Don’t Be So Ready To Leave This World Behind

“Well, let me just tell you all that I am tired.  I am tired of this broken-down sinful old world and all I want to do – all I want to do – is forget this place and leave it behind and go to see Jesus, amen?”

I have heard this sentiment voiced from many different Christians in many different ways as the years have gone by.  But I can never bring myself to say “amen.”

It’s not that I don’t sometimes grow tired of the world.  I do.  As I grow older, especially, as I see more of death and suffering and more of sorrow, I do.  I understand the impulse that makes believers want to throw up their hands, give up on this place and everything wrong with it, and count the days until they get to leave it behind for good.

I understand it.  But I can’t agree with it.

I can’t because, whenever I think about Christians wanting to abandon the world, I think of a scene from The Lord of the Rings movie.  The elves, an ancient and undying race, eventually grow weary of their lives in Middle-Earth.  Their power in the world is fading; they are exhausted by suffering and by being far from their ancestral homeland, the Undying Lands.  And so, one by one, they depart Middle-Earth forever to return to it again, singing as they go.

The scenes aren’t gleeful or giddy or even happy in the way that we might expect.  The departure of the elves, cloaked and carrying lanterns, is always solemn and melancholy, both beautiful and painful at once.  There’s a profound sense of loss associated with their departure, the realization that nothing will ever again be the same as it was.  When I tried to put my finger on why, I finally realized why I always struggle to say “amen” to believers eager to leave the world:

When we leave, the light leaves with us.

Christ did not leave us here for our own sake.  We’re not being penalized with our time on earth – being left to serve here is a privilege.  We’re the last bastion of hope, the final beams of sunlight in a dying land.

Yes, the impulse to leave this world behind is understandable.  But it is also selfish.  It is about us.  We want our pain to be over.  We want to see people we love again.  We want to see our long-awaited Savior and we want to live in that place where pain and hurt and age and struggling bodies no longer matter or weigh us down.  But that impulse is fundamentally about us, not about those we’ll leave behind.  It is about our own desires, not Christ’s desire for the world.

While we are here, there is still hope.  While we are here, there is still time to serve.  While we are here, there is love and life and the promise of salvation.

When we leave, the light leaves with us.

Because of that, we should pray to linger as long as God allows it.

 

 

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