Living death or dying to live?
"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2.20
"I did it my way" is the aspirational motto of modern man. It encapsulates what society considers to be our ultimate goal and is confirmed in our admiration of self-made millionaires and others who have re-invented themselves or pulled themselves up "by their own bootstraps". But what explains their frequent failure to achieve the happiness their success would appear to guarantee?
Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard would diagnose "despair", of which he identifies two types, or sources. Both have to do with our relationship or, rather, non-relationship with the God who, made us, loves us and has redeemed us. We can reject God deliberately or in ignorance: both lead to despair, which is really a synonym for "sin" because both involve disobeying God's call to be the person/ people he created us to be, in order to pursue some lesser goal of our own conceiving.
The Bible asserts that we are created out of dust, yet in the image of God. And so our lives are intrinsically a balance between earthly matter and heavenly being. God also gave us a purpose and so we are a work in progress or, as Kirkegaard puts it, "a project". Fulfilling that project amounts to obedience to the call of God with the ultimate aim of being remade in the image of Christ. Kirkegaard calls this our "criterion". Living according to any other criterion is a form of idolatry, leading to condemnation and hence that sense of despair.
So, what is the antidote? To recognise that we are helpless to achieve our own salvation and utterly dependent on the saviour God provides in the person of his son, our Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time we are not to mope around in our helplessness but to embrace that forgiveness and the possibilities which derive from it. Having our sins forgiven through rebirth in Jesus sets us on the path of obedience and fulfilment of our real "project" or purpose, with God as both criterion (reference) and goal (to be like him).