by Deacon Christine Maddux
I am at an age when much of pop culture eludes me. For instance, a much younger acquaintance mentioned “The Zombie Apocalypse” and I had no idea what she was talking about. But the zombie myth has been around a long time, grimly attracting people to fictitious dead bodies powered by sinister supernatural forces. Make-believe Zombies are easy to spot in movie promos and Halloween parades: ghoulish creatures with aimless gaze and decaying flesh, staggering along in a trance. Much harder to spot are their true-to-life counterparts: people with live bodies but dead souls. However, I once glimpsed one — in the mirror.
From the outside I looked very much alive, but inside I was pretty lifeless. By the grace of God, that has since changed completely, and some people may wonder why. It is really very simple: I finally realized that my spiritual condition was literally a matter of life and death. Either I am alive in Christ, or I am a “dead man walking” – and so are you.
This may sound overly dramatic, but as Jesus explained: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36). Thankfully, He taught that this life-giving, life-changing gift is available to anyone who desires it (Revelation 3:20). In fact, giving such life was the whole thrust of his mission on earth. As He said, “The thief comes only to kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
So, what is this abundant life He offers? It begins with the gift of physical life, which is God’s to give and take away, from conception to natural death (Psalm 139:13-16). Every breath we take is an unmerited gift: “(God) himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). But as truly amazing as our physical life is, it is fragile and temporary. So through faith in Jesus, God also gives indestructible life that transcends the physical.
This far more abundant life animates our souls, transforming us from walking dead people to those imbued with eternal life, in personal relationship with the God of the universe. This gives us focus and purpose at any age, and anchors us to the divine Source of unfailing stability through all of earthly life’s uncertainties and troubles. It teaches us to hold every earthly thing lightly while holding onto Jesus tightly. And it makes a noticeable difference in us.
This abundant life does not manifest as increased physical vitality or lightheartedness, but rather as an inner exuberance fueled by Jesus’ matchless love – a love so great that it cost Him his heavenly glory and his earthly life. This powerful, extravagant love invariably changes Jesus’ followers from the inside out. Priorities change, reflected in the use of time, money and energy. Outlook on life changes, revealing an eternal perspective instead of a temporal one. Attitude toward others changes as we start to see every person as made in the image of God. Conversation changes as we speak words of life and hope instead of negativity and dismay into the world around us.
All these changes and more are evidence of the gift of eternal life abiding within us, once we become children of the living God and his everlasting companions, free from judgment and redeemed by his love. That is why our choice to accept or reject his gift is truly a matter of life and death. As God said, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
The Rev. Christine Maddux serves as a deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers and lives in Sapphire. Send your questions and comments to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Crossroads Chronicle, January 22, 2020.