When I read things people say online or listen to comments they make about the past, one would think that my generation is just out of luck. We missed the best days. Things are going downhill, and there’s just no stopping it. If we could just get back to a time when he was in office, when she was still on television, when things were this way, or when the world was that way… then we could be great!
In a world where kids aren’t raised right, everybody gets a participation trophy, and all the wrong people are in charge, how can my generation have any hope? At least, that’s the message I and those younger than me have picked up on.
In a lot of ways, it feels like we’ve missed out. The best movies, the best ball players, the best traditions, the best bands and songs, and the best economy is all back there somewhere, and since we were born out of season, we just missed out.
Now, more than ever, teens are exposed to this kind of talk thanks to social media, and it doesn’t help that this usually is accompanied by the assertion that “kids these days” are the ones ruining everything (who raised the kids who grew up to give us participation trophies, by the way? We’re in this together).
While there is nothing wrong with nostalgia, I think that this kind of talk is not only needlessly pessimistic, but it is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). But it seems like for a lot of Christians, including myself at times, this passage should say, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, in heaven as it is in heaven” because the blessings of the gospel are primarily legal. That is, they only refer to things that we really won’t know about until we die and are more about how God views our soul.
Eternal life, peace that passes understanding, no more war and violence, and the presence of God are available now in some spiritual way, but the full expression of those things are only really possible after death or way into the future.
In other words, we were born too late to live with Jesus on earth, too early to experience the blessings of God in full force, and just in time to be considered the downfall of the United States.
But if what Jesus said is true, that the presence of the kingdom means that God’s will on heaven could be done on earth, then if the kingdom is here, that means that all of the blessings are available to us today, not just as legal “wait and see” realities that we’ll understand by and by, but tangible realities that we experience as the gospel transforms the world around us.
It’s not all in the past, and it’s not all in the future. It’s something that we can have right now if we have eyes to see and hands to work.
In other words, the best days do not consist of classic television shows, big hair bands, deceased news anchors, worldly rulers, and good economies, all of which will pass anyways since no earthly kingdom is eternal. The best days are wherever the gospel is allowed to work unhindered by selfish schisms in the church, personality worship, and a gospel of radical exclusion.
In the first century, Jesus healed the sick, fed the five thousand, and his disciples went on to convert thousands and thousands of people to a life of mutual care, compassion, and love. They introduced people to a life of prayer, study, and worship. And it can be easy to think that such monumental transformation is relegated to a time “back there.”
If we believe Jesus when he said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” then where is our blessing?
Again, is this only saying that God just looks at us and says, “Atta boy! You believed without seeing! One day, you’re going to go to heaven”? Or are there real-time, tangible benefits for those who believe in Jesus even though we haven’t felt his scars like Thomas?
Are we capable of the same kind of rapidly multiplying ministry today? Can we care for the poor to the same extremes that they did? Is turning the world upside down like Paul still possible?
For many, this may be just another thing we missed out on.
But for us, it can be a challenge to transform the world today. If we really believe that we are a new creation in Jesus, then that means spreading the gospel is the thing that can bring healing to the world. The best days aren’t behind us! We’re in the kingdom of God! The best days are available now. You showed up at just the right time!
You may have missed the best presidents, the best music, or whatever, but that’s not what the kingdom of God is about. Let’s work towards a greater today by believing what Jesus meant when he said that God can take care of us just like the Creator takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers in the field. Let’s believe what Jesus promised when he told his disciples that blessings in heaven are available right now. Let’s embrace Paul’s resolve to be content in every situation, regardless of who happens to be in power today.
You showed up at just the right time.
The gospel can end violence. The gospel can end hunger. The gospel can dry tears. The gospel can unite churches, if churches learn what the gospel is. The gospel can save every person, even the politicians our grandparents spend so much time and energy on, yes even those guys.
But this means the days of “faith alone” are over. This means that, while we believe that God cleanses our hearts by faith, the King of Kings transforms the world through our hands and mouths as we serve God and love neighbor.
A better world will not come through electing the right person or even the success of our country. A better world will not come through building a time machine to get back wherever the best days are. A better world for everyone will only come through the gospel. So, let’s move past this false idea that the best days are behind us, and push on in the ever-expanding kingdom of God. We are just getting started, and you showed up at just the right time.