Beyond The Cross
Beyond the cross, beyond the grave
There is a hope for those Christ came to save
He bled and died, He paid the cost
To free us from the chains of death
And give us life beyond the cross
I wanted to give you that chorus, because it’s what drove me from my seat this morning in church (yup, I even get Musical Musings in the middle of church). You might be sitting there and going “yeah yeah, eternal life because of what Christ did on the cross, does me good when I die, but what about now?!” Ah, see, that’s a misunderstanding of the word “eternal”. You see, we can remember that eternal doesn’t have an end, but we forget that the very nature of “eternal” means there’s no beginning, either. Dictionary.com defines eternal as “without beginning or end” and “perpetual” and “immutable” (immutable means changeless, don’t worry, I had to look it up, too). You see, Beloved, eternal life isn’t something that begins with our death. It’s more than just “life after death”… eternal life is here and now and available for you to enjoy.
Now, I’m not saying that we won’t die if we enjoy eternal life now. The fact of the matter is that our bodies are broken and are forever ticking away towards death. It’s as inescapable as taxes. This body is locked into time, and yes, your body will die. It’s why your grandparents died, you parents will die, your pets will die, and yes, even your children. It’s not pretty, but from the moment our cells join and begin to form us, we already have within us the stopwatch on our lives (study telomeres… even cloning can’t extend them!)
What I’m saying is that we are more than this body, and just as we are more than the bodies we inhabit, so too is there more to this life than the limits of time. That’s where “eternal” life now comes in. Living the eternal life while you’re still, well, alive, isn’t about being immortal, but about living life fully and freely. It’s about abundance, about plugging into the Source of our life and our joy and finding that there is hope and life beyond the salvation we find in the cross.
In John, (and I mean the gospel, not my husband), we are told that “Christ came to give us life, and give it to us abundantly” or “to the full measure”. In Ezekiel, God says that it gives Him no pleasure that any should die, pleading with His people that they would live. Psalm 16 tells us that God makes known the path of life, filling us with joy. Eternal life is about life after this one, but more than that, it’s about a difference in THIS life, here and now.
That’s what stopped me in the song. It’s not that this is a new idea to me; I went through training that taught me that eternal is eternal in the hereafter, but it’s abundant life in the here and now, showing me the scriptures that promise that (and more than just the ones I listed above). But it’s so easy to forget that our faith is meant to do more than just secure our eternal future. The cross isn’t just about giving me fire insurance to keep me from hell. No, the power of what Christ accomplished on the cross (and it wasn’t the cross, in and of itself that has any power, but rather that Eternal God limited himself and condescended to bring us back into relationship with Him, so that the cross is the symbol, but not the Thing itself) is available in every minute of every day.
I’ve talked before about joy, and rejoicing and the ladies in the office with me (who don’t quite know what to do with me when I get exuberant and excitable) notice it in me. I’ve learned that joy is something precious, to be savored and, well, enjoyed, whenever possible (it’s possible I’m rather hedonistic, just not nihilistic… I’m such an odd duck). I grab hold of the small joys in life, and then when the big ones come along, I’m practiced in finding joy, in experiencing it, in reveling in it. There is a joy in the smell of your favorite flower, or your favorite food. There is joy in drawing a breath unimpeded by illness or unpleasant odors. There is joy in watching a child discover the world around them. There is joy, Beloved, in every aspect of your life, waiting for you to find it.
And that, I think, is part of the abundant life that Christ promised beyond the cross. You see, I can hope that I will have a life after I die, but more than that, I can hope that no matter what I’m experiencing, there’s a reason and a purpose being accomplished. I can hope that the greatest sorrows will be redeemed and used to improve the lives of others. I can hope that nothing will be wasted in this life. I can hope that when I wake up tomorrow, I will find a new someone with whom to share life, I will find a new way to speak life into someone. I can have a hope that my everyday has meaning beyond the doldrums of daily life. And yes, that gives me joy.
You see, Beloved, we have a life after death. But beyond that, we can have life NOW. What’s the point of living every day hoping that we’ll die and get to heaven, if we can’t enjoy the days we’re given here? What’s the point of eternal life if it is empty, meaningless, and joyless?
I serve a God who loves children, who smiled with children. I serve a Creator who created a stunningly beautiful world. I serve a God who delights in His creation. I serve a God who knows that Life is meant to be lived. If you don’t know my Jesus, the Jesus who came to the cross for you, not just for some someday off in the future, but for today, for right now, for this moment you’re living, I’d love for you to meet Him. He came to die on the cross for you… but more than that, he came to give you a life beyond the cross.