The reason Good News is good news, even to the one who knows nothing of God, is that God has declared peace and is imposing peace on those who have declared war against him. His peace comes with the gift of life. 

Life on earth ends with death. Anxiety runs deep in the souls of all people as they experience the slow decay of their bodies. Even the young feel the anxiety as they see what we call “tragedies” striking down the young, and they see the weakening process of their elder loved ones. We suppress our anxieties through verbal strategies, such as naming death as “a part of the circle of life”. “Enlightened” moderns mostly avoid thinking about death. Occasionally they will make light of it through such events as Halloween or through watching horror films. Some imagine that science will soon show us the way to eternal life, even as our life expectancies have actually lowered in recent years. 

I notice that children are genuinely disturbed by the thought of death. They don’t like to see their grandparents growing old. They don’t like to be told that one day those grandparents will not be around. They don’t like being told that their parents will one day not be around. They don’t like being told that, no matter what they do, at some point in the future, they too will die. Children are more honest than most adults. Death is deeply disturbing.  

Many Christians seem to believe that the opposite of everlasting life is everlasting torment. I suppose the logic to that is that everlasting life includes joy, pleasure, and peace. The opposite of this would be misery, pain, and conflict. But this is not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that the loss of life is death. The opposite of joy, pleasure, and peace is the loss of all of these. To die is to possess nothing. The great human tragedy is that people are given the gift of life but choose death. 

G.K. Chesterton said, “Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world.” Chesterton was talking about willfully taking one’s own life. He was not talking about ignoring the grace offered by Jesus Christ…but he would have agreed that it amounts to the same thing. Death is not the “cycle of life”; it is the curse on life, and it is the end of life. 

Many believe that everlasting punishment is necessary because death is an insufficient punishment for the wicked. “Tell them that the only consequence of their wickedness is annihilation and their wickedness will only multiply.” 

The first answer to this is that the the only people who believe in hell as a place of everlasting torment are those people who believe they are going to heaven. These people are choosing heaven instead of hell, anyway. Does this mean that there are no people who have been “scared into heaven”? No there are not. Yes, some people have been scared by the prospect of everlasting torment, and this fear has caused them to investigate religion further. But if the search takes those people to false religions, the search has done them no good, at all. And if the search brings them to the truth, they come to learn that salvation is the gift of God. They fall in love with the truth; they fall in love with God. They are not saved by their fear of hell; they are saved by the one who has power to save. Christ’s sheep hear his voice. They do not need to be terrified by the terrors of a manufactured hell in order to hear it. If a hell of torment does anything, it causes people to question the goodness of God; it drives people away from him. In any case, the existence of a place of everlasting torment is not based on any logical argument for or against its usefulness. It is God who determines whether it is appropriate and, since God is the being of Truth, this place of torment does not exist. 

The second answer is ask, what makes us think that God must punish the wicked in the most severe possible way? A moment’s reflection would lead us to a very different expectation. God is a merciful God. To think that he would impose everlasting torment on billions of humans conflicts impossibly with what we know of his character. 

The third answer is that we fail miserably when we, like Dante, use our imaginations to manufacture a chamber of horrors. Why is it so difficult for us to use our same imaginations to create a glorious heaven? Our fixation on a chamber of horrors is, in itself, evidence of our own fallenness rather than evidence that we understand justice. Justice is not the opposite of mercy; justice is mercy with a stern face. Justice is primarily for the purpose of protecting the innocent from the wicked. Secondarily, it is to warn all people away from wickedness, and thus spare them from the harms that always accompany it. 

Perhaps, by our nature, we are more impressed by the harms of sin than we are of the benefits of holiness. When all is well, we are busy about living, presumptuous of its goods, and almost unaware. Whereas when we have an aching tooth, it is hard to think of anything else, even when all other parts of our bodies are working well and our life circumstances are also fine. It’s good to be accustomed to the good, I suppose, but it is also an error to take it for granted. The good is a gift from God, and we should accept the gift not only with thankfulness but with a sense of awareness that the good is really good. We must not think little of life because we experience it so badly. We must experience it better. 

