In 2009, Bill Maher made a movie, Religulous, which he claims was a comedy about religion. In the movie, Bill has a conversation with a man who believes he will go to be with God when he dies. Bill asks him if that will be a better place, which the man acknowledges “Yes.” Then comes the question from Bill, “Then why don’t you kill yourself?” Here is that conversation.
In the clip that man seems taken back by the question. We don’t get to see his answer. All we hear is, “Ummmm.”
Recently, I was talking to a couple of people and I brought up this same question. Actually I brought up that question and another question that is at the core of the first question –
“Ok. Your say your Christianity gets you to heaven when you die, but what good is your Christianity now?”
I got the same sort of answer as the man. Before you get critical, how would you answer either question?
It is a great question, one that gets to the heart of the gospel, or rather what we understand the heart of the gospel to be.
In The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler refers to this as the “The Gospel in the
Air.” Using this four chapter construct, we find many people who only see the gospel as a “two chapter” gospel.
– They begin the story with us as “sinners” separated from God, in Chapter 2.
– They continue the story with Jesus coming to forgive sin and end it with taking us to heaven – Chapter 4.
Without necessarily meaning to, these people neglect Chapter 1 and diministh Chapter 3 to Jesus dying to get us to heaven. Maher is saying, “If this is your story, why don’t you just get it over, go on and be with Jesus?”
The answer to the question comes with seeing the Gospel with all four chapters.
– Here we begin in Chapter 1 Creation and our purpose as images of God (Genesis 1:26-28) to rule over creation and fill the earth with such images.
– Chapter 2 brings the Fall and the corruption spreading not only to our relationship with God but to all of Creation.
– In the Redemption of Chapter 3, the Hero of the story, Jesus Christ, arrives to rescue and redeem us as well as creation, so that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things.” Colossians 1:19,20 (emphasis mine)
– The story concludes in the Consummation of Chapter 4 with the completion of this restoration when “the dwelling of God is with men (on earth – my addition as you see in the text), and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3,4
When we look at the Story from this perspective, we have a significant purpose now, in Chapter 3, as we wait for the great hope of Chapter 4. Our purpose is as it was in Chapter 1, only now as “redeemed images,” we live as actual members of the body of Christ, working to bring about this progressive restoration his is authoring through us.
We don’t kill ourselves now because we have this purpose to fulfill. God is to be glorified in and through us as we cooperate with the Great Hero in his work of Chapter 3. Suicide would shortcut that purpose.
“What good is our Christianity now?” Besides giving us this great reason for living – for striving for the kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” – the cross of Jesus Christ gives us freedom to acknowledge our shortcomings, our failures, even our rebellion in our efforts to do so. As we confess this reality, our hearts are then open to the deep, inner transformation Jesus Christ alone brings. We experience that transformation now like tastes of a great meal. They point to something more, but as we taste, our hearts long all the more for the fullness of the great feast that awaits us in the Consummation.
This is the good of the Gospel.