All of us could quickly start a list of things that are wrong in our world: mornings that are cold and damp, flu viruses, entertainment that is increasingly sexualized and violent, reckless driving that snuffs out a young life. And we can add to the list by looking into our own hearts and actions.
Coca-Cola had an ad during the 2015 Super Bowl that started with a bunch of clips of people using technology in cruel and hateful ways, like nasty online comments and bullying text messages. Then comes a fortuitous accident. We see one of those rooms that “runs” the internet with a worker in it who is drinking a Coke … that spills onto some of the wires. You can picture what happens next (or watch it on YouTube!)—an exuberant (Coke-red) surge of energy flows through the world’s connections, replacing the blue (suspiciously Pepsi-colored) instances of hatred, cruelty, and just-plain-meanness with instances of love, encouragement, and affirmation. Drink Coke and all the world will be renewed and restored!
The idea is laughable, of course. But I love that image of something that can heal the world. What if there is something or someone truly able to set the world to right?!
Indeed we believe there is. And that the process of healing the things that are wrong in us and in the world has already begun. A son was born; and he was named “He saves” (Matt. 1:21). “Let all creation rejoice before the Lord,” the psalmist declares, “for he comes, he comes to judge the earth” (Psalm 96:11-13; also 98:7-9). When something is badly out of kilter, we rejoice to have it fixed, for someone to come and sort things out, put things to right.
God has entered our world and is working to redeem and heal its suffering, greed, and violence slowly but surely—three steps forward, two steps backwards (sometimes it can seem like four steps backwards).
God sent Moses and the Prophets to instruct us in what is right. And ultimately came as God the Son to confront the powers of darkness that fracture our world. They killed him on the cross. He did not retaliate but absorbed the pain and violence of human evil. Three days later he triumphed over death and all darkness!
God forgives us and gives us a new beginning when we confess our share in the wrong in the world. And the Spirit of God enables us to follow Jesus and push back the powers of darkness in all of life. All of us have a story to tell: “Something I’m doing differently (than I did in the past, or than secular culture around me) as part of God putting things to right.” (That is our monthly sharing during our year of “What’s our story?” at Trissels.)
And one Day Jesus will return (1 Thes. 4:15-17) and heaven will come to earth (Rev. 21:1-4) and all things will be decisively renewed and restored!
I’ll end this post with a comment that will unsettle—even rattle—most persons in my generation who grew up in the church. At least, it did me when I first learned it. Those last two events—Jesus coming again and heaven coming to earth—probably describe the same event.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV) reads:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
For several generations we typically took this to mean that when Jesus comes again, we will meet him in the air and then continue on with him to heaven. But we now know that when the Apostle Paul penned these words he probably had in mind us joining Jesus as he continues his coming to earth. We have learned that the Greek term “to meet” was often used to describe the inhabitants of a city journeying out to welcome an important visitor. They then would celebrate the honored guest’s arrival by trouping into the city with him. Note: after they “meet” they do not return to the place the dignitary came from but to the place the people had just left. In other words, Jesus’ return is apparently not speaking of the church being caught up to heaven but is another reference to heaven coming to earth. When he comes, according to 1 Cor. 15:24-25, Jesus will destroy “all dominion, authority and power” and “put all his enemies under his feet.” Sounds like heaven indeed will have come.
Not in Coke, but in Jesus all the world will be renewed and restored!