My family and I went out to dinner last night in Portland with Dr. John M. Perkins and his young assistant, Thad. During the dinner conversation, we spoke about Dr. Perkins’ long life, his pain and struggles bound up with justice, and his eventual passing into the presence of the Lord (he’s been talking about that topic more often the past few years). The elderly though full of life Dr. Perkins quipped that “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.” On the way home from the dinner, my wife and I laughed at how true the statement was. We find people all the time who claim in one way or another that they want to go to heaven, but do not want to die. The same holds true for us.
Some people don’t want to die because of the pain they associate with death, or the uncertainty of what follows, or the fear of impending judgment based on having lived poorly, or because they love this life and the people around them so very much. There are many other reasons. No matter the reason or reasons, there is a good chance we all think about the end of our lives and what might await us. That’s something we all have in common with Dr. Perkins. What I’d also like for us to have in common with Dr. Perkins is living life well before God and with others. Surely, like us all, Dr. Perkins has some regrets. But those regrets pale in comparison with the rich relational accomplishments he has achieved.
It was amazing how much Dr. Perkins talked about people last night over dinner—his wife and children, his friends and ministry partners, among others. He talked with joy about my children sitting on either side of him and how he delights in watching the children of his friends grow and seeing how the relationships grow with them.
Dr. Perkins’ relationship with God has so shaped him to care deeply about people. Gratitude marks his life—gratitude for God and gratitude for others who have cared for him over all the years. The care he has received has provided him with a moral compass, he remarked. He wants to honor and steward well those relationships. From where I sit, I believe he has done a wonderful job of it. Unlike the rich old fool in Luke 12:13-21 who tore down his barns to build bigger ones to store his grain and live selfishly, Dr. Perkins is wise and rich toward God. All the “barns” he has built in community development have gone up to store and redistribute grain to the poor.
Dr. Perkins’ long life is slowly winding down like a beautiful sunset, but his wisdom and passion for life and love of people never set. They seem to be glowing ever brighter with the passing of the days and months and years. That wisdom and passion and love accompany his growing anticipation that he will someday see Jesus face to face. Just being around Dr. Perkins helps me develop more my own moral compass.
Tonight my mentor and friend and ministry partner will share at Multnomah University about the upside down kingdom of God and how to walk upright in our day in love and truth and justice. The first time he shared there was 2001 and it changed the way I view life. I look forward to interviewing Dr. Perkins and hearing him share this evening and enlightening minds and burning hearts with God’s love at the twilight of his long and distinguished life and career. Whether we live as long as he does, may we live this life to the full, like he has, in view of Christ’s communal kingdom, until that hour, when we stand before God face to face.
Please join us this evening for Dr. John M. Perkins' address, “The Upside Down Kingdom: Beyond Charity,” June 3rd, 6:30-8:30p in the Joseph C. Aldrich Student Commons at Multnomah University. The talk is part of the Advanced Ministry Lectureship Series “Rigorously Orthodox, Progressively Missional” sponsored by Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Multnomah University.
This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.
Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.