Did you know that some East-Asian Christians find the biblical concept of time very attractive?
Since August we’ve been leading a small group through the life of Jesus in his first-century context. Recently we studied Jesus and the Kingdom: already, but not yet. Note the assumptions here about time:
- The Kingdom arrived with Jesus (in the past)
- The Kingdom is at work in us now (in the present)
- The Kingdom will come in fullness (in the future)
Scripture portrays time with a beginning (Creation), a middle (the Fall answered by God’s solution to evil in Jesus), and an end (fulfillment in eternity). Within this larger story, he gives each of us personally a sense of destiny and direction. God is moving history forward and we each have a part to play!
This linear (past-present-future) concept of time contrasts deeply with the cyclical view of time common in Asia (where days, years, and our very lives recur in endless, meaningless cycles). Cyclical time underlies ideas like reincarnation. It produces a sense of apathy and fatalism in moral and social issues, assuming our lives make no real difference.
This year at our small group Christmas study, this reflection on Jesus and the Kingdom generated some stirring comments (names omitted for security purposes)…
"I studied all those other religions when I was younger. I can’t stand the passivity and fatalistic outlook they produce. I don’t like the idea of sitting around doing nothing! That’s why I absolutely love Christianity! We are going somewhere and I can do something about it!"
"I looked into Buddhism for a while, but it only talked about yourself. When I looked at Christianity, I saw this huge picture of God, reaching down in love to give himself for us, then asking us to love others in the same way. It was a great, compelling vision! So I decided to follow Christ!"
"When I was young I looked into other religions. I kept asking, 'Where did we come from? Why are we here?' No one could give me an answer! They said, 'We’re just here, that’s all.' It never satisfied me. But Jesus answered my questions. I love the Creation story. God made us and gave us a purpose! That’s why we’re here! Other religions gave me no answers. Only the Bible answered my questions. Of course, I still have much to learn. But I thank God I looked into all those other religions first, because when I found Christ, I could easily recognize that he was the truth!"
That night, they insisted that their fellow countrymen need to hear the Creation story and God’s larger kingdom purpose in history. We’re now including it in all of our mentoring materials.