Why Did Jesus Leave? and How We Have Failed
In chapter 3 of Unfinished, Richard Stearns asks an important question: why did Jesus leave? It isn’t one we ask often, but by the way that we usually talk about God, wouldn’t it have made sense for him to continue to do his healings and other miracles, his teaching about radical love and restorative justice, his self-sacrificial modelling of grace even toward enemies?
Partnership, not Control
If we start with the assumption that God is only interested in control and getting what he wants as quickly as possible, an assumption many Christians and non-Christians hold, there is no reason at all that Jesus wouldn’t have stuck around.
But if God’s primary objective is love in relationship rather than control, it starts to make a lot more sense that Jesus would leave the mission in the hands of his discipleships (and their disciples, and their disciples…). Jesus intentionally left things unfinished. It is our job to finish it. By inviting us to participate, it does mean that things may not be as fast in how we usually think of seeing the Kingdom of God manifesting – healings, equality, battling oppression, etc.
But that very act of partnership is in itself an essential and central part of the Kingdom. Being a Christian at its core mean following Jesus but it is a type of following that is not simply being a lackey tagging along behind. We’re not called to be Jesus’ trophy wife (even if we were attractive enough to pull it off), going where he goes but not contributing in any way. It fundamentally means coming alongside and working with Jesus and each other.
Magic Kingdoms and Tragic KingdomsDisney World, where we can forget about all the problems that exist in the real world
Moving into Chapter 4, Stearns paints the picture of what kind of world we have established. For the most part, those in power the past 1700 years of Western history have been Christians, so it is fair to say that this state of affairs is largely our fault. We live in a world radically divided between the “Magic Kingdom” and the “Tragic Kingdom.” The Magic Kingdom is the bulk of the Western world. Sure we have some problems, many of them even caused by our excessive comfort.
But most of us definitely are not struggling to survive. Stearns provides a lot of stats about the radical difference between the life for those of those who are comfortably reading his book compared to the majority of the world. If you’re paying attention, you’ve probably seen a lot of them, but the reality is that most of the Western world is not paying attention. And that probably has to be our starting point: simply realizing that the comfortable bubble that most of us live in is not the real world. We shouldn’t be living as if we’re in Disney World and pretending that all the cares of the world don’t exist because it is, after all, the happiest place on earth.
Instead of settling for sitting back in our Magic Kingdom while the Tragic Kingdom rules over most of the earth, we are called into God’s Kingdom which will radically transform the world instead of trying to ignore it in the name of comfort. Churches should not be spas where we go to feel pampered; they should be boot camps where we are prepared for battle with the forces of evil.