Saturday, June 23, 2012

More Than Happiness

Last week, I wrote a second article on behalf of the Covenant Church and I have not gotten around to posting to this blog, so here it is.

If you asked people, "What does a quality life look like?" a common response would be one full of happiness. It's what inspires people to get as much money as possible to get a comfortable lifestyle. It's what drives others to become a celebrity at all costs. For others it is to pass all their days staring at a screen and yet others to delve into lifestyles that can potentially hurt themselves or others for short term happiness.

Jesus, however, seems to indicate that happiness may not be the secret to a quality life. After all, if you need money or celebrity or video games, then that means the only people that can attain quality life are those who are rich or born in the right part of the world and it often is focused on the happiness of the individual at the cost of the strength of the community.

In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me." According to Jesus, the best life lived is difficult. Why does it have to be this way?

What I believe many people call a quality life is really just medicating yourself from fully living life. A quality life means enjoying the good things in life, but also not shying away from dealing with pain in our lives and not just sedating yourself with temporary happiness. It means looking to our fellow humanity and "be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those that weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people." (Romans 12:16) It means struggling against injustice for people crushed by an unfair world.

It can be very easy to live a life where you medicate yourself from engaging in all of life, but by doing so, I believe you let life pass you by. Following Jesus is by no means easy, but it also means life is fully lived. As Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is give them a rich and satisfying life."

A quality life is not defined by happiness, but rather by how much you live life fully, both the good and the bad, and living life with each other. Don't cling to temporary happiness while the thief robs you of a full life.

"Do you want to hear something sad?
We are but victims of desire
I'm gonna shake this day
I wanna shake this day before I retire"
- "Gonna See My Friend" from the Pearl Jam album "Backspacer"

Friday, June 08, 2012

Heaven Beside You

This is the article that was published in the Nelson Star on June 8th.

If I were to be honest with you, one of the concepts that unnerves me the most is the idea of eternity. In my finite mind, I am unable to conceive an afterlife that I would want to never end. Even if I could do everything I ever wanted to do all day, it would seem to me that eventually I would like to simply stop.

I've never fully comprehended why some people are so desperate to get to heaven because I can't conceive of a heaven that would be eternally satisfying.

You may be wondering how in the world was this guy allowed to write in the faith section. Isn't it foundational to the Christian faith to have confidence in life in the hereafter? I'm not saying that heaven does not exist, but rather that I don't know what it looks like. This is what I do have confidence in: whatever the afterlife is, whether it is a heavenly city with roads paved with gold or it is a simple fading away into nothingness, it will be as it should be.

I point to Matthew 6 where Jesus says, "So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today."

Although this passage is speaking about the here and now, I believe it carries into the afterlife. I don't know what the afterlife holds. It might be so great that my mind would be blown away and I will think that I was silly to ever doubt it. However, it will be taken care of and its not my place to be responsible for it and for who is in and who is out.

What I am responsible for is the pool of resources entrusted to me, the sphere of influence I have and the opportunities to bring peace and love that are the hallmarks of the kingdom of heaven.

It is too easy to let this present world burn and dream about the perfection of a future heaven and forget that we can have heaven here and now, bringing it to our fellow humankind. Let God worry about the rest.

What is heaven like? I don't know. However, I do not believe the point of being a Christian is to go to heaven when you die. I think the point is to join God in bringing His kingdom of love, peace, justice and mercy (or in a word, heaven) to a world in desperate need of it.

"Left to right,
Up and down, love
I push up love, love everyday,
Jump in the mud, oh
Get your hands dirty with
Love it on everyday"
- Title track from Dave Matthews Band's album "Everyday"