We must also live with the hope that life without physical and spiritual corruption is a quantum-quality leap above what we now experience. Life is possible to a greater degree now and to a much greater degree in the future. This is the thing. We are not motivated to life by running away from torment; we are motivated to life because life is so marvelous. This is what the Bible says. 

You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. – Genesis 2.16,17.God’s commands to Adam and Eve were short and simple: “Be fruitful and multiply; have dominion over the earth (live as stewards); help yourself to all the good food in the garden, except the fruit from this one tree.” Adam and Eve were commanded to bear children. God granted them the privilege of re-creation. Out of the two of them, new life. This stands in stark contrast to the consequences of disobedience: death. It is not clear that Adam and Eve would have lived forever if not for the Fall, but it is a fair inference to think so. 

Like us, Adam and Eve were happy about all the good gifts but didn’t take kindly to restrictions. There’s a cartoon about two men standing on the sidewalk at a street corner. A sign says, “Do not hop on one foot and pick your nose.” Noticing the sign, one man says to the other, “I suddenly have this irresistible urge to hop on one foot and pick my nose.” It is a good desire to wish for freedom, but the expression of freedom is not the same as the need to be stupid. We don’t jump off of bridges insisting on the right to fly. Freedom is the right to choose when we have the wisdom to recognize which choice is right.  

This sin by Adam and Eve had terrible consequences. It was much more than eating a piece of fruit. They hid from God. They covered themselves, suddenly ashamed of their own sexuality. (Isn’t it interesting that humans, no matter how “advanced” we have become, still practice modesty? It is because we know that sexuality, which is supposed to be about pleasure, relational intimacy, and the joyful reproduction of life, has been spoiled. Sex today, in addition to its wholesome aspects, is characterized by violence, exploitation, manipulation, personal apathy, disease, and abortion. Of course we are afraid of it and ashamed of it. We know how very dangerous people can be when it comes to sex. “Free love”, was one of the great philosophical claims of the sixties. But people are figuring out, slowly, that the kind of love they were talking about was largely impersonal and exploitative. Then they played the blame-shifting game with Eve blaming the Serpent and Adam blaming both Eve and God himself. The valuable relationships were broken. God pronounced a punishment. Did he tell them that he was damning them to everlasting torment? No, he told them that on the day they sinned they would die. As we know, it was not an immediate death, but the sentence of death was placed upon them. From that day forward they were on death row. This has been the case with the human race ever since. We are born on death row.


The following passage is from Deuteronomy 30.15-18. Moses, the man God chose to lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian captivity, is speaking to the people. Moses was 120 years old and, though he was permitted to look over the Jordan River to see the promised land, he was not permitted to enter. The end of his life was nigh and he was handing the mantle of leadership to Joshua. But before he would do that he wanted to leave the people with final instructions. He told the people they could choose badly or they could choose well. On one side Moses offered life and prosperity, on the other side death and destruction. The passage ends with a repetition of the idea that faithlessness reaps destruction. There is no mention of everlasting punishment. God’s punishment is death and destruction. 

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to posses. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. 

A critic may argue that this passage was about life on earth, that the contrast was between a bountiful life on earth or a short life on earth. Perhaps. It was certainly that. But that does not mean that the ideas that apply for our earthly lifetime do not carry forward. Reading on in Deuteronomy we see that Moses died. The people mourned him for thirty days. And, yet, we know that Moses lived. He was seen with Jesus at the Transfiguration. 

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” –  Luke 20.34-38

The biblical contrast between life and death is thematic. There is no biblical theme of life vs. everlasting torment. Read the following passages. They are numerous, but they are not a complete listing of the passages that contrast life and death:

See now that I myself am he! There is no God besides me. I put to death and I bring to life. – Deuteronomy 32.39

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so but are like chaff that the wind drives away. – Psalm 1.1-4

The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. – Psalm 145.20

Whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death. – Proverbs 8.35,36

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. – Proverbs 12.19

If you warn the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity….but if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning… Ezekiel 3. 19, 21

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live. – Ezekiel 18.31,32

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? – Ezekiel 33.11

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3.16

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3.36

But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay.” – Acts 2.24-27

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of Grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5.17

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6.23

Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8.21

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory”. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1Corinthians 15.54,55

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. – Galatians 6.7-9

We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. – Hebrews 10.39

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. – James 4.12

The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2.17


We all, naturally, prefer life to death. This can change for some of us when life fails us in one way or another. Some take their own lives when they consider they have lived as failures, whether in their accomplishments or in their relationships, or both. Some take their lives because physical ailments and limitations are too frustrating and painful. G.K. Chesterton spoke eloquently against suicide. “The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings: it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He cannot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer.” 

