingdom of Heaven is now. Not later. Not in the sky. Here. Now.
So I propose a couple of changes to the lyrics for B429, with all due respect, because their skill with the pen is absolutely fantastic.
How would it affect our discipleship to instead say,
All I know is I’m not
notright where I belong
Take this world and give
notright where I belong
Yes, it changes the song. But, I think that the change is one that the Church needs to hear and embrace. This is what we are here to do.
Take this world and give it Jesus. You’re right where God is calling you to be.
Let the Kingdom come. Think about it.
- Gnosticism and Christianity (soontopass.wordpress.com)
- N.T. Wright on Heaven (thebereanway.wordpress.com)
- Thursday Deep Thought: Have we gotten heaven all wrong? – Articles (wilmingtonfavs.com)
Author: Joey Reed
Joey is the pastor of Grace UMC in Jackson, Tennessee. He and his wife, Laurinda, have two children, Jack and Becca. There’s also a cat named George living at their house. Their idea of a great day usually involves Happy Hour — at a Sonic Drive-In.