Don't Hate the Good Life
Every so often, I glimpse a reality that is another world. It’s as though we live on the edges of this reality... on the edges of another way of being human... that we don’t see clearly. We have a deep longing for fulfilment, for acceptance, for purpose, and for peace. Sometimes I feel as though this is not just something I long for; it’s something I find for a little while.
I think this is what Jesus called eternal life. It’s a life that steps outside time. It’s here... and now... but it links us into another reality. Suddenly the world is so much more vast and glorious, but instead of being a nothing which is lost in it, we are far more at home than before!
John says that to know Jesus and to know God is to enter this new reality; (17:3) it is to see, and love, and be consumed, and filled with joy, by that greater reality within which we all live , but to which we are mostly blind.
The good news from God is that we were made for this life. This is what God wants for us all.
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Now let’s go back a step, and without using religious jargon, answer the question, why are we here? What are we made for? What is the purpose of our life? What will make life good?
I think all our answers fit into two categories.
We either think the best way to live is as if the world is here for us, or
we think the best way to live is as if we are here for the world.
To put it another way, answer number one says: I will find the best possible life by living for myself, and looking out for Number One.
The other answer says I will find the best possible life by living for the world.
We might never have thought about life like this, but in the end, I think we all come down on one side or the other.
Either, life is about me: that’s one choice. I am at the centre. I am the most important person in the whole world.
Or, the other view: I can only really ever become me, and become fully human, what Jesus called complete, (Matthew 5:48) by giving up my life and living for the benefit of all earth and all people.
This has nothing to do with being rich, or successful, or polite, or with what religion I follow. Or about doing good. I might be hugely rich, and be giving enormous amounts to charity, go to church each Sunday, but really only doing it to make me look good, or help me feel better about me. It may have nothing at all to do with helping people. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, that when we help the poor, we should do it in secret, so that no one sees.
Or, I might be a complete failure, in the eyes of the world, but with what little I have, still seeking to be living for all earth.
Who are you living for?
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Eternal life is life lived as it is meant to be lived. It is living life to the full. It is being who we were meant to be. It is life that is lived for all earth and all people, not life lived for ourselves.
We get glimpses of eternal life; moments of glory when life is worth it; when life is like heaven.
If we live life with the idea that we are Number One, and that we are the most important person in the world, we wall ourselves off from eternal life. God will keep breaking that wall down, but we will build it up, constantly.
The more we live for others, and for God, and for all earth, the longer and more constant will be our glimpses of eternal life. We begin to live a life of a different quality, a different order. We will, if you like, be helping God break down the wall between us and eternal life.
John 17 tells us that eternal life is to know God.
1 John chapter 2 tells us that we know we know God when we keep his commandments.
When we keep God’s commandments we live for all earth and all people
Knowing God is to be given, and to live out, a fundamental breakthrough in the way we are human. We stop living for ourselves.
In this prayer of Jesus today, in John chapter 17, the last thing he says before he leaves his disciples, is that living for the whole world, and being more human, and living eternal life, will cause the world to hate us.
Think about it: we have evolved from animals which were not human. Our very existence depended on being the one who survived. If we did not make Number One the most important person in the world we would be killed, or starve, or freeze, or be eaten. Life was... is... savage... red in tooth and claw, the poet said. That is where we come from.
We evolved; we grew. We learned to co-operate in families, and tribes, and even nations. But the truth remained: kill or be killed. Look out for Number One. The meek would not inherit the earth, they would be eaten, one way or the other.
This is a fundamental fact of our being. It’s almost written in our genes. It is the animal we are, even today. If you attack me, I will fight back without thinking.
But slowly, in the long march of history, people like Jesus have begun to see another truth. To really be human, to get beyond being just a clever animal, we have to stop living for ourselves. We have to live for the whole, for all earth.
This is so fundamental, so basic, and so important, that it is better to die for the Good, than to win. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down their life for their friends. (John 15)
You’d think the world would be glad about this. Wouldn’t you rejoice if God told you there was a better way to live; a way that would fill your being with joy, and make life more meaningful than you ever believed possible?
Well.... I like my mobile phone, and my laptop, and my bike, and my house. They make me feel safe. They make me feel better than you. I’d rather enjoy what I have than trust God, really trust God, that there might be a better way of living. I want to be God of my own life. What will happen if I give up my life? What if God is not telling the truth? Besides, all those glossy colour advertisements which promise me the good life... they can’t really be wrong... can they?
How do you think I will feel if you say, “Andrew, what about the starving children? If you had a smaller house in Greenacres instead of paying five times as much for a house in Springfield, think about all the starving people you could help. And if you lived in Greenacres, you could spend more time helping the poor people there, instead of having to work so long to pay off your house!”
I’ll tell you how I will feel if you say that to me. I won’t like you. I’ll feel guilty. I will regard you as an enemy because you threaten what I have, and what I want, and what I like. There’s no way I want to join the meek, meek actually means the ones who do what God wants; the meek don’t inherit the earth, they get eaten... or squashed. I am going to look after Number One. I want to be on top.
If you and I really know God...
if we are really doing what God wants...
if we are living for the whole world, and not just Number One...
then when the world sees us, it will hate us. We threaten its very existence. Our very being condemns the world; puts the world in a bad light. Jesus says in John 3, that “the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.” Maybe that verse applies here.
Some people will bless you, and remember you, all the days of their life for your goodness to them. But the world, those who live for themselves and think all earth, and you, are actually here for them, will hate you. You show them up. The light of Christ shining out of you shows them they are not God after all. The world is not here for them. The world does not want to hear that.
That’s why Jesus says
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
We need to be prayed for; it’s that simple.
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How do you want to live?
Do you want to see what life is about, and to love, and be consumed, and filled with joy? Do you want life to be complete? If we try and find that by putting ourselves first, we will never find it. And we will hate the very people who have found it and want to lead us towards it.
If we want to see what life is about, and to love, and be consumed, and filled with joy—if we want life to be complete—we have to give it away and live life for all earth, and for all people.
It’s only when live for others, and risk the world hating us... and when we risk death, and face death, that we are freed from death and become fully human. That is what Jesus saw, and so, he went out to the garden even though he knew he would be betrayed.
You and I will fail a thousand times. We will seek to live for the world and yet make choices that are really benefiting us and keeping us safe from our fear of death. We will be called out to face the darkness of the garden, and pretend we have not heard or understood. God forgives us that.
And Jesus prays for us. We will not be abandoned. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Start breaking down the walls with God. Let eternal life flow into you. It is worth more than all you have. Amen