Chesterton does not address, particularly, the circumstances that lead people to consider suicide and, let’s be honest, while there are some in extremely difficult circumstances, suicide often is cultural hysteria, such as what can happen in waves with young girls, or it is cowardice. When we are knocked down, it is possible for us to get back up. Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” I’m not sure if that stands in as a philosophical guide for life; I suspect that Churchill needed a few successes sprinkled through his failures. Finally overcoming the Nazis must have provided some significant satisfaction, for example. But he does make a point about character…and about living honestly with the human condition. Bad things will happen to us. If we dwell on the bad things that happen to us, life will get worse. We must get up and get back to work, whether in our labors, or in our care for our own bodies, or in our care for our relationships.

Chesterton does make an oblique reference to hope, however, when he refers to being “bribed by the stones of the Celestial City”. Life on earth fails all of us, because our lives, whether short or relatively long, come to their ends. But one of the important hopes of heaven is that it renews life and renews it eternally. What Chesterton also suggests throughout the quote above is that there is much to celebrate in life. The suicidal one has convinced himself that life’s miseries are far more prevalent for him than are life’s benefits. But what if life is possible without its miseries? What if the miseries are, essentially, anti-lives? What would life be like without the thorns and thistles? 

Herein lies one of the serious mistakes of Christendom over the centuries, I believe. At various times it has become obsessed with everlasting punishment. It has been highly creative in its descriptions of the torments of hell. See Dante’s Inferno as the main example, or Jonathan Edwards’ sermon: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It’s a great sermon (if you don’t consider the fact that it is largely fiction). Read this excerpt, for example: “Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. “Therefore will I also deal in fury; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them. (Ezekiel 8:18)” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock, (Proverbs 1:25-26), etc.

I consider it evidence of fallen human nature that we obsess over torment and torture and misery. We are highly creative about the various ways that humans can come to harm. We attend disaster movies and horror movies and monster movies. I am baffled by this, but I sometimes wonder if it is a psychological means of combatting our real fears: if I can face these terrifying terrors of the imagination, then maybe my real fears will seem tame by comparison. We love Halloween. The kids love the candy but the adults spend fortunes decorating their houses with skeletons, ghouls, spiders, witches, gravestones, and vampires. I find it very strange. 

We don’t seem to have the same inventiveness when it comes to happy living. There are a lot of romance stories, some of which end “happily ever after”, and there are innumerable stories in which the conflict, the core of the story, is resolved well. But there is nearly nothing in our imaginations about what it means to live happily and contentedly. Too dull, seemingly. 

Also a bit strangely, you will be hard-pressed to find sermons these days that preach like Jonathan Edwards or present the torture concepts of Dante. There is some embarrassment about it (rightly), due to the absence of biblical material to support such notions. Even in Edwards’ famous sermon he frequently quotes verses that talk of the destruction of the wicked. Somehow he is unable to see that the word itself speaks of punishment that ends quickly rather than of everlasting torment. 

But you will also be hard-pressed to find sermons that speak to the life / death dichotomy. Where is the Christian belief in life? Conservative Christians cry out that life should be preserved for the unborn. They cry out that there is grave danger in assisted suicides, and they are right on both counts. But where are the meditations and essays on the glories and beauty of life itself?

Can I create such a meditation that is satisfactory? I cannot imagine that I can. I think it would require a writer of greater power than I possess. Some writers can work magic; I am not one of those. But I can ask myself: “What is it about life that I love?” And all people can ask the same questions of themselves. And if they have not asked the question, now is the time to think seriously on it. 

