I confess to being the first in line for not understanding this: we do not understand the phrase, “Eternal Life.”
It’s actually different in different translations, but this verse is key for me:
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. — John 17:3 (NIV)
New Living says, “this is the way to HAVE eternal life.” KJV says, “this is.” I don’t want to run down some rabbit trail over versions because that’s not the point, but this is: eternal life isn’t even mostly about living eternally. It isn’t about length of life, not even the life that we live in heaven. Eternal life plays OUT in heaven, but that’s not its whole point. If God’s gift is eternal life (John 3:16), what good that do us now? Or anybody around us, for that matter? I think God is working in this moment, and I think eternal life is a part of right now, too.
Look at that verse in John: This IS eternal life, that you know Jesus. Jesus isn’t just waiting for you at the gates of heaven. He’s beside you this moment and every other moment. Eternal life doesn’t start when you die. It started when you said yes to a relationship with a man who walked out of his own grave.
What does it have to do with now? Pretty simple: don’t put the emphasis on the word “life,”
We get all tied up in benefits. We want to know “what’s in it for me” and “what do I get out of it.” We want to buy shoes for people in developing nations, but we want a pair of shoes to show that we did it. We want as much as we can get. It’s ruining our view of life and tainting our view of how Jesus wants us to live.
Listen to me again: eternal life isn’t about living in eternity. Not mostly, anyway. It’s about your life RIGHT NOW.
Eternal life is the life you’re living at this moment, but living with an eternal point of view. Not with your eye on heaven. Not with the end in mind. There are people around you, and Jesus came to earth because relationships are important. The MOST important, in fact. You’ve living now, taking on the strange personality of Jesus, because eternity is where Jesus is from, and our life belongs to him. If we’re wearing his name, we’re taking up his cross and his life.
Can you see that this changes everything? If we’re living in eternal-style life, our eyes become open so much more to the hurts of those around us. We start to not only see them, we actually FEEL the hurt that they feel. Hopefully, we give in ways that seem excessive and love in ways that defy human logic. We do that not because we need to look good, but because we’re living in eternity right now, and in eternity, the being who embodies love has possessed our bodies.
Our righteousness truly is like filthy rags, and it’s a distraction from what really matters. Anything else that starts with the word, “our,” “my” or any other possessive pronouns are the same. In any case you’re using those words, you are still focusing inward when the work of the kingdom is going on outside you.
I know, it starts in the heart. Get out of your own head, though. Get over yourself. Eternal life is not the trophy you win, it’s the path you’re already on. What seems the biggest is actually the smallest, and the thing that has always been close to us the thing that we’ve missed the most times. God is waiting, though. Waiting for us to get it.
I know I don’t yet, not fully. I’m not claiming some diving specialness, and I know Adam isn’t either. I just want to start living like that. My greatest fear is probably like yours — if I really do that, where does it stop? — and it blows my mind and I try to check out. I don’t want to check out, though. I want to see people and Jesus differently. I want to see him standing beside me because I’m not living my own life, I’m living his.