Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Book of Life

Much is made about the Book of Life, the book that John the Revelator tells us about when he talks about what it will be like on the day that we stand before our Lord. Cursed is the man, we say, whose name is not written in the Book of Life; he will be thrown into the lake of fire.

And most of us think that it is up to God whether or not our name is written there, that at His discretion alone, we are either in or we are out. Calvinists, or predestinarians, say that God made this decision about us long before we existed; others say that it depends upon whether or not we are baptized; still others say that God writes our name in the Book of Life when we write His name on our hearts and actually hold onto faith in a meaningful way. 

But none of that is what Revelation says. 

Revelation says that the Book of Life records not our names, but our narratives. The Book of Life tells the stories of our lives. This means that right now, every second, every breath, we are writing our own names in the Book of Life. Perhaps.

Here's where it gets a little tricky, so hang with me. The Book of Life records our living, which means that we are writing right now the stories that are going into it. On that day, John tells us, we will be held to account for what our stories tell. God will read our pages from the Book of Life, looking to see what we did with what He had given us. 

And one of the things God has given us is a name. In this section of Revelation, we are told, as well, about receiving a stone with our name written on it, the name that God has given us. Because we know from the very beginning, God named man. And Jesus reminds us, just because we call on Him does not mean He knows us; we have to be on a first-name basis. We have to call Him by name, and He will call us by name. 

Names, to God, have meaning. They always have. Adam was a play on adamah, which meant "earth" - he was man formed of the earth. Eve meant "life," she was a giver of life. And these meanings helped to reveal what it was that God expected from Adam and Eve. He told them as much, but their names served as reminders. Adam was to be earthy, to be created, to do something worthy of dust-breathed-life; Eve was to bring life into the world, to give birth, to nurture the next generation. 

I believe that when Adam and Eve stand before God and the accounts of their lives are read from the Book, their names are written only where they have done what God expected of them by their very creation. Eve is named when she gives life to Cain, Abel, and Seth; Adam is named when he tends creation and breathes the spirit of God. In the places where they sinned, I don't believe their names are written. 

For example, I don't think the Book of Life says, "Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit." These were not named acts; they were not acts in accordance with their creation, with God's design for them. The Book more likely says, "The man and the woman ate the forbidden fruit." For right here, they are not Adam and Eve; he is not dust-breathed-life, and she is not life. 

I think the same is true of our stories. All of our deeds, all of our acts, are recorded in the Book of Life; John tells us that much. But I think at the places where we are less than God intended us to be, we are not named. We are the man, we are the woman. 

What God is looking for are those moments where we are living in such accord with His design for us that our names make sense, that you can call us what He called us, that He can confidently, proudly write our names next to it. In these moments, we become named, and our name is right there in the Book for all to see. And when our stories are read on that final day, when we stand before the Lord Himself, He reads through it all...."The man....the man.....the man....Adam. Ah! There you are!" "The woman...the woman....the woman....Eve. Yes!" And there is great rejoicing. 

Great rejoicing, indeed. For we, created as we are, have shown up in our own stories. And in doing so, we have shown up in His.

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