Some Christians believe that Jesus was sent from heaven to judge the world; after he died he went to heaven to be with God. Someday Jesus will come again to destroy the world and take believers into heaven. In this theology the world as we know it has no place in God’s plan; the earth will be destroyed along with unbelievers. Until Jesus comes, believers should save as many souls as possible. The “Left Behind” novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins give vivid descriptions of this theology, and millions of people believe that destruction is the fate of the world.
Other Christians, like me, believe that Jesus came because “God so loved the world that God sent Jesus. . . .” John 3:16. I believe that Jesus came to earth as an expression of God’s love for people and the earth; Jesus died because of the violence of corrupt political and religious leaders; Jesus rose from the grave because God’s love could not be destroyed by the power of violence and death; Jesus comes again whenever people join together to care for the people and the world that God loves. The meaning of discipleship is that we follow Jesus when we work together for social justice and environmental healing.
I have drawn these two alternative ways of understanding Jesus in stark contrast. Christian life is not divided this way. It is possible to work for the salvation of souls and also work for social justice and environmental healing. Yet, I believe these two tendencies exist in our churches. Personally I believe that Jesus did not come to destroy the material world and evil people, but to save all people and the earth from violence and destruction.
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