This is “the life”

1 John 1:1-2:2

Last year I went strolling along a Mauritian beach with my wife.  We bought tropical fruit from a roadside vendor, went for a swim and then lay down on a deckchair sipping a cold beer.  I said to Emma, “This is the life.”

When have you said that phrase?  “This is the life”?  You might not like hot holidays.  Maybe you’d rather go skiing with friends and then sit down by a roaring fire with a big hot chocolate, extra cream.  “This is the life.”

Or you go out and celebrate some success at your favourite restaurant with your favourite people. “This is the life” we say.

It’s funny how rarely we use that saying isn’t it?  We live for awfully long stretches of time without saying “this is the life”.  Apparently most of life isn’t “the life”.  Only very rarely is life the life.  We have to stop doing everything we’ve been doing and fly halfway around the world before our life starts to be the life.

Can that be right?  Is it the case that most of our lives aren’t really “the life”?  That would be a real shame wouldn’t it?

36 hours after I said:  “this is the life”, we were locked outside our house in the freezing rain, rummaging through our suitcases and concluding that our house-keys were somewhere on the continent of Australia. Was this still “the life?”  “The life” seemed far away at that point.

I think for most of us “the life” seems out of reach.

But the Apostle John wrote a letter (1 John) in which he spoke very differently about “the life.”  For John “the life” is not a time or a place.  “The life” is a person – a person who was there in the beginning.  A person with whom we now have fellowship.  Here are the first few verses of the letter:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;  (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)”  (1 John 1:1-2)

This is the life.  Not a time or a place.  A person.  This is the life:  Jesus.  He was there in the beginning.  There with the Father.  He came in the middle, to live out “the life”.  And John had seen the life.  He had walked the dusty roads of Israel with the life.  And when John saw Jesus he said to Himself “this is the life.”  Jesus is the life.

Therefore John wants to tell the whole world about ‘the life’:

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us:  and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”  (1 John 1:3-4)

John’s greatest joy is to pass on the life to us.  Therefore we can enjoy the life, not just when we’re sunbathing by the pool or having drinks with friends, but when we’re locked out of the house in the freezing rain, when we lose our jobs and our health and our friends, our family, even our own lives.  We can lose everything in life and still have the life.  Because we have Jesus:  the Author of Life, the Word of Life, the Meaning of Life.

What do you normally think of as ‘the life’?

The life we seek is usually self-indulgent.  The life of Jesus is self-giving.  The life we pursue is about sitting back and relaxing.  The life of Jesus is an outgoing life – from the Father to the disciples and out to the world.  Our kind of life is directed towards comfort, ease, distraction, entertainment.  Jesus’ kind of life is so much better – it’s a life of fellowship (with God and His people) and of joy.

“The world”, to use a phrase common in First John, gives a counterfeit vision of ‘the life’.  Perhaps today we need to re-orient ourselves to John’s vision.  As we turn our thoughts to another year, let’s not seek counterfeits. Jesus Himself is the life.  We need not weary ourselves with other visions that cannot satisfy.  We have Jesus, therefore in all of life we have ‘the life’.

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