If God had a hobby, what would it be?
Painting by number? Going to as many Dave Matthews Band concerts as possible? Racing monster trucks?
We have a sense from the Bible that God is on about something. Something big. Something huge, even. But I think that too often we miss what’s so obvious. We search the skies for fireworks, because we’re looking for big things, when if we look anywhere around us, we’d see it all over the place.
The big thing that God is on about is … life.
Like I said, it’s pretty obvious.
We should have picked that up from the first page of the Bible. God creating. And he’s not just making stuff. First he creates the conditions for life and then he fills it with life.
He doesn’t just create vegetation, Gen. 1 says that he gives it the ability to reproduce itself, to extend and multiply the life he’s put in it.
He doesn’t just toss some creatures into the oceans. No, the oceans team with life. And when he gets to populating the earth, the ground swarms with life. Life abounds.
And when we turn to the middle of our Bibles, we find two main themes in the book of Psalms that guide our worship. One of those is salvation (which we’ll get to later) and the other is creation. God creates. Life pours out of him. God is an overflowing fountain of life.
The way the Bible puts it, God is the only one who has life in and of himself. The name Yahweh simply means, “I am the one who is” or even more simply “I am.” He is. On his own terms. Only he is truly eternal. Unlike us, who have birthdays, God is the only one who has life in and of himself. But he shares that life and we live by it.
Psalm 104 is one of the great creation psalms. It’s huge and sprawling and I love it. Notice verses 27-30 —
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
When God spends his Spirit, creatures are created. When he takes away their breath, they die and return to dust. They receive their lives from God. Their lives are not their own. They live borrowed lives.
All life comes from God. His Spirit is the source of all life according to Psalm 104. And it’s his joy to share it. And to share it without favoritism. Jesus tells us that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike (Matt. 5:45), whether we like it or not.
So, what else does Jesus have to say about this?
In that most famous of all verses — John 3:16 — Jesus says, “God loved the world so much that he sent his one-of-a-kind Son that whoever believes in him wouldn’t die but would have eternal life.”
Jesus came to push back death and give life.
Later on in John’s gospel, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Hmm. Starting to see a pattern? Life. Big life. Full life. Real life. Eternal life.
Listen to John 20:30-31, where we’re told the reason why John wrote his gospel in the first place —
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The purpose of the gospel is belief. And the purpose of belief is … life.
God loves life. And he wants us in on it.
So, what do we find at the beginning of the Bible and then again at the very end of the Bible like bookends giving a context for everything in between? The Tree of … Life.
The problem is that we humans have been dealing in death almost from the beginning. We deal it out not just physically, but relationally as well. Just think about all of the relationships you’ve had where you or the other person or both of you murdered the relationship. We all leave behind us a trail of relational corpses.
That Tree of Life we discover in Rev. 22 is so bursting with life that it bears fruit every month. But then there’s this. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
Read the news today? Or any day? The nations need healing, don’t they?
But just as much as creation is about life, so too is what we call salvation.
What do you call the person who saves people from drowning at a public pool? A LIFE guard.
And what does he or she throw to you to help save you? A LIFE preserver.
Death is at work all around us. We need a life guard. We need a life preserver. We need to be saved. And not just our souls. Everything about us needs to be saved.
And what’s so amazing is that we who are saved and are being saved get to get in on God’s life-making, life-saving work.
Simply put, wherever we see death at work or even just a lack of life, we push back in favor of life.
Where this wonderful creation around us that God has put into our care is threatened with death, we work for life.
Wherever the vulnerable young or old or poor or powerless are threatened with death, we work for life. That’s why the Bible puts such a strong emphasis on caring for widows and orphans and foreigners — they’re in such vulnerable positions. But I’d include the unborn, the elderly, the addicted, and those in danger from genocide and war.
Wherever relationships are broken and dying and even dead already, we work for healing and peace and life in them.
How do we do this life-making, life-saving work? Love.
Life is the What. Love is the How. Life is what God is doing. Love is how he’s doing it.
We saw that in John 3:16, right? “For God so loved the world …” Life is the motive. Love is the means.
Love, here, isn’t a feeling. Love is a verb. It’s not a sentiment. It’s a way of living in the world.
What’s frustrating is that we live in a culture that is content with feelings that have no action. I get sucked right into it.
I am an incredible softie when it comes to crying in movies. I get choked up so easily in the sad parts I can’t even talk. But as much as I enjoy movies as they take me through this emotional connection and feeling of empathy, I’m never required to do anything about these gut feelings because it’s all fiction.
The purpose of the emotions these tear-jerkers play on is action. That’s the way God built us. Feeling serves action. But we’ve set it up so that feeling is the goal itself.
Biblically, love is not the feeling. Love is the action that follows the feelings.
Love is a feeling that springs from the very center of who we are as human being which exists to launch us into actions that make life, save life, and/or sustain life. All true love leads to life.
Love may lead to love-making, which leads to life-begetting.
Love may lead to rescuing a stray cat or a puppy from the pound.
Love may lead to sharing a meal with a stranger.
Love may lead to a new anti-cancer drug or painting beautiful works of art.
Each of these things arise from a spark within us and lead to making, saving, sustaining, or enhancing life. In each case, love serves life.
We’ve seen this all throughout the Scriptures.
At the beginning of Exodus, God hears the cries of the Hebrew slaves. And what happens? His heart is moved, which propels him into action. And when he’s done saving this ragtag band of former slaves, he ties his life to theirs in a covenant of love.
And because of this covenant of love, throughout the Old Testament we see God throwing himself into acts of salvation, preserving the life of his people over and over and over again, even when they turn from that love. But, of course, we see it most vividly in Jesus himself. God seeing our predicament, entering into the fray himself, associating himself with the poor and sick and oppressed and sin-broken, and then suffering on our behalf on the cross.
Jesus brought life everywhere he went, his heart going out to struggling and sinful humans and lovingly bringing salvation to them, bringing life to them — healing bodies, repairing relationships, tossing out unclean spirits, forgiving sins, and, yes, raising the dead. All of it love in service of life.
So, there are two things we are called to as followers of Jesus:
Love life. Love the life God has given you. Start there. Treat every breath as the gift it actually is. And then look around and see all of the life around you. Thrill in it.
Celebrate births. Each one an explosion of life.
Celebrate marriages. They are intentionally shared lives.
Plant tulips and trees and turnips. Cultivate life.
Become a bird watcher. Exclaim at these wondrously winged lives that soar.
Make art. Beauty is life with an exclamation point!
Watch the sports and thrill in the amazing abilities of human bodies thrumming with life.
Live love. It’s not all about you. Go beyond yourself. Let your heart be moved on behalf of others. And then do something about it. Let your emotions move you into life-saving, life-sustaining action.
Visit someone in the hospital, bringing health to the hurting.
Pray for and send a note to someone who’s grieving.
Forgive someone who has hurt you. Deeply.
Seek forgiveness of someone you’ve hurt.
Protect the vulnerable.
Share with those who don’t have.
Go on a mission trip.
Make some new friends and have them over to your house for a BBQ (and invite me to join you).
Share the good news of Jesus. Invite others the know the God who created them, who is right now sharing his life with them, who wants to share his life with them for all eternity because he loves them. What could be more loving than to invite others to the table of life and love that their God wants to share with them?
This is what God is doing and this is why we are here: Live love. Love life.