We as christians like the sermons on our life now
“Life is now” are the last words of the last episode of NRK’s 3rd season of the hit series entitled Skam. Skam, meaning ‘shame’ when literally translated into English, is perhaps one of the most popular tv series created by the Norwegian broadcasting channel. The series follows a group of friends at a wealthy high school in Oslo as they navigate life, facing issues such as shaming, anorexia, sexual assault, and coming out as gay, to name a few. It is also perhaps one of the most culturally relevant series in recent times, which may account for its popularity. All that aside, the writers of Skam have packaged into the show small moments where the main characters either give or receive life wisdom from what they have learned through the process of each season. For the third season, this would be the maxim, “life is now”. In many ways this small phrase sounds like wisdom from the Book itself. It is true that we are a people who on the grand scale of eternity find our reality in the moment of now. We are wanderers upon the earth, people who are in the world yet not of it. We are called to be present, seize every opportunity, and to be ready at all times. In short, we think we are called to be people of the now. But that is not the full picture. And Skam is not the first to think of the catchy, almost christian, motto of “life is now”. This trendy way of thinking is actually nothing new under the sun by any means.
Over 300 hundred years before the birth of Christ there lived a man named Epicurus. Sounds like the beginning of a good story, right? In many ways, it was. Epicurus founded a new philosophy which has had a lasting impact on the very way in which we think today. His idea was that people should avoid pain and seek pleasure, but in moderation, of course, so that the overdose of pleasure would not cause pain. His theory was based in the here and now, as he and his followers believed that there is no afterlife so one does not need to think about the effects of pleasure on the soul. Life, for him and his followers, was about the here and now and how they could experience pleasure without pain. While they might not have been the group who coined the phrase, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”, the Epicureans came pretty close. Perhaps what Epicurus, his friends, and the creators of Skam did not know was that this idea of life being now had already been tested out by the master of all pleasure and living in the moment, the one and only author of Ecclesiastes himself.
“So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work” says the all knowing, all testing, original hipster author of Ecclesiastes in chapter 2, verse 24. Ecclesiastes, much like Skam and Epicureanism, is a book that is relevant for now. At first glance, the author seems to just complain about how all things will some day come to an end, that everything is meaningless, and gives the sage advice that our duty is to enjoy our life now. However, the author of Ecclesiastes goes deeper than this. He brings God into the picture. Enjoying life now is not his end game, as it turns out. In Chapter 12, the author concludes his whole angsty monologue with pointing to God, the Creator of all things, and saying that He is the point of life. He encourages the young to seek God in their youth, as their life is not just now, but holds an eternal perspective as it was created by the Eternal One.
Our life is now, but we are also made for eternity with God. This is a truth which is missed by much of our culture today and can be easily ignored in church. We as christians like the sermons on our life now; how we can improve or rest or receive in this moment. But the truth of the matter is that we are called as christians to have a double perspective, so to speak. We were created not just for now, but also for eternity. Walking with Christ looks like being present, yet still keeping in sight the promise of eternity and knowing that our life here on earth is just half the picture. In short, Skam and Epicurus only have half of the picture. Life is now, but life is also eternal. And we are called to live in the perspective of both. If we live in just one, our life will be unbalanced. Life that is just lived in the perspective of the immediate produces short sightedness and a culture of immediate gratification. On the flip side, life solely lived in the perspective of eternity creates distance from reality and can evolve into a culture of exclusiveness. It is only when we have both that we can become a whole and healthy body which is well rooted where we are while being heaven focused.
Written by Emily Huyck