Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eternal Life, Quality vs Quantity

Christmas. Jesus. Baby. Manger. Hay. Doting parents. Awestruck shepherds. Nonchalant livestock. It's surely the ultimate divine comedy that God answered Mary and Joseph's frantic prayers for a room in a B&B by providing a parking space for their donkey instead. So who was he, this holy infant so tender and mild? Why did he come? What did his words mean? How should his actions be interpreted?

Probably the most famously used abbreviation of this remarkable life is the one found in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life'. As it happens I've been thinking a lot lately about this eternal life. I'm far from convinced that it is at all synonymous with the much loved idea of 'going to heaven'. ‘Perishing’ has always struck me as being a greengrocer sort of image. We have a fancy silver bowl in our kitchen that frequently contains perishing fruits of various types. Leave them in there long enough and they'll all perish into various forms of fungus and fuzz. None of them have eternal life. You see the things of this world deteriorate. There is a peak of life, energy, vitality (that I passed many moons ago) and beyond this zenith life grows less and less. The words of Jesus quoted in John 3:16 seem to be suggesting that God desires to gift to us, through his son, a state of being with the fear of rot removed, a permanent peak, no morning after the night before.

Related to this, I find that all too often, at mention of the phrase ‘eternal life’, my mind races off into the future searching out to measure the length of that promised infinity. This of course produces nothing but an ‘error’ message in the brain, the concept of eternity is as troubling as it is promising. But what if I were to consider ‘eternal life’ in terms of quality- a fruit of spectacular taste and texture, rather than quantity - a fruit with no best-before date. Do you get me? I think I'm trying to say, what if the linear dimension of time were not my singular reference point, but rather I managed to gain a glimpse into a life being lived in and measured by fullness. And after all, wasn’t the language of fullness used very interchangeably with the language of eternity in the words of Jesus, and later of the Apostles too, most notably Paul?

Anyway, to draw this to a close, suffice to say, this Christmas I’m trying to remember that Jesus came to open the way for me first and foremost into a quality of life, with the quantity of that life finding relevance merely as a shadow finds relevance from a solid object. Is that a bit too philosophical for Christmas Day?

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Brigsy said...

Hey Matt,

I believe their has been a book written about your Buddy Andy Hawthorne.


Josh said...

For something to be eternal and yet change the world it cannot be self defeating. To use some pretty posh language, our patterns of interaction must be compatible with our continuing existence, down to the smallest level of accuracy.

But how can that be true? I know I can't always act in a perfectly beneficial way! Fortunately, we have a God who moves us in that direction, and is able to totally swallow up our own negative effects. In the final case raising us from the dead, but before then working his power alongside us to compensate and to teach.

Another way to look at it is this, if you never drop down, or you get picked back up when you do, then you'll never hit the floor!

Anonymous said...
Try reading that website and you will have a "clear" understanding...I know I did.
If one truly analysis the bible, they will know it's only a man made book, it's a self help book, it contradicts itself.
Most people are blind. People need a god to believe in so they can do bad things and get away with it and ask for forgiveness.
Christians are full of crap and the most hypocritical people on this earth.
And because you decide what comments will be posted, you will not post this comment because you don't want others giving their honest opinion against your beliefs.