Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
Today’s gospel text is the only passage I know of where Jesus lays down a straightforward definition of eternal life. Christians have made “eternal life” into a phrase that simply means going to the good place when you die. While “eternal torment” means going to the bad place when you die.
“Eternal life” is not something that can be bought – not by a sinner’s prayer, not by a perfectly recited catechism, not by adopting a set of behavioral practices and code of ethics, not by demonstrating that you have “faith” and are “born again.” Eternal life cannot be bought because it is not a market-based product as much as Christians want to make it into one. Eternal life is not a reward for knowing God, because the reward is the knowing.
When we know God, our life is eternal. The more that we know God, the more eternal our life is. We truly live when we encounter God, when we get to know him, when we experience his goodness, mercy, and love, when we recognize his presence in everything. We become truly alive when we see the world around us as the masterpiece of a Creator who loves us instead of a randomly cobbled together system that nobody watches or cares about.
It is said, when you know God, he speaks to you from everything. God can make the ugliest vacation spot in the world saturated with beauty. The absence of God can make the most pristine beach in the world a hot, restless world of anguish. (Morgan Guyton)
This definition of eternal life should shape how we think and talk about what salvation is and how to pursue it. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins makes it possible for us to approach God without shame. It takes away the need to wear masks and lie to ourselves.
If we are pursuing something else as our ‘god’ – whether it is our career, our personal comfort, an addiction, or even a good cause – then we are not going to get very far in knowing God. We have to be extravagant, be imaginative, be passionate in our pursuit of knowing God. My hope is that if I am extravagant and imaginative in my pursuit of knowing God, the eternal life I gain will spill over into all the other relationships of my life as well.