There is so much to treasure. Let us start simply with a review of the pleasures of the five most well-known senses. Are not each of them magnificent? The smell of a rose bush in bloom. A crisp fall day, permeated with the smoke of a hardwood fire. The composited smells of woodland plants after a long rain, slowly drying. A feast on a Thanksgiving Day: potatoes au gratin; hot broccoli slathered in butter; hot rolls; stuffing, filled with roasted nuts; roasted turkey; and with pumpkin pie cooling on the counter. Smell alone is enough to make a person long for life. 

And taste, smell’s cousin, does it not amplify what we receive through the sense of smell? Think of the shocking variation of foods we have been granted to enjoy. The many meats and cheeses and vegetables and fruits and nuts and breads and fish and chocolates and seasonings, and ice creams, and candies, and the seemingly limitless ways that all these foods can be combined. And let us not forget the beverages. Water is all we need, but do we not enjoy fruit juices and milk and beers and wines and various alcoholic drinks, and milkshakes and smoothies and sodas, and various combinations of these, as well?

Then there is hearing. Through hearing we can enjoy the rustling of leaves, whether blowing in the summer breeze, or when they have fallen to the ground and we can hear our feet crunch through a pile of them. We hear the twitter of bird song and the squawking complaints of crows. And the rat-ta-tat of woodpeckers. We hear the warning sounds of commuter trains and the approaching sounds of car wheels. We hear Beatle melodies or the creaking-door literary brilliance of Bob Dylan, or the explorations of John Coltrane, or the precise severity of Bach, or the gentleness of Hayden. Is there an end to good music? Again, the possibilities seem limitless and, occasionally, surprising. And what about the sounds of popcorn popping? Or the crackling of a wood fire? Or the droning of rain on a roof? W.C.Fields was a restless sleeper but rain on the roof would calm him. And what about the sounds of human voices? Singing, or just talking. Those voices can be harsh, or they can be so welcoming. And isn’t it amazing that voices are so unique? If it is a person you know, it normally takes only a few words to recognize who the speaker is. And let us not forget the amazing capacity of human vocalization that can make so many different sounds, bringing forth concepts from a myriad of subjects, spoken in a range of emphases and tones, and the whisperings. What a wonder sound is!

We also enjoy and benefit from the sense of touch. One way we touch is through eating: we experience the different textures of foods as we bite them with our incisors, push them around with out tongues, and mash them with our molars. We feel the soft or scratchy textures of clothing. We sense the varieties of temperatures. We have our limits and our sense of touch helps us to avoid exposure to too much heat or too much cold. We especially enjoy the sensation of cool when we otherwise feel hot. Think of the pleasure of jumping into a swimming pool after playing a game of softball on an August afternoon. We especially enjoy warmth when we are cold. Think of a cup of hot chocolate, sitting by a campfire on a November evening. Touch may be the most intimate of our sensations. We long to be touched and hugged, because these are the expressions of human affection, and they help us feel connected and valued. The various touches of lovers are the continuation of this, providing greater pleasure and greater intimacy. (At least, this is so when the touches of lovers are genuine.)

Finally, let us consider the sense of sight. How astonishing it is that we can see shapes and colors, that we can judge by our sight how far we are from other objects, and usually whether those objects are three-dimensional or two. We are able to look at another person’s face and have a sense of that person’s mood. Combining our sight with prior knowledge, we can enter almost any room and quickly assess how that room operates. Sight is so valuable to us that it is commonly interchanged with understanding. “Do you see what I mean?” “Look here.” We live in a so-called scientific age. Some believe nothing unless it can be empirically demonstrated. “Seeing is believing.” “Doubting Thomas” once said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” The entire incredulous State of Missouri calls itself the “Show-Me State.” I’m not recommending such a narrow-minded philosophy, but these examples illustrate how important seeing is to all of us in order for us to understand our surroundings. Not only our own surroundings but, because we have developed film technology, we can enjoy all sorts of stories, activities, and educational programming through televisions, computers, and even phones. Through reading we can enter entire new worlds and the thinking processes of thousands of authors. 


Our abilities to experience through our senses and through reflection are astonishing. These are God’s gifts to us. (Perhaps the greatest myth of the last several centuries is that humans and human capacity came about from chance combinations, initially from inorganic materials that became the complex organisms we are because survival drives self-assembly. Not only is this notion scientifically ridiculous, the reasoning behind it is utterly vacuous. Nevertheless, the myth persists because it grants permission for human autonomy and relativistic (convenience) morality.

