A theology of place
“This world is not my home.”
If, like me, you grew up in the church, you’ve probably heard this expression more times than you can count. Like me, you’ve probably said it a time or two as well. But I’ve come to realize that not only is this statement misguided—it’s theologically false and, worst of all, leads to a lot of damage and pain.
Let me briefly unpack these bold claims. The general sentiment behind the statement is that our Christian hope is going to heaven one day—our “true home.” But here’s where the theology is off:
God created this world to be our home, both now and for eternity.
God isn’t interested in helping us escape our broken world for the life of heaven. No, no, no. God is interested in healing and restoring this world so that one day the life of heaven can fully inhabit this world and God can dwell here, with us, for eternity. (See Revelation 21 below if you don’t believe me.)
And here’s where great harm is caused by the belief that this world isn’t our home:
When our ultimate hope is escape, we end up devaluing the sacredness of this world—of the spaces and places we inhabit every single day.
God cares so deeply for this creation that God is actively working to redeem it (despite many of our best efforts to exploit it for our own gain). And if we want to align our hearts and lives with God, then a deep reverence for this world and the spaces we inhabit must be a central part of our lives.
This is a big reason why Ace in the City is all in on the work of placemaking. We believe that the physical space every church inhabits is space that God has great dreams for; they are meant to be experienced as holistic sources of life and flourishing. Placemaking is work that says,
This world, in all of its beauty and (current) brokenness is our home.
When we embrace that truth, it leads to all sorts of wonderful questions about how we can better care for creation; how we can actively work for the flourishing of our neighborhoods; how we can partner with God in the holistic healing work that has been going on since the beginning of time.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” // Revelation 21:3-5
With hope in God’s future for us all,