Saturday, April 18, 2015

Taste and See

What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?

Psalm 34:12

This verse jumped out at me as I was reading this week. It is not a rhetorical question (it is not effectively denying that there is such a man), but a practical question - do you want life? Do you love the good days of life and long for them to continue?
Then turn from evil, and do good, says the Psalmist.  Control your tongue.  Speak the truth.  Seek peace.  Then YHWH will look on you, and you can expect life in fullness.

When you think about it, the Bible is full of this sort of thing.  Jesus came to give abundant life, after all.  The promise of life, life in fullness, life full of good things - that is all over Scripture.  In Christ and his discipleship there is life.

A few thoughts:

It is vitally important that we read this promise through the cross.  It is right to love life, right to want many days, right to enjoy the many good things which life has to offer.  But life - real life - comes on the other side of death, whether that is the daily 'little death' (but not so little!) of self-denial or the 'final death' (but not so final!) of the grave.  If we forget this, we will create a theology of glory and deny the cross of Christ.

I think that for most people religion is about avoiding death, or at least avoiding the fear of death.  I wonder if that isn't right on the money for some of us who profess ourselves followers of Christ.  Scripture calls us to more than this: the love of life, not just the fear of death.  I think that will play out in a number of different ways.  Fear of death leads at best to disciplined and committed rule-keeping, hatred of sin, avoidance of evil; love of life leads to disciplined yet joyful submission to God's law, love of holiness, pursuit of Christ.  Fear of death leads to world-denial, and self-contained, self-confessed spirituality; love of life leads to loving service of the world (albeit recognising the temptation of worldliness) and a willingness to risk.  How can you risk anything, waste anything, put anything at all in harms way if your main motive is to avoid death?  But if you love life - and know that life means knowing Christ and his cross - then you can say: this is the game, this is the final, this is what counts; let's give it everything.

I wonder as well how we as Christians address those who just want life.  I suspect that often we just see the surface froth of hedonism and condemn this, without realising that underneath that is love of life, love of goodness, love of joy.  How do we persuade people that here, in Christ Jesus, here is life?  How do we shift the perception of the church from being joy-denying, world-hating, repressive, anti-life misery?

How will we taste and see that the Lord is good?  And how will we invite others to do the same?

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