The glory of God is a man fully alive
There is a phrase that comes from an early Christian Father called Irenaeus who lived in the second century – “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” What does it mean to be fully alive? I don’t think it means not being ill, or old. It is about how we make the most of who we are – where our spiritual/physical/emotional/social life has a meaning and a focus that makes the most of earth and at the same time, somehow occupies space in heaven.

This week I heard that a dear and lovely person in our church, Emma, had suddenly died, leaving a husband and teenage son. She was one who connected deeply and lively with those around her in the church. What a huge hole she leaves for her family; love that is experienced with such pain in her sudden absence. I pray comfort and peace for them as they walk through this grief.

The shock of her death makes being alive feel fragile and vulnerable, and yet also incredibly special and holy. What do we do with this gift of life we have? How do we make the most of it and how do the choices we make bring glory to God and somehow allow more of his love and power to be experienced here on the earth?

Increasingly, over the past months and year, I have been thinking how my own life might be shaped to shine more brightly and be focussed more sharply, so that how I live and what I do can be more fully alive. Some of this is brought on by loss, and by the swirl of helplessness and trauma that is seen all around us in humanity’s helplessness in the face of fear, sickness and chaos. How can my life glorify God in such a way that how I fill space and time points to a good and loving heavenly father and creator?

I see people in the bible who reached a place in life and faith where they just wanted to make their life count. Their intimacy with God, their sense of call and justice, their regret-turned-hope, their joy in creativity all meant that they were able to make decisions that would have eternal consequences. And like us today, they were affected by the fragility of life around them and the possibility of living daringly and riskily in order to make an impact for God’s Kingdom.

This has led me to decide to lay down some things in order to take up something new. It’s a desire to live like Abraham – where the only thing that counts is life expressing itself through love. I have decided to stop doing some things I have thoroughly enjoyed, with people I love working with, in order to give away more of myself and what I know God has given me. It is hard to do this when everything around is peaceful and sorted. But easier when you are aware of vulnerability, grief and the increasing need for the rule and reign of Jesus in the lives of people who are anxious, lost and deep down desperate for life in its fullness. I appreciate that Emma gave her everyday life for the sake of others and demonstrated faithful friendship in a remarkable way. This was being fully alive.

What does being fully alive mean to you? And how does that point the way to a good and gracious God? This is St Paul’s take on it in Romans 12:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Martin J Young


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