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~ Following the Christ's Ascension ~

You probably read what is most likely an urban legend, but it's worth repeating, especially if you don't know about it. An urgent need for compatible blood arose for a little girl's operation. Her family volunteered to be tested as donors and one came up as a perfect match, her brother, just a couple of years older than she. Her doctors explained to him how his sister needed his blood to live.

In response to the boy's hesitancy, the doctors assured him it wouldn't hurt. So the boy agreed with no questions. During the blood extraction procedure, the boy asked his first question, one that threw everyone into silent contemplation and awe. "How long does it take for me to die?" Two realities crossed, and in their intersection rested the depths of sacrificial love the doctors and family never before witnessed.

One reality was the boy was donating blood, which was no big deal. The other reality was the boy agreed to die so his sister could live in his stead. In his heart, he indeed was dying for her, without reservation. "Such love covers a multitude of sins."

Urban legend or not, the boy's sacrifice truly happened millions of times throughout human history. It is then a true story, honoring the love of many who did what the boy did, or thought he was doing, which amounts to the same thing in the province of God's kingdom.

Christ told His disciples He was giving them a new commandment. He began, "Love one another..." I can imagine Christ pausing to emphasize something of great importance, something new. During that pause, His disciples could have thought, "That's not new." Then Jesus dropped the clincher, "...as I have loved you." That automatically cranked the notches up to a new level on the old, "Love your neighbor as yourself" and, its counterpart, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." This new commandment plunges us into a new world of behavior and spirituality. How can I possibly love others as Christ loves me? I'm a disordered mere mortal and He is divine.

Furthermore, that's not a suggested spiritual goal or aspiration, but a commandment. Given that, I am constrained to obey and there are dire consequences for disobedience to our Maker and God. Biblical and secular human history abounds with examples of that.

The English language is woefully inadequate in its expressions of love. In the Greek, in which much of the New Testament was written, we would read Christ's commands as an exercise of agape, the love of God, not phileo, the love of a brother or sister.

In the Scriptures, wives are instructed to live in "submission" to their husbands, which is rather easy to do if the husbands fulfill the instructions to them, "Love your wives as Christ, the bridegroom, loves His bride, the Church, His people." This marital architecture is a living earthly metaphor for the heavenly marriage of Christ and His people.

Imagine a human being loving you in the same manner as Christ. Who among us would refuse submission to that relationship and joy? Probably those among us who resist submitting our total selves to our own Creator. His love is limitless, but our ability to receive it is quite finite. Therein lies the problem: Not with God, but with our own clinging, egotistical, stubborn and selfish selves.

As mortal humans, we are so hopelessly deranged. We are reminded of that in our daily newspapers and news broadcasts. A courageously honest self reflection of our own deficits would remind us of that. We thus need a redeemer, do we not? We need His infusion of His Spirit and love in order to exercise His commandments, don't we? Why did Christ say, in the context of the difficulties and challenges of following Him, "My burden is easy, my yoke is light"? Is it not because He carries our burdens and His head in that yoke (a farming implement that locks the necks of two oxen together) is stronger than ours, pulling us along the fields with His strength?

In His ineffable wisdom, the commandments of Christ are not retraining or burdensome, but rather liberating and joyful. I long to be in full compliance with them. That would bring great joy to both me and the One I love.

Many of us enjoy hearing the stories of the people of great faith, those we label saints, although the Scriptures call us all saints in the eyes of God. Still, we are impressed with their sacrifices, courage, devotion and wondrous deeds. Elijah is among them, yet James remarks he was a person, just like us.

Indeed we are all like each other. You and I have as much in common with a prisoner on death row as with the leaders of our religious institutions. If you don't believe this or are interested in what ways, email me for some dialog.

Psalm 8:2 declares, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." In our own kingdom governed by the dictatorship of our egos, we are incapable of fulfilling the commands of our Creator. This is obvious and self-evident. In the kingdom of God, we can easily emulate the boy who, in his heart, agreed to die for his little sister. Those like him populate "the communion of saints" that surrounds us like a cloud. How wonderful it is to enter, in communion, that assembly. We can do it now, not waiting until we die. Moreover, we are commanded to do it now, a command of agape love. And so, we follow Christ in His ascension into His home, our home, not waiting until death.

How wonderful it is to not have to wait! Waiting is an exercise in foolishness, ignorance, and serving the dictatorship of our faulty, misdirected and dangerously self-promoting egos. "You cannot serve two masters." "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all else will be added." The boy asked, "How long will it take for me to die?" The answer could have been, "You already did, in your heart, and so both you and your sister will continue to live together in great joy and love."

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.

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