“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Many if not most people seek assurance from their religion about what will happen to them after they die. For Christians this means assurance that they will get into heaven in their next life. And Jesus gave us the assurance we will eventually be home with God in his Kingdom, by demonstrating how unlimited God’s love is, by submitting to his cruel and painful crucifixion.

But Jesus also came to show us how to have a more abundant life in this earthly life. So being assured of my salvation in the next life, I will focus on how to live this life on earth.

We would all like to have a “good” life on this earth. I think this means we would like to have a satisfying and fulfilling life, a life fulfilled because we have fulfilled God’s purpose for us. So if we want that kind of good life, we must be “good.” Here good means living according to God’s will for us. And to succeed in our efforts, we must be good, that is effective, at being good. So to have a good life, we must be good at being good. Even language gives us insights here.

I think God wants us to have the best and most beautiful life possible, given the limitations of our earthly circumstances. This is simply another way of saying that Jesus came so we could have he most abundant life, but I don’t feel that the most abundant life necessarily, comes from having the most money or other worldly goods.

Fortunately Jesus gives us guidance concerning how to have the best and most beautiful life when he is asked “which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus in Matthew 22:37 gives it as, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And he gives a second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So the best and most beautiful life comes from loving, both God and people, including yourself.

Again I can turn to language to back this up. If I “like” something or somebody it can give me joy. If I “love” something or someone, it can give me even greater joy, maybe even heavenly joy. But there is a potential fly in the ointment. If we like someone, we may want to possess them, and be unhappy if they cannot be ours. If we love that someone we may get really unhappy, even depressed, if we cannot possess them. To overcome this problem we must love that person so much that we get complete satisfaction and fulfillment simply from loving them so completely. Then we have heavenly joy without needing to possess them in any way. So the theologian Richard Niebuhr says our love for God must be non-possessive. We know we cannot possess God, but we should not try to be possessive about another person either. All our loving relationships should be free of jealousy and possessiveness. And the way that can be satisfactory is if you love so completely, with your whole heart, and soul and mind, that your loving alone gives you the satisfaction and fulfillment that God’s heavenly loving of us always gives him.

The Rev. Walter Williams has been serving the Lord since he graduated from seminary in 1966. He currently resides in McAlisterville. To comment on his column, send a letter to Standard Journal, 21 N. Arch St., Milton, Pa. 17847 or e-mail newsroom@standard-journal.com.

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