The Winning Side?
This morning, my pastor, Stephen Heinzel-Nelson, preached on Revelation 21:1-5. He started out by asking, "If you knew, with absolute certainty, who was going to win the World Series next year, would it change your behavior?" The point he was making was that, through the writings in the book of Revelation, we know that God wins. And, because God wins, God's people win. So we should look to that "end state" and live our lives accordingly.
Before I go any further, let me say that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Heinzel-Nelson. Even though I think we probably disagree on some points of theology, I think he takes his positions thoughtfully and prayerfully, and with respect for others. I hope, in fact, that this post isn't taken as a criticism of Dr. Heinzel-Nelson at all. The fact that his sermon is good enough to get me thinking, and trying to explore it further, is instead a praise of him and what he's able to do to help me in my own spiritual growth. Now, of course, having said that ...
While I agree fully with the intention of what he's saying, I have a problem with how it's being said. To use his example ... yes, I think behavior would change if people knew the outcome of next year's World Series, but not in the way I think he's implying. A large part of the joy of being a fan of a game is encouraging your team, cheering when they prevail, and suffering with them when they don't. If you knew ahead of time that your team would win (or lose) then I think that there would be a great deal less interest and enthusiasm on the part of the fans. The only people I think would would show more enthusiasm would be those who want to profit from the outcome - gamblers and bookmakers, rather than those who care about the team itself.
I think a better way to look at this would be that the "end state" discussed in in Revelation is, rather than an immutable fact, an end goal. We can believe that there will be a "New Heaven and New Earth" but, rather than it being a fixed point in time, like the World Series or the Super Bowl, it is instead a goal that will be reached through God's people working toward it. Rather that "God wins, so God's people win," I would say something like "God wins through God's people winning."
I'm sure that some would say this takes away from the supreme sovereignty of God. I disagree. God is still in control. But God wants US to be a partner in that victory, not someone who sits on the sidelines. And so we try, and fail, and try, and fail, all the while moving closer to that end goal.
Any thoughts? Am I way out in left field here? Oh, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I was slightly "miffed" at Stephen this morning, because, prior to the start of the service, he spent a little time on "Worship Etiquette" which included turning off all electronic devices. I happen to use my iPad as a part of the service, not to distract from it, so I felt a little "put out" by that. ;)