Recently I saw an article in Salvo Magazine that really caught my eye. It posed this question:
“What is a life well lived? What is an exemplary life-a life that I would wish to strive for, to emulate, to have others remember as worthy of admiration? And what principles ought to guide me in living such a life?”
The author of the Salvo article says this: “My answer to the question of what is a life well lived can be summarized in six words: “To know, serve, and love truth.” After examining each of the parts of the statement, he concludes that “In sum, my original answer to the question of what is a life well lived is more accurately restated as “To know, serve, and love God.” Rightly understood, the two mean one and the same thing. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it,” and “Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” We can save our lives only by losing them to the high, self-sacrificial calling of service to truth, and to the One who is Truth—not to the debased, selfish pursuit of self-fulfillment.
I kind of think he nailed it. But it needs to be expounded upon. It’s so concise, that we could too easily miss its more important facets.
This passage from Jeremiah 29:7 is one of the most compelling to me:
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
It encapsulates our calling to be ambassadors for Christ. That call, it seems to me, is much more nuanced than simply letting others ‘see Christ in me’, even if I add ‘the hope of glory’.
We are called, and we are sent. We are called to follow Him, to love Him with all our hearts minds and souls, but also to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we are just about being Christ-like, we are doing great, but we’ve left something undone it seems to me. If we are building a house for our own use, we are laboring in vain. I think Psalm 127:1 calls us to seek the welfare of the city by loving our neighbors, by praying for them, and by seeking to know what houses the Lord is building, and showing up to help.
Love God. Love neighbor. Seek the welfare of the city. Know that if it prospers, you prosper with it.
But there’s also this. Jesus prays in John 17:13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified”
So a life well lived is a life lived for others, and in obedience to and love for our Lord. Jesus also told us in John 12 that
“I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
Therefore, even though in my flesh I am a coward, in my spirit, I join with Paul in saying
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)
And in all things, we look forward to that day when we, perhaps, will hear those precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
If we do those things, we will have lived well and admirably, seeking only the approval of the Lord.
But is that perfect happiness? I say it is. I say that if I seek to do these things, my joy will transcend mere happiness, which is often fleeting. And in one of those paradoxes of life, I got it by seeking something else entirely. What a deal!