The lesson this week, simply titled “Life,” is intriguing. It also presents a challenging task to discuss briefly. Life is the greatest of all gifts to humankind. The memory text for this week, John 10:10, expresses the essence of that gift: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”1 The fact is that Jesus has given us the treasure of life three times, with the promise of a fourth gift yet to be fulfilled.
The first gift of life was Creation (Gen. 1: 26, 27):
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Death was not in the original plan. However, we are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, with Eve being beguiled by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit and with Adam joining her. We are introduced to the tragedy of allurement, betrayal, disobedience, and the consequences not only to Adam and Eve and humankind, but also to earth. We know it was necessary for them to leave the Garden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life. Angels were called with flaming swords “to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:2124). But life did not end there.
Until Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction, it was God’s plan that his creation live forever. The story of the second time God gave the gift of life is found in Christ’s birth. Jesus became a human, born of a virgin, placed in a manger for a cradle. His birth fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. With joy, we sing, “Unto us a Son was given,” a baby born in Bethlehem, which translated literally means “home or house of the baker.” Jesus was born to be the Bread of Life broken for the salvation of his creation.
The Savior lay in a manger dependent on his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. Jesus, the Creator, lived among his creation teaching, healing, training his chosen disciples the way of redemption, and admonishing them to go into all the world with the Good News of life, salvation, peace, and love. Truly, he stated, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly!” (KJV). Jesus came to fulfill the prophecy and to restore his creation with the gift of life a second time, but the joy of his birth became the sorrow of Calvary.
The Cross of Calvary was the third gift of life to his creation. “For God so loved the World, He gave His only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Creator died for the salvation of his created beingsyou and mebut we can choose to accept life, eternal life, or to die. Listen to the words of love: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus chose death, making it possible for us to choose life.
Jesus came to give life in creation; as a baby in a cradle, he showed us how to live; and by his death on a cross, he died the death wehis creationdeserved. His victory over death is our promise of life restored as we wait for the fulfillment of his fourth gift of life, his Second Coming. His plan for our redemption will then be complete. Indeed, life is our greatest treasure, provided at a cost of magnificent gifts to restore us to the original plan of eternal life.
How can we do anything other than rejoice and give praise and thanksgiving until he comes? But the battle is not over yet. Every day, we must make decisionssometimes hard onesto live and continue to choose the fruits of the Spirit and a Christ-centered life until the fourth gift, his coming again, is fulfilled.
Look again with awe at the lesson titled “Life.” The author suggests, “human life is in a very special sense sacred.” For the Christian, the author is correct, but life is fragile and often undervalued by many others, as seen in increases in homicides, suicides, and weather disasters, and among war victims. With disasters, one often hears “acts of God” cited as the cause. How strange to believe that God , who gave us life three times and promised a fourth, would will destruction and death.
Do Christians value life as sacred, or have we become too complacent in our human condition? If I view life as sacred, how does it influence my behavior, thoughts, emotions, and choices? As Adventist Christians, we honor the sacred by keeping the Commandments and worshiping on Sabbath each week, but do we honor the sacred in daily living, in relationships, and in our care for the environment?
The author of this lesson raises such challenging ethical issues as the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia. These pose serious concerns that are not easily resolved. Furthermore, we are challenged by disease, accidents that can result in death or disability, destructive weather conditions, and varying forms of violence. Domestic violence and child abuse are rising, as well, and the Church is not immune. Why? If we truly believe that life is sacred, how would our behavior be different? Why is violence in movies, news, TV, and sports valuedeven among Christians? The tragic reality is not all peopleincluding church membersvalue life.
Healthy relationships are treasures of goodness, kindness, love, peace, and belief in the worth of humans. How often do we read about these in newspapers? Sometimes we do, but we also see articles that reflect evil. Which emphasis do we see more often? Think of how you might value violence or evil without realizing it, perhaps by choosing to watch certain kinds of TV programs or display road rage, a critical spirit, love of gossip, the need to be right, or harsh language or behavior toward others. We are surrounded by such things, but the love of God is greater! Through God’s Spirit, we can overcome our natural tendency toward evil and
make choices that radiate love and goodness.
These thoughts bring me to the section of the lesson titled “Fullness of Life.” In it, the author lists four vital components of the “full” life and invites us to add others supported by Scripture. Here are four I would like to suggest.
- It is a life filled with choices (Deut. 30:19; Prov. 8:10; 16:16; John 7:17; Luke 10:42).
- It is a life filled with beauty (Eccl. 3:11; Isa. 52:7; Eccl. 3:7).
- It is a life filled with discovery (Ps. 34:8; Ps. 119:10; Matt. 6:33).
- It is a life filled with hope (1 Cor. 15:19; Rom. 15:4; Ps. 147:11; Col. 1:27).
Joy and sorrow both live in our hearts. In this life, we are confronted with the harsh realities of evil and death. But hear the words of Christ: “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The author of the lesson quotes 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” He then asks, “How are we “a new creature” in Jesus”? I respond that we can choose life rich with the fruits of the Spiritjoy, forgiveness, and peaceand live constantly in Christ’s Love. But in our present human condition, in which we battle good and evil, we sometimes make choices we regret.
In Christ, we have blessed hope. Hear his words of love and life: “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” I invite you to choose life by living the command of Jesus in John 15:17, “Love each other,” and by following Paul’s admonition, “In all things, give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18). By following this course, we can live as “new creatures” to the glory of Jesus, our Creator, Redeemer, and Savior, looking forward to his Second Coming, when all tears of regret and sorrow will be wiped away and the promise of eternal life fulfilled.
Yes, I agree with the author of this week’s lesson: “Life is sacred”! Life is a gift to be cherished every day with thanksgiving.
Notes and References
1. Unless otherwise specified, all scriptural texts are taken from the New International Version.
Lana B. Martin, Ph.D., teaches in the Wilma Hepker School of Social Work and Sociology at Walla Walla University, College Place, Washington.