But I digress. We’re thinking about the wonders of life here. We should sometimes stop and ponder life itself. What is it that I treasure in life? It’s a valuable exercise for us to consider all that we have to be thankful for. Even those in dire straits have some things to be thankful for. Living with a spirit of thanks is much healthier for us than perseverating on our difficulties and anxieties. I would suggest that almost all who choose suicide are in the habit of thinking on their miseries, while neglecting their joys and potential joys. 

What do I like about life? I like to watch sports, but more than that I love to participate in sports. Time has eroded my abilities, but in my day I was pretty good at basketball, baseball, football, volleyball, and bicycling. I put a lot of time into all those activities, both organized and casual. I generally enjoyed the pick-up games more than the organized. With pick-up, the people playing were there for the exercise and for the joy of moving their bodies in space, and for being capable of a great shot or a great pass or out-thinking the opponent, and for being able to walk away from the court after the game, laughing with teammates and opponents. 

I like to eat. I’m no connoisseur. I never understood people’s need to eat wildly spiced foods, exotic foods, foods of the world. Give me a good pizza and a Coke and I’m happy. It’s good to have variety, yes, but some foods are just wonderful. Let others continue their quest for the next great flavor. I skip the risky experiments in order to bask in the flavors I know I like. 

I love to read. Reading and eating are a great combination for me. The weight doctors disagree about that. They may be right that eating while doing something else is a good way to put on weight, and I won’t pretend that I am not afflicted with the by-product of good food and more than adequate access to it. But eating and reading is just too wonderful of a combination to be abandoned. I don’t read much fiction any more. Not because I don’t like fiction. Sometimes fiction can take you to deep, personal places. Sometimes fiction can open up worlds. But most fiction these days is cliché wrapped in novelty, or wrapped in social trends, either of which make for very dull reading. Watch the movie; save some time. I find non-fiction books to be much more compelling. Sometimes it’s reading history and learning how people, much the same, lived through very different circumstances. Sometimes it’s reading sociological or economic books that provide data much different from the attention-grabbing drivel that so characterizes today’s media. Sometimes it’s reading theology—coming alongside thoughtful humans who are laboring to understand what it means to be made in the image of God and how that applies to the minutia of one’s life. 

I love to write. To a degree I write because I want to share my thinking with others, in hopes that my thoughts will be helpful to them in some way. But I also write because it forces me to think more carefully. A passing thought may seem brilliant until you look at it once or twice. It is in reading one’s own writing that a person realizes how what made perfect sense in one’s head may not be reflected in one’s writing. It may be necessary to fill in a number of blanks or assumptions that simply don’t show up in the first blast of writing. Writing can be wordy. It’s worthwhile to clean up the wordiness. Wordiness translates into brain-fog for the reader. It is more likely for an author to use too many words than too few. Sometimes I can write something that seems brilliant but, under examination, it reveals itself to be a tangent. It is off subject. However painful, it must be excised. Writing is work, but like any activity that is routinely practiced, it produces better results. I take joy out of thinking carefully. Careful thinking produces better actions. Life is more wonderful when words and actions are carefully chosen.  

I love to make things and make things work. Working on houses is an avocation. I enjoy doing electrical work, even though I’m often nervous in the doing. Work around the house is rarely straightforward. There is the planned job, and sometimes jobs go according to plan. But then there is the job reality which typically includes several unanticipated glitches and one or two discovered problems that are best addressed immediately, even though doing so makes the designed project take much longer than intended. Doing home repairs requires patience. Experience is a friend, as are tools, a large supply of hardware on hand, as well as proximity to a hardware store. I’ve done a lot of administrative work in my life. Administrative work is very important, and there are ways to measure the effectiveness of your work. But there is something more immediately satisfying about standing back at the end of the day and being able to say: “This morning that was a wall; this evening we have a doorway.” It’s very satisfying to be able to work with one’s hands and feet and mind, making changes that improve functionality, safety, comfort, and beauty. 

