A Colony of Heaven in a Country of Death

Throughout the mid-1650’s, a group of Christians, called Quakers, began to spread across Britain and America. Quakers were different, even radical, in their day. In a world of hierarchy, slavery, and colonialism, Quakers wanted to treat people as Jesus would – with dignity, respect, and compassion. They viewed men and women as equals, protected the rights of Native Americans, and were some of the first people to remove slavery from their midst. In fact, prior to the days of the American Revolution, Quakers not only banned slavery, but asked every member to reimburse their slaves for the time they were in bondage. These people wanted to be different, for they considered themselves to be a “colony of heaven.”

The Quakers weren’t the first to adopt this idea. Since the conception of the church, the people of God have seen themselves as sojourners and exiles in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11). Paul, challenging the church in Philippi to be faithful to Christ, reminds them, But our citizenship is in heaven… (Philippians 3:20).

Friends, we now live in a dark world that desperately needs to see the light of heaven in and through the people of God. This is why Eugene Peterson writes, “The Holy Spirit formed [the Church] to be a colony of heaven in the country of death.” It is the church that bears witness to the coming kingdom. And it is the church that practices and participates in the “resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life.” (Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection)

Within the body of Grace Fellowship Church, Grace Young Adults aims to be a colony of heaven, extending our reach to anyone we can. We want to see life and light well up in the darkest places, because we ourselves have experienced Jesus’ life and can’t help but share it. Despite the uncertainty, unsafety, and unpredictability of this year, I have been blessed to dwell among young people who continue to build this colony of heaven. Over just the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to sing praises to God on a mountaintop with a group of college students, gather around God’s Word and encounter his grace in the book of Galatians, pack meals for homeless families around Thanksgiving, sort
Christmas gifts generously given by our church body for local children, observe the work of Christ in everyday conversations, and witness people move from death to life. Despite all the challenges 2020 brought, God hasn’t stopped moving – and he’s using us to build his kingdom and reach others for it.

Pause for a moment and consider God’s resurrection work in your own life. How have you seen his light penetrate the darkness of this past year? What is your role in building this colony of heaven? How are you practicing and participating in the Spirit’s work of resurrection? I pray that we all, much like the Quakers and Christians of old, might shine as “little lights” in the great darkness. For we – a colony of heaven in a country of death – have a greater light within us.

Jacob Bouvier
Grace Young Adults Pastor