Patricia Hofer

What does “everlasting life” actually mean to you?

In first century Jerusalem, many Jews, weren’t ready to believe in his resurrection, his promise of a continuing life for everyone. St. Paul says that “their minds were hardened…a veil lies over their minds” (NRSV 2 Cor. 3:15). But we Christians today are in no position to judge those resistant Jews. All too often our Christianity slumbers, or lies dormant. We follow doctrinal forms mindlessly, parroting descriptions of heaven and hell that we learned as a child.

Which leads me to ask this question: what does “everlasting life” actually mean to you as a Christian? An answer for all human beings can be found “in the beginning,” in an appreciation of how each of us was created. Our mind or consciousness, our awareness of ourselves and the world around us, is something God breathed into human beings specifically.

But, as Paul writes, we now “know only in part.” We are seeing “in a mirror, dimly,” unable to know “fully” the complete likeness of who we are (NRSV 1 Cor. 13:12). But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a complete image. At some point our “faces” are going to be “unveiled”—our minds are going to be opened. Seeing “the glory of the Lord” more clearly, we’ll be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (NRSV 2 Cor. 3:18).

Or, as the CEB translates it, “From one degree of glory to another degree of glory.” For me, Paul is saying that the awakening of who we are as God’s image happens by degrees. Rather than occurring in a single instant or a single lifetime, our discovery of completeness might occur over several lifetimes. With an “unveiled” mind, we no longer dread an impassable wall at the end of our years—or a permanent, but uncertain, outcome. This frees us in the present. We live now in confidence and hope. We’re comforted in our continuing walk with the Lord.

 

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