Bringing Heaven to Earth
Break out of your bubble.
by CHRISTINE CAINE
ROWING UP THE DAUGHTER of first-generation Greek immigrants in Australia meant growing up in a very Greek bubble. Before I was born, thousands of Greek immigrants had settled in Sydney — and the biggest impact they brought with them was their Greek-ness! Our home — along with plenty of others — had more trinkets and statues and tributes to the motherland than you could imagine. Even the outside of our homes gave away the shrine that often lay beyond the front door! If something could be painted, bought, or displayed in blue and white colors, it was. Everything — from iconic columns to painted porch furniture to flower pots — saluted Greece. Trust me, if it was possible to make a backyard gazebo shaped like the Parthenon, then I feel sure every one of my parents’ friends would have had one.
Because my parents — and all of their friends — came to Australia with no one to rely on but one another, it was as though they huddled together, firmly entrenched in the idea that there was safety in numbers even long after it was necessary. So all my childhood, if we went to a birthday party, it was an all-Greek party. If we went to a wedding, it was an all-Greek wedding. If we went to church, it was with everyone else from the Greek community. Even if we went on a short holiday, it was with other Greek relatives. My parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors stayed to themselves as much as possible in this tight-knit community, as though they were afraid of what might happen if they ventured out into the Australian mainstream. They trusted no one but each other … even for their dry cleaning.
And it wasn’t because they didn’t speak English. My parents actually spoke five languages: Arabic, Greek, French, Italian, and English. They were brilliant people! They knew how to navigate modern society, but they chose to live in a small world of their own making.
For my brothers and me, all of this homogeneous living was just the way it was. When non-Greek friends invited us to their house for dinner or a slumber party or to a high school dance, our parents rarely allowed us to go. They preferred we stay in the setting where they felt safe and secure and in control of us. Truthfully, I think they hoped and expected us to carry on our Greek heritage as though the rest of Sydney’s cultural diversity and influence didn’t exist — but that would never be realistic or healthy. We didn’t grow up “back home.”
My brothers and I were Greek, and we loved our Greek heritage, but like the rest of our friends and relatives who were second-generation immigrants, we were Australians — by birth. We wanted to explore our country and all it had to offer. I loved eating my feta cheese and olive sandwiches, but I was equally curious about my non-Greek friends and their lunches of white bread and Vegemite paste — something I grew to love and enjoy to this day. I wanted to venture out and embrace a culture far beyond my own. Going to the university, especially as a girl, was one of the biggest ways I broke out of the bubble my family protected so intensely.
As I prayed and put pen to paper during the writing of my new Bible study, 20/20, this is one of the stories that came to mind because sometimes I think we as Christians behave similarly to my parents and their friends. We live in Christian bubbles, inside our Christian communities, inside our collective of Christian friends — and we stay there. Perhaps, we even hide out there. We design what we think is heaven on earth — the perfect world — and we hunker down in hopes all will go well until we get to leave this planet. When all the while, Jesus has seen us, chosen us, and SENT US OUT INTO THE WORLD to make disciples … but we can’t make His last command our first priority if we won’t break out of our bubble.
I understand that sometimes the bubble just happens. We get saved; we make Christian friends; we grow in Christ; and we naturally enjoy the camaraderie, safety, security, and comfort of our Christian community. If we have children, maybe we become desperate to ensure they have a Christian upbringing — perhaps the one we didn’t get to experience. Having grown up as I did and now living in Southern California, raising two teenage daughters with a Christian worldview, I understand this. But over time, we can find ourselves trapped in the bubble, rarely interacting with non-Christians … never working out with them at the gym or taking them to lunch or coffee or inviting them to our homes. We quit joining “outside clubs” or community outreach groups or making the effort to meet new people who do not look like us, act like us, think like us, or believe like us. And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus tells us to do.
Jesus didn’t save us to build a Christian subculture. He didn’t save us to hide from the world, avoid the world, ignore the world, fear the world, hate the world, condemn the world, or judge the world. Jesus literally sent us into the world … to make disciples … for us to love the world He created and loves so tenderly and fiercely.
Jesus even prayed a prayer to God regarding this very idea … as a demonstration to His disciples of how we’re to pray: “Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:9-13).
I can’t help but be arrested by Jesus’ words: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” From before the foundation of the world, through the days of the Old Testament, God has had a plan of salvation and redemption (1 Pet. 1:18-20). He has had a design to bring beauty and glory back to this broken and fragmented world. In the Old Testament, the word for this great plan of restoration is Shalom. In the New Testament, it is described with words like salvation, kingdom, justice, and peace. We know God’s plan was made possible by Jesus (see Eph. 1:7-14), and His prayer reveals more of His purpose in saving us: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus prayed for the kingdom to come to earth — not for it to stay in heaven or for us to wait until we get to heaven to participate in it. We are the church; we are the body of Christ; we are the hands and feet of Jesus.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It was Jesus’ prayer, Jesus’ calling, Jesus’ passion — so let’s make it ours. He has seen us, chosen us, and sent us, so let’s break out of the bubble and go bring heaven to earth.
CHRISTINE CAINE is an international speaker and author. She and her husband, Nick, their two girls, Catherine and Sophia, and their dog, Ezra Blake, make their home in Southern California.
This article originally appeared in Mature Living magazine (September 2019). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.