Friday, June 23, 2006

... discussion

had a somewhat lively Bible study on John 3:36 this evening, with a consideration (among other things) of the question, "what does it mean to have 'eternal life'?"

there are a number of pat answers one can give without really getting to the nuts and bolts of our own personal understanding of what eternal life means. "a full relationship with God"... "no more tears, no more pain"... "being the person God meant for me to be"... "to live forever and never die"... are all examples of the kinds of answers i've heard over the years, with first leaning towadrs a more thoughtful understanding of eternal life, and the last leaning towards a more basic (and slightly flawed, perhaps, unless Jesus comes back in our lifetimes) understanding of it.

my own understanding of "eternal" is less a quantitive one and more a qualitative one, i hope. certainly, the eternal encompasses an infinity of temporal space, in which one could imagine replaying the whole of human history and seeing every event in minute detail, treating time as a river one could get out and wander up- and downstream of. i think, though, that my own ability to grasp the concept of the true nature of the eternal is inherently flawed and incapable of the most basic grasp of it. i remember a quote from somewhere, "if the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we'd be so simple we couldn't." i think it's a good quote because it underlines our limited view of the world around us. all that i could possibly ask or imagine in this life will barely fit into a fob pocket in my jeans in heaven (assuming we still wear jeans in heaven!) and the concept that everything could all be rolled up in such a way for us is laughable.

God is an energetic, creative God - if he had been content in himself to be simply eternal and self-relating, he need never have created us at all. it is because he loves us and desires that we be in relationship with him that he deigned to breathe life into the dust of the ground and call it "made in our image". God is love - and with that powerful, revealing-himself-as-father love comes an anger when his children do the wrong thing that is equally awesome, or awful. my parents were angry when i did the wrong thing because they love me and wanted me to do the right thing, and how much more than my parents does God love me!

my understanding of eternal life is that it is a restored relationship with God - to pray and be heard, to see his hand in the world around us, to find his character in my brothers and sisters, to see his image in the faces of strangers, to have his Spirit in my heart - it is not a restoring of our pre-fall status per se, i think, but a moving-on from that. adam had God's breath in his nostrils, but i have the Holy Spirit inside me; similar but different. God met with adam in the cool of the day, walked in the garden with him, but God is always and ever with me now and i am always and ever now with him: God has a place for me in his house, he has called me a son, and what he speaks is.

i do not enjoy the fullness of this restored relationship yet, because i still am in the world. sin continues to exact its toll in my life, reduced though it is according to God's grace, but what i suggested in Bible study tonight was this:

eternal life is a little like having a backstage pass at a concert. it's great to be at a concert or performance. everyone's there to have a great time, enjoy the show. some people have queued up for ages, some people had their tix as gifts, or won them in some competition. some are in the mosh pit, some are in the nosebleeds. everyone is there, enjoying themselves, the show, the company, and most are not thinking about what will happen after the show. they revel in the moment because, were they even able to admit it, the moment is all they have.

for those who have backstage passes, however, the concert is an amazing precursor to the freedom and privilege of going backstage. meeting the band! seeing the techies! maybe even jamming with the band! getting autographs! for these people, the concert is not the main event. for these people, the concert's end is not a reason to feel down, to go out and take your time getting to the car, knowing that a eighty thousand others are all going to be clamouring to get out before you. for these people, the end of the concert is the moment when they can go backstage! where others' experience ends after the last encore fades, their experience is only beginning.

in the gospel, i think God is offering us backstage passes (in a way). we don't have just the moment to live in, we have all those moments after these. and we should treasure the gospel. you don't go to the concert and leave them at home! you can't get in unless you've got them front and centre, where the door guys can see your credentials. and what's even better is that we get to give these backstage passes away ourselves! to anybody!

warren commented tonight he'd heard someone say that Christians are beggars who have been given bread - and tell other beggars where to get more. i know that i rarely share the gospel with people and i know that it is even more rare for me to sit down and truly dwell on the awesome nature of our God and King, and the power of the gospel to save. i don't live the way i should, not fully enough, not loudly enough, i think. my pass is in my pocket, in my bag, not around my neck. and the more i think about it, the more i think i'm losing out by being so reticent about it all. i'm terrified that my failures will make the gospel look bad, when in fact they can only make it look even more amazing - if it works for me (and look how much more screwed up i seem compared to how you think you are) it must work for you too!

can't half tell it's after midnight, eh?

3 Comments:

At June 23, 2006 7:50 am , Blogger cafedave said...

a good analogy.

 
At June 23, 2006 11:57 am , Blogger Kathryn - echidna23@hotmail.com said...

I'm glad you shared this Dr. I have been a bit disallusioned lately. Also Dr, I think one of the main reasons we love our friends at the end of the day is because of their faults... K :)

 
At June 23, 2006 11:20 pm , Blogger Barb said...

I think though that eternal life isn't as focused on the future as you've implied here ...

 

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