Much of Christian preaching and teaching today focuses not on what happens in this life, but the next. One time when I was visiting a friends’s church in 7th grade, an adult there asked me, “If you bent over to tie your shoes tonight and died, do you know that you’d go to heaven to be with Jesus?” I hadn’t really thought about shoe-tying as a dangerous activity until that night, but that’s probably why to this day I leave my laces tied and just slip my shoes on and off.
I think this is where so many Christians get it wrong. (If we’re being honest, this is one place of MANY where Christians get it wrong.) We tend to focus on the metaphor of Jesus as a “ticket to heaven.” There’s a train about to leave the station and go somewhere else other than here, and Jesus is yelling “all aboard” and if you just believe in him in your heart you get your ticket punched to heaven for when you die. The most important thing for you to do in the meantime is tell other people to get their ticket punched as well.
The problem with that metaphor is that Jesus never uses it. He never talks about “riding a train to Glory.” He never even mentions “going to heaven when you die.” Instead, Jesus spends a whole lot of time and energy talking about life here and now. He announces, “the Kingdom of God is HERE!” He heals people here. When he teaches people to pray, he teaches them to say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And here in John 10:10, he says, “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so they could live life to the fullest.”
Right now. Here. This life. What Jesus desires is that we would have the fullest possible life right here, right now. Following the way of Jesus leads to the best possible kind of life, the fullest kind of life. I’m confident heaven will be great, but I can’t control what happens after I die. Being a Christian is so much more than simply being assured of going to heaven when you die. What I can control is the kind of life I live here and now, and according to John 10, Jesus cares a great deal about this life. Living a life of love leads to a fuller life than a life of hatred. Living a life of forgiveness leads to a fuller life than a life of holding grudges. Living a life of servanthood leads to a fuller life than a life of self-ceteredness. Living a life of hope leads to a fuller life than a life of despair. Living a life of physical, spiritual, and emotional wholeness leads to a fuller life than a life of brokenness. And that’s the kind of life Jesus hopes for each of us.
God, thank you for showing us the way to the fullest kind of life possible, a life of following the way of Jesus.