Sunday, January 12, 2014

Eternal Life

Some people I know don't much like the idea of eternal life.  They don't because they see eternal life as a never-ending continuation of the present life with all its fear, pain, misery, strife, struggle, sin and all the rest of the difficulties that in their sum total simply don't make all the "good" things worthwhile. Others who might find their way around such a perspective see eternal life as an ultimately dull affair. Somehow they got the idea from someone at some point in their lives that eternal life is a future state otherwise called heaven where people will sit around on clouds strumming harps.  And I have to admit these visions of eternal life are--well--bleak.  Certainly they are not much to aspire to.  Fortunately, they are also quite wrong.

Joseph Ratzinger explained in volume 2 of his Jesus of Nazareth series that eternal life comes through recognition and faith.  As we shall see, these are closely tied together.   What Dr. Ratzinger meant by recognition was in the Old Testament sense:

"'Eternal life' is gained through 'recognition', presupposing here the Old Testament concept of recognition: recognition that creates communion; it is union of being with the one recognized." (J. Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. Ignatius Press, San Francisco: 2011, p. 83.)

The dude's brilliant!  The reason we have such a bleak view of eternal life is because we have united ourselves with a being we have come to recognize as the source of life.  And it is with this being we have been communing.  The being which I speak is in the broad sense creation, but is in all truth ourselves.  Life to us is hard, miserable, and barely sustainable because we seek it through our own resources, which is to seek it in creation.  But creation is an unforgiving place.  To try to tame it requires we strive to advance ourselves over others, which as I said, ultimately translates to us communing with ourselves to find life.  And this is a sordid business--with all its slight of hand, deal making, and power grabbing--which only makes the already merciless jungle of creation a place to escape; the being we have come to recognize in the way Dr. Ratzinger means at best brings to us only a poor caricature of life, a life, in fact, that causes us to long for death.

The problem isn't Dr. Ratzinger got it wrong; no, the problem is who or what we recognize as the source of life; and it ain't ourselves; such a notion is a big fat lie we long ago duped ourselves in believing to be truth.  No, in his very next breath, Dr. Ratzinger tells us the answer,

"But of course the key to life is not any kind of recognition, but to 'know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.'" (Ibid. p. 83)

Dr. Ratzinger quotes Jesus as recorded in John 17:3 here.  The being we must recognize, the being therefore with whom we must commune if we want true life is not creation but our creator.  And we so recognize our Creator as we surrender ourselves fully by faith in His one, only, unique Son, Jesus the Christ.

Why Jesus?  Because God has taken on flesh and entered into human history as a supreme act of re-creation by bringing order out of the chaos that has resulted from us turning away from God and looking to ourselves for life and therefore dying a complete death.  God again speaks life into this lifeless rebellion that we now are: "Let there be light!"  But this time He as His very Word came to dwell among us and take away death by dying to its fullest fury on the cross, buried and on the third day raised to life everlasting.  So that in His Son, Jesus Christ, who is this Word, we can finally recognize God, and stand in Him by faith, and live.  Not live a shadow of the reality of life, but true life in all its infinite grandeur, beauty, and love.

We recognize God--our Creator--in Christ because He came from God and has been exalted to sit now at the right hand of God.  And we commune with Christ by faith, which is to surrender ourselves in trust completely to Christ.  And He is worthy of our trust because He is the personification of God's wisdom to truly live and because He lives.

In his Gospel account, John writes:

"Everything was created by Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created. What has been created was life in Him, and the life was the light of humanity; and the light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome/understand it." (John 1: 3-5)

I encourage you dear reader to repent of yourself and creation as your source of life and return to your Creator by trusting only in Christ and His power to live.  The life you think you have found in yourself, is really death--it will never deliver what you long for.  The life you will find in Christ is an infinite beauty and peace God created for you to have with Him forever, today!  For indeed, God is the God of the living, not the dead.


Jon Kokko said...

Sometimes the simplest truths are the hardest to accept!