Every religion and every philosophy has to answer one very important question: What is the good life?
For Buddhists, the good life is personal enlightenment through deep meditation leading to Nirvana--the cessation of all human suffering.
For Hindus, the good life is rising up through the caste system to become dissolved into Brahman, the gatekeeper of all knowledge.
For Muslims, it's all about following the teachings and behavior of Muhammad the Prophet through the observance of the Five Pillars: Confession, Prayer, Fasting, Giving, and that all-important Pilgrimmage to Mecca (or Hajj). Obey Shari'ah Law and you'll find yourself in eternal Paradise.
How does American Culture define the Good Life? In our culture, the Good Life is attained by being one of these four things: 1) beautiful, 2) intelligent, 3) rich, or 4) talented. Those who excel in one of these four areas can live the Good Life. And if you excel in two or more of these things, WOW, you're really on your way to happiness! That's how our culture measures value and worth. Are you good-looking, smart, wealthy, or capable? If you are, then you have value. If you're not, well....
But as good as these things might be, NONE of them give real life. They seem to--that's what makes them so alluring! But beauty is fleeting. Right, Goldie (left)? And smarts? I find that the more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know! Riches can't buy life, love, or happiness. If it could, Jeffrey Epstein and King Solomon would still be drawing breath. Talent is like beauty--over time, it erodes. Athletes lose a step. Singers' voices wear out. Painters get arthritis or the "shakes".
The apostle Jesus loved has good news for us. In 1 John 1:11, he writes, "God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." In other words, real life is not an abstract concept floating around the cosmos. You won't find it in any worldly philosophy or false religion. REAL life is a person ... Jesus the Messiah. REAL life is found only in Him.
Jesus came to bring all the striving and competing for value to an end. He made it clear that REAL life is not something you earn, it's someone your know. It's a gift to be received from the One who is Life.
We must not be deceived! Some in John's day were. It's why he writes in 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."
Here's how that last sentence is paraphrased in The Message: "The world with all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out! But whoever does what God wants is set for eternity."
Amid all the hoopla over COVID-19, there is much talk of when we'll be able to return to a normal life. For many people, "normal" is taxiing kids to soccer, dance, baseball, and piano lessons. Normal is trying to hold back the aging process, or working toward that Ph.D., or figuring out how to get more stuff than the Jones fellow across the street. Normal means chasing after a lot of things that do not bring Real Life.
May we use this time of slowing down to reflect upon the one thing of true value, the one person who can give us Real Life--Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
"Jesus said to them, 'The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly'" (John 10:10).