I love music. Mostly I like singing along to my favorite songs, whether while driving a car or working on some sort of repetitive house project, such as painting a room. Songs bring life and joy to tasks that can be a bit dull. I’d love to be able to play instruments but, sadly, I have never had the support or the personal discipline to obtain any skill. Still, I would love to be able to play the guitar, or the piano, or a cello, or a flute. Maybe the bagpipes for outdoor parties.

Generally speaking, I am an introvert. Nevertheless, I love to be with family, young and old, doing what I like to do, doing what they like to do. Sitting around a campfire, eating hot dogs, drinking hot chocolate, and talking about everything. I like to gather with the Church, to press hands, to see smiling faces, to catch up on news, and to discuss or listen to the wonders of the Good News. I love singing hymns with the Church, too. 

I love walking in the woods, exploring the countryside, and cities. 

The list could go on, and I suppose that’s part of the wonder of it all, that the list can keep going on and on. Life is not merely considering all the aspects I know and love, but also considering the many aspects of it that I know only a very little about. There is the greatness of the familiar, and there is the wonder of the unknown. There is the joy of accomplishment, and there is the tension and excitement of experiencing something new, of learning something new, of accomplishing something new. 

Life, ultimately, is about relationships. This is hard sometimes, because all of our relationships are scratched and dented, especially the oldest and most valuable ones. We have some relationships that are simply intolerable. We have some relationships that are painfully in conflict when they ought to be intimate. We have some relationships that have died, whether through time and distance or through actual death. We have many relationships that are passive and apathetic. 

But getting past the ever-present difficulties, it is also true that our relationships are what make life worthwhile. All of the activities listed above would be wasted and maybe even depressing if we had no one to share them with. But more importantly, it is ourselves that we want to share with others. We want to touch and be touched, physically and metaphorically (and the two have always been mysteriously and truly intertwined). Even God said about Adam, “It is not good that man should be alone.” This is pretty astonishing if you think about it. God is saying that he himself is not enough for man, even though he is the source of all that man has. This is an astonishing revelation about the humility of God. 

There is another verse in the bible that I believe speaks volumes about the need of the human heart. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. – 1 Corinthians 13.12. Relationships between persons were intended to be defined by love, but we live in a broken world. The brokenness is most dramatically revealed by the weaknesses of human relationships. I say, “dramatically”, though I think we have become used to the weaknesses and have come to accept them to the point that we barely acknowledge the brokenness. Our relationships are steeped in fear. We are afraid of sexual improprieties. People are afraid to leave their children with other adults; they are afraid to be in rooms where improprieties are possible. Women are afraid of unwanted sexual attentions; men are afraid of being accused. We are also afraid of mistreatment. A person may be loving and buddy-buddy one day and then snap out with some harsh cruelty that can be particularly harmful if spoken in public. To be called a sexual predator or a racist or self-righteous or a misogynist is to be left in a social doghouse for weeks or months or a lifetime, no matter whether the charges are true or false. And, let’s be honest, to one degree or another, all people are guilty of all these charges. Those who point fingers and howl the loudest are the people I find most terrifying, because they are deluded and have convinced themselves of their own innocence. Or equally likely, they are smoke-screening by making themselves appear innocent. 

People learn to protect themselves from all the human acrimony by distancing themselves from others. Broken relationships and toxic humans can be too much to bear. Self-isolation becomes the remedy. This may not manifest itself in total avoidance of human contact; a person may continue to be outwardly gregarious and sociable while, at the same time, living in an emotional shell. Human relationships are almost all at arm’s-length. 

To know and be known is radically different from what we currently experience. To know someone well and to be known well is rare and precious. To experience that relationship with no sense of fear or foreboding or anxiety is unheard of. To be able to be in the presence of another, fully engaged and completely happy is almost beyond imagining. To know that the other person is truly interested in you and happy to be with you is enough to bring on a state of ecstasy. God tells us that this will be the new normal. 

So, in order to love life, one must not only think about the glories of our current lives; it is also necessary to consider the potentials of life, and that God has promised to fulfill those potentials in us. To fully appreciate life, one must ponder heaven. 

Imagine a place that is in every way superior.

It is a place without locks. They cannot be found on houses or on cars or on phones, or in the hardware store. 

