If you’re like most people, you struggled….with the “or” in each of these choices. We tend to think of many things in life in absolute terms: it’s either “this” OR “that”. After all, this method of defining and categorizing seems to make things so much easier…until it doesn’t. What if reality was much more about “and” than “or”?
For example, we have days that seem more “alive” than others. Perhaps it’s days when you’re doing something you love or with people you like spending time with, or the weather is just right, or you’ve just received some really good news. And then there are those days that seem just the opposite – the “dying” sort of days. Maybe nothing seems to be going right, or the bad news seems to have no end, or you just feel so alone. But if we really think about it, even on the best of days, our “alive” days, there is something that isn’t going well. It may seem quite small, but it’s there. And on those awful “dying” sort of days, if we really think about it, there is at least one thing that’s good. It may seem quite small, but it’s there. The truth is that as we grow and mature in Christ, things that are not eternally essential die and fade away, and are replaced by that which is eternally alive and strong. We become more and more alive, until that day we leave earth and step into eternal life with Him. “He isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living. To Him, they are all alive.” - Luke 20:38
If someone asked you, “Are you here…or there?”, what would your answer be? My guess is that it would probably depend on where you thought “here” and “there” were. You might respond with some version of, “What are you talking about?”. It all depends on how we define those two small words: here and there. And yet, if we really think about it, on any given day we’re moving away from something and toward something else. In other words, the answer is…both. When the disciples are looking around at awful things going on in the world, they long to be anywhere but “here”. They’re ready to move on to “there” – forever, heavenly life. Stuck between “here” and “there” (much like we are), Jesus tells them, and us, “Don’t worry. You will be saved by being faithful to me.”
Here’s another “and/or”: Are we hungry…or fed (full)? In a recent discussion about this, someone responded this way: “I think it depends on what you’re full of, and what you’re hungry for.” Wise words. You can be full of physical food, and yet hungry for emotional and/or spiritual food. Likewise you could have the most supportive, loving, wonderful relationships but at the same time be physically and/or spiritually hungry. And then there’s those times when we’re spiritually full to the brim. Interestingly, when that’s the case we may not have human support or love, and we may not have enough (or any) physical food, but when we’re spiritually full, we know we’re full in the only way that lasts through any trial or struggle – forever. Jesus says, “Don’t work for food that doesn’t last, but for the food that endures eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” - John 6:27
In many Christian traditions, a special Sunday is observed, often called something like, “All Saints’ Sunday”. Time is taken to think about and remember those we know who have gone temporarily from our sight into eternal life. Often as we remember those friends and family members, we think about what I’d call their “saint-factors” – what was so wonderful about them, and what about them we hope to pass on to others.
But what if someone asked us, “So, was ____ a saint, or a sinner?”? There’s really no easy answer to that. That’s because “or” is the wrong word. All of us are a combination of the two. We do good and wonderful things, large and small. And, on our not so good days, we do wrong and hurtful things, large and small. Hear the prayer of the apostle Paul for you. “I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers,and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength.” – Ephesians 1:18
May it be so for all of us as we grow closer and more deeply in love with Christ.