As a boy growing up and believing that all those saved in Christ Jesus were going to heaven I still understood (because it was what everyone believed) that we were NOT going to be ghosts—a bodily resurrection was involved in our transition. I don’t remember wondering what use we’d have for our bodies but, then again, I do remember now and then thinking heaven might be boring. What would we do? Float around on clouds eternally plucking on harps? I do remember hearing that we’d sing and pray forever and I remember feeling that that wouldn’t suit me at all. But I was a boy, you see, playing marbles, “Churchy-one-over,” “Rally-O”, and such things. When I got into my teens I was involved in whatever was available that young people get into—I was alive and healthy, there were games to play, picture-shows to go to, soccer to play, girls to impress (or at least try to), friends to run around with, music to listen to, songs to sing, streams to splash in, camps to go to, YMCA to hang out in—there was life; life suited for the kind of creatures God had created. Understand, I’m speaking here of the harmless pleasures that were available to us (I’m leaving out the other involments). Life was far from being always easy—very far from it—but people adjust to what they don’t have or don’t have a lot of. Some are so tragically and breathtakingly deprived all their lives that they don’t know what they don’t have. (O God, how gallant humans can be even in the midst of insane conditions! Thank you for enabling them. Don’t let them down Holy Father. Grant that the life of your own gallant Son might be a source of hope and assurance for them even though they haven’t even heard His glorious name spoken. They can’t help hoping against hope that Someone somewhere sees it all and can and will do something about it.)
Those of us who have been blessed to believe in Jesus don’t profess to know just what is coming in the future but we know Who is coming and He has persuaded us to think noble things of God. And because He who is coming is the One who said, “I am life!” we’re assured. Paul said of Him (Philippians 1:21, Moffatt), “Christ is life to me!” Ask him to define life and he has only one word: Christ! Jesus does more than promise and give life—He defines it! “Look at Me,” He says, “I am life. I am what it means to be alive with the fullness of life. And I am contagious and if you spend a lot of time around me with your heart open you’ll find yourself being transformed and beginning to look and sound like Me.”
It is Life He is and it’s life He came to bring us. Life He came to bring us humans. It has “forgiveness” at its heart but that is the condition in which we enjoy LIFE and that’s more than forgiveness. God didn’t create humans to forgive them—He created them to give them Life, glorious Life, fullness of Life—life that humans were made for, life filled with all the harmless joys and pleasures that lead blessed humans to smile frequently and sometimes say to themselves, “It’s great to be alive!” And when the time draws near and it’s possible for them to reflect you’d hear most of them saying, “It’s been a great life!” (I know! I know about our countless fellow-humans now and in the generations gone who never had reason to smile. Groan! But God sees and calls us to do what we can do in His name and leave the rest to Him. Think noble things of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.)
God cares for our well-being and when He came as Jesus of Nazareth He illustrated that by healing and blessing and feeding—going about doing good because God was in that life (Matthew 8:16-17; Acts 10:37-38). All those liberating acts and words are “prophecies” of a day that is coming when all that is anti-God, anti-life and anti-human will be obliterated.
In the meantime the humans joys and pleasures, the human loves, the moments, the hours and the long years of material and social blessings are part of the proof that God loves humans and takes their humanity seriously. (The Incarnation has made that eternally clear! He became and is and forever will be one of us!)
One of our great mistakes in our believing lives, so it seems to me, is that we’re too “spiritual,” too religious. Our dividing our lives into sacred and secular is a major blunder, even though now and then the distinction makes limited sense. All our blessings have the same source. They’re from God. Israelites drank physical water and ate physical food in the wilderness and Paul calls it “spiritual” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The joy that filled the hearts of even wayward nations came from heaven (Acts 14:16-17; 17:24-28).
Watch a father and mother as together they look at their little children (I know about abused children; O God I know about them but…) and how precious they are to them; what wouldn’t they do, what wouldn’t they give to bless that child who almost immediately has become so entangled in their heartstrings that they love him/her more than themselves? This is being human! This is the gift of God to humans.
And those wives and husbands, lovers who have loved one another in honor (sigh!) are to be forgiven if in the middle of the complexities of life they find feelings that run deeper for one another than they do at the thought of God. (He isn’t jealous of such relationships—they’re His gifts. He’s only jealous of any relationship that draws us away from Him.) He didn’t make us spooks or passionless entities. He created us to love and be loved and in the middle of the chaotic, confusing, frightening world that we humans (as a single family) have helped to make and shape He has kept love and lovers alive as a witness to a coming day when all that wrong will be righted.
Listen to this love song by Jo Stafford (link below) and be unafraid to rejoice in it. Those of us who are tongue-tied in part because we don’t “see” well need poets and artists to write and sing about the lovely things of life and then we who are indeed blessed to know that such things come from God as gifts from God to humans—to us, and the world is never the same and the future is even more alluring and promises even more.