A Birthday Reflection – To Life!

” The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” ~ Job 33:4

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” ~ John 1:4

Life is all any of us have. 25 years is a lifetime. At least, it’s my lifetime at this moment. Not only am I alive, but I am healthy; I am loved by family and friends; I am educated; I am working in a field I love; I am a Christian. My life is an excessive, overflowing gift. So I am very thankful to be alive.

At 25 years of age, many people are still getting started with life. They might be finishing education, forming families, planning their careers, or figuring out what to do. Others will never reach 25 years. Abortion, starvation, war, disease, and suicide prematurely snuff out thousands of lives every day. Life is hard to come by. As stubbornly as we cling to life with one hand, we humans are addicted to death. We deal it to ourselves and to others, consciously and unconsciously. Individually, and as a race, we cry, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” From the depths of our souls a whisper replies, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Jesus pours out life in and through the Church. If the human race at any point chooses life rather than death, it will be because of the guiding hand of the Church. What kind of church, though, can point to life? Churches have at times been dealers of death, physically and spiritually. They have sometimes degraded rather than ennobled human life. History witnesses that the Church herself is as much in need of guidance as it is a guide.

The church that can offer life to a world of death is first catholic. “Catholic” means universal, unrestricted. The church is not a special interest group. It does not exist to prop up a nation, a class, or a gender. Catholicity is the conviction that every Christian needs every other Christian, that the Church extends through both time and space. Insofar as 21st century American Christians refuse to heed their own past, or the voices of the majority world, or the wisdom of the various Christian denominations, they are not catholic but sectarian. In their self-imposed isolation, the roaring river of life slows to a trickle.

The church that witnesses to life is also reformed. Three “solas” of the Reformation especially cry out: sola scriptura (by scripture alone), sola fide (by faith alone), and solo Christo (in Christ alone). These three are not independent principles, but a single hermeneutical canon. Any faith based on the Bible that does not recognize it as testifying at every point to Christ our Savior and Lord loses not only Christ, but the Bible also. Any portrait of Christ not firmly grounded in the Bible is destined for moralism and, eventually, complete falsity.

One of the abiding insights of Martin Luther is that we are free to serve our neighbor only when our own basic needs are supplied. We can give only out of our own excess. The doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone sets us free to serve. If I have Christ, I have all I need in this life. I have no righteousness quota to fill, no points to earn with God before I can attend to your need. I can dedicate myself to your life. All true evangelism springs from this conviction, that the life I have in Christ is for you as well. It does not diminish but rather increases the more it is shared.

Life, though, extends far beyond evangelism. As the political and liberation theologies remind us, a commitment to life is a pledge not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good. We repent of our collaboration with the powers of death and injustice. Taking up our cross, we heal the sick, cast out demons, and set the captives free. Our resolve may lead us to our own Calvary. It does not matter. Our life is hidden in Christ; resurrected and ascended, this world can harm him no more.

So, on my birthday, I plan to drink coffee, read, attend a theology conference, go to class, tell my wife how good her cupcakes are. I will say thank you for birthday wishes and laugh at silly internet links. But I will also offer up a prayer, that the Church may be catholic and reformed, and that my life might bring life to those in the power of death.

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Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  

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