Despite the common mantra that we have only one life and that we must squeeze every last experience or pleasure or “live life to the fullest”, the Christian cannot live like that for we know of another life of which the world is ignorant, “the life of the world to come”. (Nicene Creed)
This argument has often been confused in that it seems to imply a denigration if not outright rejection of the things of this world or its relations. We are not however rejecting the value of this world but simply delimiting it. This life is not the place of perfection or completion. Most of us would lead poor meagre lives in obscurity, many of our desires in this world may never see fulfilment, even if the object of those desires were noble and good.
However unlike the world which debases itself before judgement seat of history and craves after the attention of those who record man’s evaluation of what is significant, we will not be judged by history but by God. The fact that history ignores us does not mean that God does. It is to him alone to whom a good answer is required at the end of time. It is he alone who shall distinguish between the good things which shall endure unto eternity and those which would crumble to dust under his judgement.
We must take care therefore that what we desire in this world is commensurate with the will of God in distinction from that which shall pass. An evangelical friend of mine once put it crudely by saying that she often decorates her mansion in heaven in her mind. While it may be a stretch to say that there would be Bach’s concerts (conducted or performed by the great man himself!) in heaven, but I do think that the beautiful things of this world, approved by God’s will, would be perfected in the next, no matter how crude or meagre it maybe here.
So many of us will not do great things, many of us would be people of no real repute. No cameras or television shows would celebrate our deeds, no newspaper propagate our merits. Yet in the words of George Eliot:
Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
As Christ himself said, cups of cold water given in his name will not be forgotten. It is not to the famous or well known to whom God will laud, but the billions of unknown faithful, who live hidden lives, who have no great deed or merit to their name, but who were faithful to their neighbours, to those whom God has placed in their lives, it is them who shall be praised unto eternity.
To love the world belongs to God, to love our neighbours, ourselves. Even love of our enemies, whom we cannot conceive how we would live side by side for eternity, will receive it’s reward. By the hope promised in Christ, we trust that they shall see, in this life or the next, how God has through us extended Christ’s loving arms to reach down past the darkness of their souls to touch the dormant divine image lost by sin and draw it back by communicating a like love divine to that raging soul. A soul healed by that knowledge is precious in the sight of the Lord, wonderful to those whom we have so loved with the same divine love by which we were loved from the foundations of the world, and a joy to us all who love the Lord and rejoice to see the restoration of those whom God had loved unto his love.