Perhaps the greatest question facing any who seriously consider Jesus is the issue of transformation. The message of Jesus and the later apostles is all about something new and vital for humanity. What was transformed, what caused the transformation, and how do I participate in the associated benefits?
As we observe church history and especially our own current religious environment, we observe a tension between two areas in which life can be affected by Jesus. One is here and now physical life and the other is life hereafter. This tension exists for a variety of reasons. Number one is the idea that this life dictates the outcome of the life to follow. Another is the fact that the hereafter is viewed as eternal and therefore much more significant than temporary physical life. Since, according to prevailing theology, transforming eternal life involves physical life activities, then here and now life must be tightly focused on those facets which guarantee afterlife transformation. Whatever time is left over to consider how this current existence has been transformed and made better by Jesus is usually consumed by the church’s obsession with its war against evil others. The upshot of this emphasis on later life and the incessant call to arms in this one is that physical life is reduced to a wrangling, stress filled series of conflicts and uncertainties. The underlying contention inherent in the church’s constant warring against “enemies” is that this life can only be transformed by Jesus if his faithful followers beat down and destroy those who are not faithful followers. Judgment, condemnation, and oppression are the implied tools of making and enjoying a new here and now.
All this religious obsession with fighting and physically defeating is strangely at odds with the way Jesus conducted his life and the life principals he taught to his followers. The ones Jesus chose as daily companions were the very ones that the current day church wants to identify as the villains who must be rejected and denied the benefits of Jesus. Whereas Jesus said his followers were not fighters and his kingdom did not arise from human conflict, the church is consumed by hatred and the necessity of ruthless opposition to anyone and anything outside their circle of theological conformity.
With its preoccupation on the afterlife, I believe the church has completely missed the most important aspect of the transformation Jesus came to initiate. That newness was meant for this life. Jesus was about making earthly life dramatically better. His aim was a viable heaven on earth, which comes about by doing the very opposite of what warfare and human conflict involve. The theological idea that heaven on earth is impossible without a divine, destructive intervention is an absolute rejection of all that Jesus taught as proper, righteous earthly living. If Jesus enjoined humility, thankfulness, and loving kindness, as he did, in order to live abundantly, then a future manifestation of the exact opposite by God or mankind, cannot logically establish an environment for heaven on earth or anywhere else.
God is the sole steward of what happens after we die. I am confident that He will manage that successfully without my involvement. My life here is where I am the steward. The principals which I view as significant to my personal happiness and purposefulness should be paramount when I look to Jesus as my guide. Did Jesus point me and mankind to principals different from those universally embraced by mankind? Did his message counteract the trajectory of human history since Adam gained the knowledge of good and evil which so divides our world? Was Jesus a different agent of here and now life transformation or just another superhero destined to complete a future transformation by destruction? These questions sum up this important issue for me.