Have you ever thought about the “extras” in an action movie or TV show? As the villains tear through the population with their destructive plans, many characters often get caught up in the crossfire. Some of these actors might be part of the storyline, while others don’t even show up in the credits at the end of the show. Even the “heroes” in certain scripts hurt or kill guards and henchmen that are associated with the “bad guys”1. Sometimes, though, I’ll wonder about the backstory of these casualties, in light of the pain that occurs when something like this happens in the real world. Did they have a family? Who will have to go on living without that person in their lives? Who relies on that person to get something done at work?
I don’t think that I have a problem with separating reality from Hollywood fiction, but I’ll leave that for experts to diagnose. What does occur to me is that, without a purpose or an understanding of the larger picture of reality, it seems like an individual’s life in some of these movies and shows is all that they have. Yes, the hero may make sacrifices for a loved one, but for others, the goal is often to just stay alive for another day – no matter the cost to others. Characters will steal, kill, and go to extreme measures to prolong their life, because that is the only thing that matters to them.
Maybe that’s true sometimes in real life, as well. In countries where the basic necessities of life are available in abundance, many move to spending all sorts of time and money obsessing over how to live just a little bit longer, whether through the latest health craze, or through extreme end-of-life measures.
To be clear, life is a gift from God, and I don’t think that any of us should be lazy in taking care of our physical bodies. I appreciate when loved ones who are sick can find treatment, giving us more time to spend with them. However, there is more to this life than just living as long as we can, and getting as much out of this mortal journey as possible. Showing us a better way are those who see the bigger picture, like those acknowledged in this verse from Revelation:
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Revelation 12:11 NIV
For these saints who loved Jesus and knew that His message transcended their short time on earth, they didn’t have to compromise their decisions just to live a little longer. Instead, they could walk through life with confidence in their Savior, and bravely do the right thing. In the same way, knowing that we have new bodies waiting for us after this life on earth (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-58), we can live for more than the prolonging of a mortal existence.
Once we understand that everything on this earth that will perish can’t compare to the rewards of eternity, this gives us the freedom to invest in the latter, even if it costs us everything else (the perishable stuff – see 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Said another way, not valuing our life above our souls (and the souls of others) gives us the freedom to boldly stand up for things that are even more important.
A focus on what will survive the end of days also helps keep us from concentrating too much on trivial matters. Worrying about made-up rules that are the construction of man, rather than the direction of God (see Colossians 2:20-23), takes time away from investing in what will matter in eternity. Investing time and money into transient fads and irrelevant arguments (which seem to be new every day) just saps our capacity to make a real difference in others’ lives.
So, I hope that each of us takes care of the bodies that we have been given, and try to be healthy enough to serve Jesus effectively (for as long as He calls us to do so). However, I pray that none of us will compromise the eternal blessings of living with Jesus, nor the opportunity to introduce more souls to Him and His salvation, in exchange for just another day, month, or year spent on this fallen earth away from Him.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- Unfortunately, sometimes the line between good and evil isn’t very clear in some fictional scripts. I appreciate that it can be challenging to sort out some of the gray areas in real life, but God at least gave us some pretty clear instructions as a starting point. ↩