The Good Life in the Last Days by Mikey Lynch
Living as Guests
I had a friend (let’s call him Troy for the moment) who died suddenly and unexpectedly in mid-life. His close friends were devastated, and our grief was all mixed up with the difficult knowledge of how unhappy Troy had been in many ways. He was a firm believer in Christ, a committed church member, and a strong evangelical thinker. But he struggled with other things in his life: his family relationships were problematic. And he was gay. Reconciling his sexuality with his identity as an evangelical Christian was a constant, deep, painful battle. For Troy, the cost of following Jesus seemed extremely high. He had chosen to sacrifice the hope of sexual activity and an exclusive human relationship for the precious truth of the gospel and the hope of eternal life. He bravely held onto the promise that God’s grace was enough. But there were dark times when he faced wretchedness, loneliness and something like despair.
For some of us, the ‘sacrifices’ we make for the gospel are no real sacrifice at all. For others, they are enormous, and an ongoing battle to which the only foreseeable end is heaven itself. That is why it’s so important to develop a ‘whole vision for living well as Christians in God’s good-but-fallen creation in these last days.’ And, as Mikey Lynch argues, it must also map well onto real lives in all the varied circumstances we find ourselves in.
How are you going with the journey that Mikey is taking us on? I’m finished Chapter 4 and I’m loving that we are now really wrestling with how the truth of the gospel changes our perception of what living the good life actually means. Lynch is doing a great job of integrating the work of some pretty serious philosophers and theologians, digging deeply into the Bible and putting it forward in a way that is accessible to us. I also really appreciate how he effectively joins the dots and helps us see the connection between big-picture thinking and our day-to-day lives. Particularly helpful is Lynch’s articulation of the ‘Comparative Approach’ – a way of ordering the good gifts of life in light of what is ‘most precious’. This then pairs beautifully with the concept of ‘living as if’. Lynch’s nuanced exposition of 1 Corinthians 7 explains how we can hold lightly those things which are in themselves good, but which are passing away. Even better, I felt, was the metaphor of living as guests: delighting in God’s good gifts, but with the awareness that these things are not ours to keep. We respect that which belongs to God and receive his blessings with thankfulness. But our focus is on the Giver. This is really the broad concept of stewardship and led me to make a connection with Jesus’ parable of the Shrewd Manager. When we realise that the time is short, we start to understand how we can use the things we have now for God’s eternal purpose.
I found the cataloguing of different kinds of sacrifice to be greatly helpful. Leaving our sinful selves behind is difficult when seen from a worldly perspective but is actually ‘killing things not worth having’. The general suffering experienced in the world by believers and unbelievers alike is only still happening because Christ has not yet returned, so we learn to ‘faithfully submit to the timing of our heavenly Father’. Suffering for the sake of Christ is unavoidable and the only way to live well in the world. Obviously, one reason the church tends to grow through persecution is that it displays with crystal clarity what is ‘most precious’. When someone makes a decision to turn their back on a good reputation, social standing, personal safety and is even willing to give up their own life, that is a powerful statement that they have discovered something better than life itself. It is encouraging to be able to put our own struggles into these categories and face them as they truly are, without bitterness or resentment, taking comfort and strength from God’s Word.
Sometimes we do find, however, that our suffering is a complicated mix of all of these types. In view of this, one thing I would like to have articulated more profoundly is the idea that the new creation is this creation, renewed, purified and brought into the glorious freedom of Christ. Mikey has touched on this on Page 85 in Chapter 3, but I hope he will give it deeper treatment in coming chapters. The reason is, I’m starting to see how this Theology of Sacrifice impacts on a particularly modern phenomenon – FOMO! I suffer from a bit of FOMO myself. At this stage of my life (I just turned 40) with 3 youngish kids, I’m starting to realise there are things I will realistically never be able to achieve. So, I felt alarm bells going off when Mikey argued in Chapter 4 that there might still be elements of loss in the new creation (under the heading ‘Sacrificing one good thing for another’). What?! I don’t want to keep experiencing FOMO eternally!! I think, however, that I’d like to respectfully disagree with the author at this point. I’m not sure that the Revelation picture of heaven leaves room for a sense of loss. I think it is conveying utter fulfilment, but not necessarily in an individualistic sense. As 21st century Christians, we do battle with hyper-individualistic consciousness – the kind of mindset that says, “I need to be all that I can be and fulfil all of my potential. More than that, I have the right to fulfil that potential!” I do experience real mourning for some of the things I’ve sacrificed or not been able to do. It’s not clear to me if that is sinfulness or just regret of my own limitations. I know that my friend Troy experienced great grief over things his heart longed for but that he had given up for the sake of Christ. Thank God that I look forward to a future when I will know fully, even as I am fully known; in which I will be relieved of my burden of self-centredness and will be able to have unencumbered joy in what God has done. And whatever good thing I sacrifice or miss out on now, I look forward to experiencing in a sanctified way in God’s new creation.
Meet Kristen Butchatsky
I am a wife to Pete, a mum of three girls, and a music teacher. I am a long-time member of the wonderful church family St Aidan’s Anglican in Hurstville Grove, having come to Christ through a youth group ministry at age 14. I love singing, reading (obviously!!), walking my dog, Ned and going to see plays, movies and musical theatre.