When I was growing up, sometime during the summers I was apt to express an anticipation for fall. I’ve never been a summer person! When I was a teenager, a man who worked with us at my dad’s feed mill said told me, “Don’t wish your life away.”
Defensively, I denied that I was wishing my life away, but the man had a point. We can be always so looking forward to something that we fail really to value the present.
It strikes me that Christians can be guilty of the same when it comes to eternity. We look at our culture and are amazed at its rapid descent into depravity. Candidates for political office campaign for fewer restrictions on abortion in the name of “reproductive justice,” a perceived kind of social justice. Think about that for a moment. Social justice? A woman declares to the Democratic National Convention that she aborted her child because, at that stage in her life, she was not ready for a family. Later, however, she was ready, and now she has children. The crowd applauds her. Defending her liberty to end the life of her unborn child is deemed social justice. Isaiah 5:20 comes quickly to mind: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
And so we see these and other cultural maladies and say, “I can’t wait for Christ to return and for all unrighteousness to be defeated. I can’t wait for the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:13). It is right to do so, to long for that day. The apostle John did, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Having said that, though, we must remember that we are not yet in that day. We have this life to live now – day by day, moment by moment. How do we to live it?
One thing that we must not do is focus solely on death and life beyond the grave. Admittedly, for most persons this is not an issue. They put death out of their minds as though it will not happen. Some of us, though, so disenchanted with this life, write off the “now” and simply mark time for the “later.”
But how are we to live now? Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Jesus boiled everything down to these commandments.
How do we love God? Someone may say, “By doing good work,” but what good work can we do that God needs? Jesus said to love God with all our being and love our neighbor as our self. In his Lectures to Galatians, Martin Luther, the German reformer, noted why we are justified through faith in Christ alone: “God . . . does not need our works.” Our neighbors, however, “do not derive any benefit from faith but do derive benefit from works or from our love.” Our neighbor needs our good works.
Writing the “Acton Commentary” of March 30, 2016, Gene Edward Veith, Provost and Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, follows Luther’s accurate understanding of the Bible with this: “We love God by faith, at his initiative: ‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). And we love our neighbors as ourselves by vocation. We love them not just by internal feelings or by isolated acts of virtue, but in the entire course of ordinary life, which becomes the realm of ‘faith working through love’ (Gal. 5:6).”
Those with whom we work are our neighbors in this sense, as are those who live across the street and those who live in our homes. How should we live now? By loving God through loving others, serving them through good works.