The Blessed Life
As I’ve been reading the City of God, I see a lot of interesting stuff, and I’m going to be writing about it. Join me in my thoughts, won’t you? Here’s what I came up with yesterday:
One of the ideas that comes up again and again in Augustine’s writing is the idea of the blessed life. This seems to have been a greater and more important concept in that ancient Roman world than today. Today, people want to be happy and content, but few would question and speak about a blessed life in the way Augustine does so. He refers to a state of absolute happiness. I get the idea that he would not say that even the most happy on earth have yet attained the blessed life.
To Augustine, this state is held most completely by God himself. 10:11: “…Though doubtless He is so truly blessed that greater blessedness cannot be…” Blessedness was held by Adam and Eve in the garden before they fell. It is also a thing that we who are redeemed shall have in Heaven, eternally.
The discussion of the blessed life is darn important today, because people in America actively seek it. It’s darn important in Japan because people want it, even though they don’t ever stop long enough to admit it and to think if the course of their life is actually aiming them towards it. I believe that Augustine’s discussion of it closely mirrors the idea of eternal life in the scriptures. Eternal life is not just life without end, it is the blessed life, and that eternal. We see and gain it in part here in earth and fully in eternity.
To those so focused on this world that they don’t care about the afterlife, Christians can still lay hold of the claim that we have the keys to the blessed life and all others are illusions. We can do so because this blessed life has its root in God, the perfectly and truly happy being, who gives the blessed life to us. All pursuit of happiness that shuts God out of the picture is doomed to to be short-lived, because all happiness flows from the supremely happy God. All other pursuit of happiness relies on “common grace,” that is, the blessings that God has given to everyone, which come and go. But blessed life in Christ relies on the specific grace which is given to us at the cross and cannot be taken away.
This is important for how we share the gospel. For if we focus entirely on heaven and hell as the rewards of following Christ, we lose many people, especially in Japan, where they don’t even think about or talk about life after death. People in this modern age have lost perspective and focus only on the short-term. So, we need to show them the rewards in this life of following Christ in order to hold their attention.
One of these benefits is our hope in God that sustains us through all trials, for trials are a part of the common grace that we all draw from. This hope is something that rescues us from despair and torment. Those who pursue the blessed life out of Christ have no such hope. Because our hope is in the immutable God, whenever we face trials, we know that they are but a passing storm cloud, no matter how terrible they are. We know that behind a stormy providence, He hides a smiling face. We know that He will work it to the good (Romans 8:28), so that in 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years, we will have doubled joy when God has freed us from the trials. When we talk like that, and we live it, we show that we are the recipients of the blessed life now.