This week we look at how God’s love wins for us. One big question we have to answer is the question of time and eternity. Time is like 2011, or tomorrow, or even a decade. Eternity is–well–forever. Usually we think of time as part of eternity, but it is not all of time (which is eternity.) Got it? Good.
One of the most memorable SNL skits is when Simon and Garfunkel have to spend eternity in an elevator listening to the Muzak versions of their songs. This is hell for them. In fact, most of the time we consider an eternity of what we hate/fear the most as our defintion of “hell.” Hell in this sense is whatever we fear or hate to the point that if we had to do it forever and ever and ever would be the absolutely worst thing to imagine. So, if your biggest fear, as for many of the folks who wrote the Bible, is to be apart from God–then, “hell” is time forever apart from God.
And Jesus, at least according to Paul in the book of Philippians, doesn’t want it this way. Listen to what Jesus does in the famous “Christ Hymn” of Philippians 2:
First, “he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,” that is, Jesus did not want to take advantage of his being God, so he “emptied himself.” He gave up being God for being “born in human likeness…and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.” So, Jesus, although he is God (and presumably immortal), he takes on dying. Now listen to what happens.
God, instead of getting angry with Jesus for going on and dying (and therefore NOT being a very good god–what’s the point of being God if you’re going to die?), but God “exalted him” (raised him up) and gave him the name “above every name.” God’s love, we argue, raises Jesus from the dead, and brings Jesus back to God. God’s love is God’s “Yes” to the negation that is the death on the cross suffered by Jesus. As we “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” we too have death answered for us. Death has no power over Jesus, and in our confession no power over us, so that even though we die we live forever in eternity with God and Jesus as our Lord. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, and our confession of it, we die in time, but we live forever in eternity. (Other Bible writers say we are to “believe” in Jesus…so choose the one–confess or believe–that you undertand best.)
Now, because of what Jesus did, and God’s response to it, you and I don’t have to worry about eternity (we live forever, even when we die.) We are free. What you do on earth has nothing to do with what Jesus did for eternity. Some people worry about this, because they think that what we do here on earth doesn’t matter. They are wrong. What we do on earth here is part of eternity, so, be careful how you act on earth because it might be how you act forever. But it might not…
Because now that you can do whatever you want in time because eternity is taken care of, what are you going to do? Are you going to act in rapacious, self-centered, greedy ways? Or, are you going to live in hope, peace, and cooperation? Now that you don’t have to worry about eternity, how are you going to live today? Or, as Paul says at the end of the Christ hymn, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, because God is at work in you.” Paul understands it’s scary to be living these days, but he also understands that Jesus got eternity handled, and for Paul that means God’s love wins, and we had absolutely nothing to do with it–yet, in our confession and believing Jesus is Lord that eternal love is our gift. Amazing, but true,
May your tables be full and your conversations be true.