Voices: Living in Two Worlds

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“Maybe in a perfect world, but that’s not the world we live in.”

I’ve heard some version of this statement several times in the last week, in various contexts. I think the nexus for the last time was a discussion about my and my wife’s shopping habits.

Jake RaabeJake RaabeWe have serious problems with Walmart that keep us from shopping there unless absolutely necessary. Instead, we frequent our town’s farmers market. Our Christian convictions lead us to believe that buying locally and directly from farmers is more socially responsible and environmentally sustainable, so that’s what we try to do.

This is, of course, significantly more expensive than buying from Walmart and means we typically have to make less go further. We don’t “proselytize” for farmers markets, but if we’re asked about our shopping habits, we don’t mince words about the damage we think that mega-chains like (especially) Walmart are doing to both society and the environment. (Fear not, Texans: HEB is actually a pretty great company and a fantastic alternative to Walmart).

The conversation usually moves to “but Walmart is cheaper, so that’s where people will always go” (even if the low prices are due to employing sweatshop workers in third-world countries).

In contemporary American society, the dollar is king. We make economic decisions based on what gets us the most for the least in return. But then again, Christians are citizens of Americans secondarily; we are first citizens of the kingdom of God, and in the kingdom of God, proper treatment of other humans is more important than paying less money for a pair of shoes.

See, Christians live in two worlds: the world that is, and the world that will be. Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection have changed the world in a profound way. Because of Christ’s work, we are free to die to ourselves, to live a new, changed Christ-centered life.

The kingdom of God is here in part, and we should live accordingly. We should live according to the standards of God’s kingdom: the love of our enemies, the respect for all people, the self-discipline of Christian discipleship. God rules the world, all of it, and those of us that are citizens of God’s kingdom should live accordingly.

At the same time, God’s kingdom is not here on earth in the same way that it one day will be. Paul tells us that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” The world, in other words, is waiting to be completely and totally redeemed at the time of Christ’s return.

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Not only the world, says Paul, but “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” We too recognize that we live in a world fundamentally changed by the work of Christ but one still waiting for its complete redemption when Christ returns.

The kingdom of God is both here and yet-to-come. It is both in our midst and something we look forward to in expectant hope.

The people I talked to this week didn’t understand why my wife and I paid more for our groceries. In American society, saving money is a high cultural value. In the kingdom of God, respect for persons and compassion are higher values. Because we live as citizens of God’s kingdom, we live by a different set of values than the culture around us. God’s kingdom teaches us that people are more important than saving money, so we spend our money at places where we know that no product sold involves abuse or exploitation.

Remember: Christians live in two worlds. Though we may exist for now in a world that doesn’t mirror God’s intentions for creation as it should, we derive our values from the world-that-will-be.

“That’s just the way things are” isn’t an excuse for Christians. We don’t live according to the way things are; we live according to the way things will be.

Jake Raabe is a student at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas and a writer. Follow him on his Facebook page.

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