A Life to Live

The line of people extended out the door, down the sidewalk and into the already packed parking lot. Some of those waiting engaged in lively conversations punctuated by an occasional laugh. Others stood silently, as if in deep thought. Was this a line on Black Friday? One might have mistaken it for a voting station for the recent presidential primary. Actually, I’m describing the scene that greeted me when I attended a funeral recently. The father of a friend of mine had passed away, and I came out to show my support.

When I finally made it inside the church, I found a packed house. Even the choir loft was filled with people who had no intention of performing a musical number. I didn’t know the deceased personally, so I eagerly listened as his daughter and several other friends reflected on this man so beloved by his family and community. They shared about a man who enjoyed hunting and fishing. LaVerne could fix just about anything mechanical or otherwise. He was an avid football fan. He spent the better part of his life as an educator, football coach and principal. There was one aspect of his character that showed up in every speaker’s reflections. LaVerne cared about the health and welfare of other people, young and old alike. Whether it was practical help, wisdom and advice, comfort or encouragement, he was regularly involved in the lives of those around him. The spontaneous laughter and affirming nods from the crowd served as confirmation that the town knew LaVerne and would gladly testify to his impact on each of their lives. I walked out of the church knowing my friend’s father better, and I wanted to be like him. By observing those grieving this man’s death, I learned how to live.

Funerals come in a variety of flavors. Typically, these ceremonies leave a personal impression on attendees. Some come across as a tribute to the kingdom of self. Others inspire gratitude for the gift a person has been to others. Still others leave us lamenting a wasted life. While many were reminded of the brevity of life that day, my thoughts were riveted on the purpose of life. “What would people say at my funeral?” I mused.

The Bible gives a clear and compelling reason for our lives. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).

Through the gospel, believers have been delivered from the small and shallow kingdom of self. Living for yourself is a small vision because your aim is no higher than that of…yourself. Christians have been brought into the huge expanse of the Kingdom of God. When the love of Christ captures our heart, God makes a radical change. Our vision reaches to the heavens as we make it our aim to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:9). We are living for One greater than ourselves. One of the expressed purposes of Jesus Christ coming to earth in human flesh is so that He could walk among us. People experienced the presence of God as they experienced Jesus. Today, people continue to experience the presence of Jesus through His Church. When redeemed men and women give their lives away in love and service to others, there will be an effect—sometimes subtle, other times obvious, yet always undeniable.

Because of Christ’s death, we can now experience genuine life. That’s because Jesus has supplied the one and only way to be restored to a right relationship with God. It really is not about us. It never was. True living is about loving God and loving others. LaVerne’s funeral brought it all into sharp focus. I’m continuing to learn how to live before I die. A life spent this way is no tribute to the kingdom of self nor is it a wasted life. It’s a life that reaches others. It’s a life that makes a difference.

For His Glory Alone,