You’ve probably never heard of ‘Samhain,’ pronounced Sah-wain. It is the Celtic celebration after the harvest, typically around October 31st, and one of 8 ‘holidays’ that dot the year. It follows the Autumnal Equinox (harvest) and precedes Yule, the Winter Solstice. But, what some may wonder is … is it an evil holiday? Did it involve dressing up in costumes and extorting neighbors of candy with creepy threats?
“When God says don’t he means, what? …. He means don’t HURT yourself!” —James MacDonald
I liked that. When I first heard James say that, I liked it a lot. I thought, that’s right. Sin hurts us! It brings all sorts of bad consequences, not to mention spiritual death!
But maybe that’s a bit misleading. Perhaps it’s only partly true.
In Israel, the prophets came to people who thought they were serving God. The problem was, they had a bit of Baal worship mixed in. Similarly, the Pharisees–the church leaders of the day, if you will–hated John the Baptist, and hated Jesus Christ. Their works of devotion to God amounted to paganism.
Looking out the window on my bus ride home from work, something caught my eye. A huge billboard on the side of a rundown apartment building said, “If you lived here, you’d be home!”
The parking lot was cracked and weeds poked up all over. Rusted hulks filled the few occupied spots. The balconies were packed with junk. Sheets and old blankets were used for window-coverings. The houses buildings nearby were no better.
I felt very sad that people live in such poverty. It’s terrible that crime rules those streets and people seldom feel safe.
And that sign seemed so … out of place! It seemed to be in glib denial of the condition of the neighborhood!
Then it occurred to me: this is what the world must look like in comparison to heaven. And our culture is like the big sign.
IF YOU LIVED HERE, YOU’D BE HOME!
I imagine the people living there probably wished it wasn’t their home. In fact, I bet if they got the chance, they’d leave! They’d rather head to the suburbs and have a nice yard. Or, better still, move to the country, away from the city noise and lights.
But then, maybe they don’t. Perhaps they are happy living there and are filled with bitter hatred for those living in homes surrounded by picket fences. Maybe they hold successful people in total contempt. What if, having lived in a crime-plagued area long enough, they have come to accept it as normal?
If that were true, it would be horrible. To think that people would surrender any hope of a better life and accept a place so dismal as home is nearly unthinkable.
And yet, that’s what it is for people who embrace the motto: YOLO.
You Only Live Once! The implication is to have fun. Do what you want (but don’t hurt anyone, I suppose).
This “suck the marrow from life” mentality accepts that nothing exists beyond the grave. It accepts that this earth is our … home.
The Bible tells us that this life is but a vapor … and that eternity awaits us. Since our created purpose is to glorify God, our choice in this life will determine if we–by Grace–will be able to fulfill our purpose and be given eternal life, or if we’ll reject God’s love and remain in eternal death, reaping the unspeakable judgment that we’re due, from God Almighty.
It’s sad to think that many choose to live here, on earth. They’ve rejected the grace of God and His gift of Salvation, scoffing at it, reviling it.
But, as long as there is life, there’s a chance to repent and accept Jesus’ sacrifice. Through faith, everyone who repents and accepts Christ as their Lord, receives eternal life. This speaks to quality, not quantity.
The quality of how you live (not the circumstances of life) improves. You face life with an eternal perspective of knowing you’re just passing through … like on a bus.
You witness the world in all it’s squalor, but you don’t live there, and it’s not your home.
I have to admit, when I saw the advertisements for Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way, red flags went up. Words like “waking up,” “alignment” and “being light” are potential New Age terms that have been seeping into Christianity for some time. And so, I wrote this blog to call fellow-Christians to exercise discernment.
The idea is pleasing because everyone gets down on themselves, or feels depressed about some mistake or foolish thing …. But can we really love ourselves? Isn’t that sort of what “Honest John” Foulfellow said to Pinocchio? “You need to live a little,” “You deserve a break!” Isn’t all that just an expression meant to convey “you really need to burn that conscience right out of you.”
What is love, anyway?
According to the Bible, love is defined by sacrifice. Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends. By this we know love, that God laid down his life for us… both written by the apostle of Love, John.
Can I “lay down my life” for myself? Can I sacrifice for myself?
Typically, we might have a responsibility for money, which we shrug off, sacrificing duty to indulge ourselves. Or, we might have a choice of providing for a friend, or indulging ourselves …
I don’t think we can really sacrifice for ourselves.
There is an example, however, of preserving yourself so that you can be of the most help to others: Lifeguard training.
Odd as it may sound, if a lifeguard is rescuing someone near a pier, and the waves are pushing them toward a large, wooden beam, the lifeguard is to keep the victim between himself and the beam. Why? Because the victim’s bruises and broken bones can be mended when the lifeguard safely gets him to the shore. Getting him to the shore is far less likely if the lifeguard is pummeled unconscious and they both need rescue.
I think we need to watch out for instances where we throw ourselves in the path of large beams, thinking we’re saving some poor victim from another problem, but we’re making ourselves incapable of further assistance.
That’s not really “loving ourselves,” it’s just maintaining our usefulness.
Jesus often turned the crowds away, or went to a solitary place to refresh His spirit in communion with God the Father. While it might seem selfish, or that he’s just “loving himself,” it was actually needed because He was fully man. He needed rest so He could continue his rescue mission.
Wisdom is knowing the difference between self-indulgence and self-preservation for the greater good.
What do you think? Is “loving ourselves” good advice for Christians, or is it just a justification for indulging the self-life?