This is guest post by Brad Kunkel. Brad holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Fresno Pacific University Biblical Seminary. He now works as a Personal Chef helping others live well using nutrition and wholesome eating.
In a post religious world, the usual jargon has no meaning or reference point for anyone. We need to not just define it correctly, but figure out how to speak about it. There are a number of phrases and terms that have been part of our theological garment which could stand to be cleaned up, or possibly even replaced, if we want to be spiritual fashionistas relevant to a new generation.
A perfect example is the phrase “eternal life:” The literal meaning of this phrase is "the life of the age," an age which the New Testament authors insist began with the coming of Christ. At that time we were given the supreme example in Christ of what those characteristics are; essentially those of selfless sacrificial service i.e., love. Individuals, their relationships, and communities are preserved and enhanced by these traits, as opposed to those which result in corruption, decay and disintegration.
Unfortunately the very phrase in question has become corrupted. It is often assumed to be about what happens when we stop breathing, or an age yet to come. This is a smudge that needs some strong stain remover. It is up to us to embrace “eternal life” today in order to be useful participants in God’s redemptive project here and now.
Just how to go about this? In the New Testament letter called Ephesians, Paul tells us we were created to be like God; to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love. In between these statements is a list of things that has been a good starting point for me. Just saying only what builds others up is a daily challenge! The recommendations Jesus has in the Sermon on the Mount are especially useful. The center of this sermon is the foundation of it all: simply treating others the way we want to be treated. Imagine a world where everyone did just that. I believe that would qualify as the “home of righteousness,” or a place where things work right again.
In the meantime, what to do with how we speak of this? Leave it, launder it, or let it go? My instinct says we are at the point where we are left with no alternative but the latter, but I wonder what else we can wear to stay dressed for success?
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