On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Attempting to create God’s vision in our everyday lives

Apr 17, 2019

Christianity God Heaven Spirituality
angel statue

Photo by lani maynard

“As it is in heaven.” This is the new sermon series that started at the church I attend in downtown Chicago, based on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:10. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The larger question weaved into the sermons is — how can we bring the kingdom of heaven down to earth, into our day-to-day lives? How can we make ‘down here’ look more like ‘up there’? Not an easy task by any means, but one worth attempting. And the task begins not with a host of miracles lined up and mission trips planned, but with a look at our own lives and seeing how we can bring heaven to earth in the lives we live and places we inhabit.

What would it look like for us to show up feeling fully loved and able to fully love others? I imagine that’s what heaven is like. As Rumi says, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” There is a heaven buried deep within the layers of this world; we just have covered it up with all of our neediness and self-centeredness. With massive amounts of lies and hurtful actions. And they keep piling on.

The first step in any transformative process is admitting and acknowledging what is wrong, what is not working. If we want to begin creating heaven on earth, we must face our part in making it anything but. The ways we, instead, turn it into hell on earth, which is a much simpler task. It doesn’t require much — a few harsh words, an insult, a broken promise, all the infinite ways of holding back love.

As much as I don’t like of what I see in the world and the cruelty I want to turn my eyes from, I have to admit that I contribute to it. Or at the very least I stay indifferent. And if there is anything I know about the God I serve, it is that he is not indifferent. And he does not shame me or you or anyone for the ways we contribute to hell on earth. But he does delight whenever we remotely attempt to create something resembling heaven on earth.

If my heaven on earth looks different than someone else’s, it’s because we have crafted our own versions, and not God’s. The task is not to create our individual heavens, as tempting as that sounds. It’s to bring forth God’s vision for his people and a world that encompasses that. A world that takes what we know as reality and turns it upside down. The most radical act Jesus did was to love when (in our eyes) it was undeserved, reckless, hard, and unrequited. If anything resembles heaven, it is unconditional love, permeated throughout and within.

Maybe to love has nothing to do with who it’s extended to, and everything to do with the state of our own souls. And so we begin there, as with everything else in life.

We don’t bring heaven to earth overnight, or even over a lifetime. It is one measurable choice at a time. One extended act of love after another. God can bring heaven to earth in a microsecond. Watching our painstakingly slow progress must be excruciating. And yet, that is not how he views it. Rather, he and the angels throw a celebration party each time one more little piece of earth looks like heaven. Each time one more act of kindness is done, one more broken relationship is restored. I picture them up there, or wherever they are, taking out their lyres and trumpets and harps and playing them joyously, and others simply tearing up, too moved to play.

We’re all assigned a piece of the garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life — our relationships, our homes, our work, our current circumstances — exactly as they are. Every situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity, perfectly planned by the Holy Spirit, to teach love instead of fear.

— Marianne Williamson

The way I see it, God believes in our ability through the holy spirit to try and carve out a little bit of heaven here on earth. And he has equipped us for the task. What part of earth couldn’t use a little bit more grace, more tenderness, more humanity? We most likely will never see earth completely transformed in our lifetimes, but to leave a little piece of heaven behind while we can, that’s pretty radical.