There will be no police or lawyers or soldiers, because people will all be careful to not harm one another.

There will be no money because nothing is for sale. If you need something you go to the store and take it, and are welcome to it.

There will be no traffic congestion…because there will be ample space for every human, and ample time for getting where you want to go, and no reason to be going to the same place day after day.  And no reason to be in a rush. And your travels will capture your attention just as much as your destinations.

Machinery will run on 100% renewable energy. Machinery will be quiet, and will not disturb the peace. The air will be free of pollutants, as will be the food and the other products we use. 

You will have control over your eating habits, as well as a good understanding of what foods serve your health. There will be no unhealthy foods to be had, anyway. And you will be wise about getting enough exercise.

You will truly enjoy sports and, because you have ample time, will became brilliant at playing as many of them as you want.

Sports will be fun and, instead of getting mad or feeling inferior when someone else out-performs you, you will laugh in appreciation, and will be inspired to improve in a similar way.

Your body will work well and will have no aches or pains. Your body will not wear out.

You will be careful, alert, and intelligent, so that it will be rare for you to be injured. All injuries will be quickly and painlessly mended

You will be handsome and vigorous.

There will be no infections, and no cancerous degenerations. There will be no need for glasses or fillings, and nobody’s hair will fall out.

There will be no need for earrings or jewelry or lipstick or perfume or deodorant or eyeshadow or nose piercings or tattoos. Or bizarre clothing. Or immodest clothing. Or tee shirts plastered with ridiculous clichés. 

In the forests there will be insects but they will be friendly—like butterflies and ladybugs and fireflies. All the mosquitos and ticks will be vegetarians.

Animals will stop being afraid (because they will stop eating each other, and we will stop eating them, too).  

What if hamburgers grew on trees?

What if you were suddenly a fine singer?

You will have all the time and motivation you need to become an accomplished musician, or builder, or an electrician, or an engineer, or an inventor. Or all of these.

Perhaps you would like to write fine stories, and then read them before grand audiences.

Perhaps you could explore the far corners of the universe.

Imagine what it would be like to be fearless. Imagine what it would be like to have no reason to fear.

Imagine having only pure motives. 

Imagine being happy all the time. 

Imagine being able to have private interviews from time-to-time with Abraham Lincoln, or Mother Theresa, or Martin Luther King, or the Apostle Peter, or Jesus.

Imagine gathering every Friday night with your best friends at a local pub for beer and pizza, for anecdotes and belly laughs.

Imagine being at peace with everyone, perhaps most comfortable with those like yourself, but challenged and amazed and stretched and matured by those unlike yourself.

Imagine your life being crowded with intimate relationships, unbothered by the temptations and boundaries of human sexuality.

Imagine living with people who only treated you the way they should, and were genuinely interested in what you were doing, and in who you were.

Imagine owning a farm, which you shared with loved ones and various creatures under your stewardship, producing a variety of healthy and delicious foods.

Imagine having a job, or responsibilities that you were really accomplished at, and that you loved, and that you attended to regularly, but it only took up a quarter of your time.

Imagine that your typical day was full of interesting activities and, yet, you were capable and pleased to interrupt those activities when another called on you for help, or just wanted to talk with you.

Imagine being immortal.

Imagine finding yourself to be a close friend of the Maker of the universe.

Heaven will not be the diminishment of life. It will not be the everlasting playing of harps while sitting on clouds. Our praises to the Maker, while they will be constant, will not necessarily be of a literal nature, because we will praise him through all of our activities. We will recognize that our very animation is a gift from his hand. Heaven will not be a place of suppressed conformity. The life given by our God is, by its nature, in accordance with God’s nature, about creativity and loving relationships. 

Joel Clarkson said, “Before anything else is true, before we receive anything else, existence comes to us as a gift of God’s grace.” Life is our greatest possession, and we possess it only because God gave life to us. The great and oft-repeated biblical theme is the contrast between life and death. With Christ there is life; without him there is nothing. Nothingness is not the arrival of peace; it is the arrival of nothingness. Once you were but you have become naught. This is the greatest of all tragedies, that a person should receive the gift of life and willfully hand it back.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:“Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15. 50-55.