What is Heaven? It's a Community

Every so often someone will share with me that they don’t have any friends or haven’t found anyone who they think would make a good friend. And so they sit on the sidelines, disengaged from community.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around their experience. I’ve never lived in a place where I didn’t feel disappointed by the fact that we aren’t able to spend meaningful time with all of those we wanted to befriend or that we weren’t able to go deeper in our existing friendships. And many of my deepest regrets are in the ways I’ve failed others relationally: either not investing in relationships locally or not maintaining friendships from a distance.

Some have the faulty notion that relationships will cease when we get to heaven. Whether it is my childhood image of us perpetually singing around the throne of God or the ubiquitous picture of us strumming harps on clouds, relationships are largely omitted in popular conceptions of heaven.

One of the great promises of heaven are the relationships that will be rekindled, the relationships that will be deepened, and the brand new relationships that will be sparked. We have an eternity not just with our inexhaustible God, but with his perfected saints. What a joy that will be! Randy Alcorn puts it this way: “Perhaps you’re disappointed that you’ve never had the friendships you long for. In Heaven you’ll have much closer relationships with some people you now know, but it’s also true that you may never have met the closest friends you’ll ever have.”[i]

We will play our favorite sports, learn new instruments, hike mountain vistas, and talk philosophy. And the experience will be heightened all the more by being in the presence of community (and not just any community, a sinless community!).

On this earth, we all disappoint and hurt others, and we are all disappointed and hurt by others. Lift up your chin, one day we will experience relationships as God intends us to experience them. Our finitude will not constrain us as it does now. Our self-absorption will melt away, we will not be worried where we fit in and what others think of us. And our sin will not hurts and rupture as it does now.

In the meanwhile, grow in experiencing community as God intends – enjoying friendships, serving one another, and exhorting each other.[ii] This is our dress rehearsal. If you find yourself withdrawing because of past hurts or disappointments, don’t give up, knowing the ultimate good God has for you. If you find yourself not seeing many others you would like to have a deeper friendship with, grow in humility and curiosity. There is no human being who is not worth knowing, there is no person you can’t learn something from, you can’t connect with, and in whom you can’t benefit and enjoy the benefits they have for you.

 

Photo credit: Eye for Ebony: Unsplash

 

[i] Randy Alcorn, Heaven, 357.

[ii] See Proverbs 17:17, Galatians 5:13, and 1 Peter 4:10, and Colossians 3:16 as a snapshot of this community we’re called to.