Monday, July 30, 2012
I Can't Live Without Jesus?
The speaker at Steubenville was raising the question of Catholics: Do you really believe that Jesus is the Lord of your life? He was speaking about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit coming upon the apostles. He spoke of an analogy, the Holy Spirit being like the gasoline or battery in a car --- it looks complete without it, but those are the things that power the car. Similarly, the Holy Spirit powers our living out our life in Jesus, which is why the apostles didn’t begin to evangelize until after Pentecost, after they had received the Holy Spirit, after they had the power. In answer to the question: “Have you made Jesus the Lord of your life,” he noted that the true answer to that question, after receiving the Holy Spirit, is an enthusiastic “I can’t live without Jesus.” He powers my life.
I got his point. I understood the words, analogy, and truth of his statement. But I choose to look at it differently.
Jesus can’t live without me.
I don’t think I am a very important person. I don’t have a huge family. I don’t have large numbers of followers in work or ministry. I am not wealthy. From so many points of view, when I die the world will not notice. So the statement that “Jesus can’t live without me” seems to place a huge amount of power with this nobody, an importance way beyond what evidence seems to support. How, in any way, can God depend upon me, much less that His very life depends upon me! Jesus can’t live without me?? What a deluded, egotistical, and stupid statement that seems!
But it is true.
The speaker at Steubenville this week stated a truism that “I can’t live without Jesus,” but my life is not about me! My life is not only about what I do, where I live, what I think or even how I am to go on --- with the gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. My life is not only about “what, where, or how,” but it is about “why.” Why do I live? Paul prays that “it is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.” But why? So that Paul can gain eternal life? Yes, but is that all? If that were true, there would only be one commandment: Love God. But Jesus gave us a second commandment: Love your neighbor. In all eternity we will exist as part of the Body of Christ, all together --- God, me, and my neighbor.
So the statement “I can’t live without Jesus” creates one side of the triangle of our eternal union: Jesus united to me. Our neighbors iterating the same statement create a second side: Jesus and them. But we need to complete the connection, to mirror the Trinity, by in effect stating that: “I can’t live without my neighbors.”
“I can’t live without Jesus” is read putting the emphasis on the first word of that sentence: “I”. Fulfilling that need for God is like no other need we possess, but still, it is just one of a long list of things we need, or want. In our human nature is a desire to want … well, almost everything. We want riches and health, certainly, but we want wisdom and beauty and love, also. And while God sent Adam outside Eden to toil for what he wanted, Adam greatly missed Eden because there everything was freely given to him. And a gift given and received signifies love, a thing at the heart of all our needs.
God created man in His image. Eve, being created out of Adam duplicated that image, but that action mirrors a part of God’s very being. He is love. Man yearns to be like God, and Satan tempted him by saying “if you want to be like Him, take this fruit.” But the very act of taking indicated that Adam was NOT like God, because God gives; He doesn’t take. God loves. At the very heart of who God is, He is love. That longing we have to be like God? When Adam was cast out of Eden he definitely was not like the God he longed to be. And an eternity of toil on this earth would never make man like God, even if he gained all the things of earth. Because man cannot DEMAND or take love. Love is something which is chosen to do; it must be freely given; it cannot be won or earned.
If man wishes to be like God, he must first love like God. And while God gave man all the other things of the earth to TAKE, He gave man other men to love. Jesus left the world and rose to heaven, but he left man here to act in His place. And by His life, He showed man how to love, and why. To be as God, man must love as God, freely loving his neighbor, even as God did when He was present on earth. Why? Because this is fulfilling man’s innermost longing: to become as God. For that is the promise, the covenant of Jesus: If we live as him, we shall indeed become one with Him, for all eternity.
“I can’t live without Jesus?” Certainly if the emphasis were on the last word, it would be a perfect statement, but so many of us saying those words would put the emphasis on the first word.
“Jesus can’t live without me” states it better, I think. His name is the first word and the emphasis, as it should be. We are secondary, and the reference to us is in the third person, “me,” not as saying what “I” want. Jesus can’t live without me because He wants to freely love me, as only God can do. But even more, while He rose to heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to be with me, to animate me, to help me to live as He lived, to help me to love --- as He would, to give my neighbor the gift of His Love.
Many of our neighbors will be shocked at this free gift: something they yearned for, and didn’t have to toil for, didn’t have to take. Love received as a gift is almost a strange thing. “See how they loved one another,” the Romans said of the early Christians.
We want to say are the words of Paul: “So it is not I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” So, through us, He can love. So, through us, our neighbor can look but not see us, but see a gift from Jesus. So through us, no one will ever feel lonely again.
In my years, I have heard the pains of many a person. They thought their life was useless. A failed effort, a tragic loss, a deep hole in their being, or a loss of love, all gave rise to a loss of a reason for living. “Why go on?” I heard wondered more than a few times. “My life is so unimportant, so useless,” were words often whispered, as a statement, and as a question. Many a well-meaning person told them that to re-vitalize their life they needed to find Jesus again; perhaps I did also. But I think, instead, they need to realize that God is not something they want or need, like some other things they want or need on this earth. The things of this earth were put there to please man; God wasn’t put here to please man. Man was put here to please God. You think your life is useless, or unimportant? A God NEEDS you!!! Unimportant?? Completion of His plan, His love, depends on you --- being who He created you to be. You ARE important now, and for all eternity. The pains which happened in your past are part of the building blocks of who you are: trees need to be cut down to build houses. We live to give animation to His love, for the continual building of His kingdom, until it is complete.
Jesus needs us. C.S. Lewis said “There are no mere mortals.” Through us, Jesus lives here still. He evangelizes here still. He works miracles here still. He loves here still. Jesus can’t live without us. He lives that we might live. We live that He might live.
“I can’t live without Jesus” may sometimes be a mournful statement, but “Jesus can’t live without me” is one of joy. I know that I am loved --- and I love it! And I am not anxious, no matter what trials may come my way.