Being Heavenly minded
The trouble with clichés is that they are typically rooted, somewhere, in reality. The phrase that’s bothered me for a while is one that is usually muttered as a putdown in Christian circles.
He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good.
You can almost hear the contempt in someone’s voice as they say it. Historically, however, there have been Christians that used the prospect of Heaven as an excuse to “check out” of the world around them. Either pulling away as an individual or into a small community, some have sought to distance themselves from the messiness of a sinful world and just wait until God takes them away to Heaven.
However, I think us modern believers have over-reacted in an attempt to avoid being labeled as “too heavenly minded”. We’re afraid of being labeled as a dreamer or looked at as someone who’s trying to escape the real issues facing us in the here and now. So we tend to not think about the next life all that much…
This is what Paul told the Colossians about where their minds should be focused:
So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
As we continue to read Paul’s letter, we will see him give the Colossian believers a wide variety of practical ways to live out their heavenly minded-ness. So we can’t just pull these verses out and claim that this allows us to forsake the world and world’s problems. Paul’s point here is that our focus in life matters. In fact, any earthly good we do accomplish will be because we have aligned our perspective with God’s perspective. His aim is to reach for sinners, and we can partner with Him as He continues to do so.
C.S. Lewis saw a similar issue in the church of his day:
A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this [one].
We modern believers are too focused on ourselves, and that clouds up our ability see the earth from God’s perspective. Much of our time is taken up trying to “discover” ourselves or somehow project an image of ourselves into the world around us. We will continue middling around and being unfulfilled until we seek what is above, realizing that our life is hidden in the Messiah.
I take a lot of comfort in Paul’s last statement – When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Jesus won’t be fully revealed to the entire world until He returns. Since His revealing is still in the future, that means the full revealing of my identity is also still in the future. On that day, we will be shown as the ones so loved by God…because we will be with Him in glory. My mind swirls with wonder just thinking about and desiring that day.
However, until then…we need to keep our minds fixed on what is above and love those around us, just like our Messiah does.