And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:15-16 NKJV
Imagine, if you will, a place where there are no lines drawn in the sand. A 'place' where no one fights over fences; 'this is my property, that's yours; you stay on yours or we might have a problem!' A wise man once referred to this place when he wrote, 'Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too; imagine all the people living life in peace'. An equally wise man had previously written, concerning this 'place', 'Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away' ( Revelation 21:3 & 4 ). ( In context, one should note, these words were meant primarily for a certain audience, but there is a universal truth in them. ) This 'heavenly country' is not, then, a geographical location, though, geographically speaking, 'it' can be anywhere. This realm is what we call the 'spiritual realm'; it is within each one of us, every single human being, though many do not & have not duly manifested it!
On the North American continent, we live in a country called the United States, nestled almost uncomfortably between Canada & Mexico. A bit over 200 years ago, these United States of America fought the British & their mercenaries, winning their 'independence'. As a friend of mine commented the other day, they simply traded an oligarchy for the monarchy they had labored under for roughly a hundred years or less. Some might argue too, that these United States of America never really freed themselves from the British Empire or its tyranny. Be what it may, Americans traditionally celebrate the 4th of July, which again, is traditionally the day that representatives from the original 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, in effect telling the British to 'FUCK OFF!' The British were not pleased, of course, with THEIR errant 'children' & officially launched the Revolutionary War, a bloody conflict, which, though deemed necessary, could really have been avoided & arguably, should have been!
Much, if not most conflicts across this world of ours have been the direct result of greed. Oh, sure, excuses have been made, excuses like 'saving the world for democracy' or 'rescuing the Holy Land from the Infidel'. The nobility of the Cause is hard to deny & especially the ( needless ) sacrifice that countless men & women have made for this country, but did they really have to die?! John Lennon, as quoted above from his song, 'Imagine', later wrote ( in the same song ), 'Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man, imagine all the people sharing all the world'. No matter if you are a Christian or a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Jew, we all believe, in other words, that one Creator made this world ( Earth ) in/on which we all dwell & that all human beings are made of the same flesh & blood ( there MAY be exceptions there, according to some ). That being the case, one might be made to wonder, then, is why we can't all just get along like John Lennon envisioned?!
James 4:1 & 2 reads, 'What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are at war within you?[b] 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask'. While Christians might quote this passage from the Greek Scriptures as the reason why we as human beings have a tough time getting along ( attributing it, of course, to our 'fallen nature' ), we may apply this passage from James' letter to the Hebrews as the impetus behind such evils as the wars & killings this world has been plagued with for many, many thousands of years. Much of the reason for this, unfortunately, especially for the past few centuries, comes from a misinterpretation of the same Scriptures, as well as from the Hebrew Scriptures.
As we read above, from the letter called 'Hebrews', the 'Heroes of the Faith', as they are often called, sought 'a heavenly country', that is, in Scriptural terms, one 'not of this world' ( John 18:36 ). Textually, of course, Jesus was referring to the 'world' of the first-century Jews, but, as in many cases, we can see that this is a universal truth, for His Kingdom lies within, in our innermost being. Seeking any kingdom but this sort of 'Kingdom' was what the apostle ( James ) railed against. The Kingdom of Heaven, or God is not one that is won through force of arms ( violence ) or any political means; quite the opposite, in fact. In order to enter this Kingdom & win your true independence, all one had to do was accept it. Accepting its true nature & ours as well is what rewards us with true independence; the rest is transitory ( impermanent ), merely the outworking of what we have realized in our innermost being!
The Revolutionary War & other ensuing wars, may have, on the surface, anyway, or for a time, won their independence from British tyranny, but I challenge you to prove that we are not under much the same tyranny as they suffered under! Yes, you might say, 'we are on American soil, not British; the United States of American is its own country, not a bunch of British colonies!' True enough, but we might be surprised to learn how much of a stranglehold Britain has on our 'own' economy! Although we have a President of these United States, unlike the British Isles, much of our 'own' government, in principle ( however loosely ), is based on theirs! Are we still a British Colony? Not technically, but one might be surprised at how close we are to being just that!
The Kingdom of Heaven might well be called a 'Kingdom of the Heart'. By 'heart', of course, is meant 'the innermost being'. The 'heavenly country' referred to in the beginning of this blog has no specific geographical location ( like 'the Holy Land', or some such ), except as those who manifest it in their own lives effect it in the world around them. As such, then, this Kingdom of the Heart is forever expanding, as more 'hearts' open to the realization of this Spiritual Truth. The fact that, as human beings, 'we' have certain unalienable rights, cannot be denied. The pursuit of Life, Liberty & Happiness is something we are all afforded by the Law of Nature. The ownership of property is among these rights, but when these rights become idolatrous, as often happen, they become no more than the chains that bind us, even enslave us. When we remember that we are citizens of a 'a heavenly country', not of any of a transitory nature, we have thus won our Independence & can truly enjoy its benefits!
Charles Haddon Shank