The most important biblical key for thinking about heaven

Jesus once said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Can I be so bold as to wonder whether evil might have more than one such root? I keep bumping up against a recurring thought pattern that I think is as much of a root of evil as the love of money. It is:
Thinking we human beings are the center of everything, and that everything revolves around us.
I mean, what is our favorite subject to talk about? Us. What do we think God is most concerned about? Us. What do we most want to talk about when praying? Us. What do we demand other people care about more than anything? Us. All I have to do is step back and look at the conversation I have had with God so far this morning, and I am confronted with plenty of evidence that I have been concerned with me/us more than anything else.

Obsession with "us" has plagued humanity since the fall, but we need to keep in mind that never has the love of "us" been so pronounced as it is in today's exceedingly narcissistic Western culture. We do love some "us."

In stark contrast, one of the most salient points in N. T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope can be summed up like this:
Guess what never was and never will be at the center of God's agenda? Us. 
I know, God the Son became a human being like us, lived and died among us, and secured a vital place for us in God's eternal future. One day the Son will return to us, God will transform us, and God will live among us in unreserved communion. These are some of the most important story lines of the New Testament. So what's the problem?

Wright rightly (I wonder how many commentators have done that) points us back to the one story that is at the root of all other stories in the Bible: the creation narratives in Genesis 1-2. There God creates the cosmos, creates human beings, sets them within their surroundings, and assigns them to run the place as his representatives. We human beings are in the story, but the center of the story is not us.

Shortly thereafter, human beings fall into sin, and part of sin is becoming obsessed with self. Wright argues rightly that the point of God the Son becoming human isn't so human beings can go to heaven. It's so we can one day resume the role given to us in the creation story. We take our place in God's re-creation story -- only this time without the distorting insanity of sin.

I've read the prophecies about re-creation. None of them present us as the center of God's new order. Wright has it right. The question isn't, how God is going to make everything right for human beings. It is:
how God is going to redeem and renew his creation through human beings and how he is going to rescue those humans themselves as part of he process but not as the point of it all. (185)
There are two ideas about heaven that Wright rules out. One is that the point of heaven is to sit around adoring and being adored by God. The other is that human beings are absorbed into the cosmos after we die, becoming something less than stewards and representatives doing conscious work for God in his re-creation. Wright's creation-based theology dis-places us and then re-places us where we were always meant to be from the beginning.

How to pray this bit of us-dis-placing-and-re-placing theology? First, we can confess to God our never-ending tendency and temptation to put ourselves at the center of everything. Second, we can ask God how HE wants to deploy us for HIS purposes in the greater re-creation story HE is already writing. Let's see if that doesn't open up some new conversation with God.


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