Real Life is where a passage from the Bible is meant to be applied. People can be quite arrogant or ignorant in their use of the phrase ‘real life’. For example, when I was a student at college, those who were working in careers would often look down their noses at me and say, “Wait to you get out into the real world,” or “Wait to see if that works in ‘real life.’ The truth is that they defined their own lives as real and were decidedly egocentric. The problems of depression, alcohol abuse, or sexual promiscuity are real problems whether they are experienced in a dorm room or a new apartment. Real life happens in many locations and has many ways it plays out.
We also tend to look at the past like it was less real than the present. Of course, ‘Once upon a time …’ usually means the story that follows is not real life in one sense. If we know that a series of events happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the following battles are not real. However, as Jorge Santayana said that those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat it. We look to those who lived real life in the past to help us understand how to live real life in the present. The stories of the Bible are dismissed as myth or fable by some. However, those who accept the historicity of the Bible accept that it teaches us most about a real life lived before a real God. We need to draw principles from lives lived millennia ago so that our present millennium is lived well. However, I get the impression that Millennials are living more and more rooted in the present. YOLO (you only live once) and Carpe Diem (seize the day) are slogans that have an element of truth to them. Ecclesiastes includes similar advice. However, eyes that see beyond time to eternity are becoming less. The material realities of a frenzied world with multiple tasks performed simultaneously overwhelms the senses and dulls reflection. Existential wisdom is shelved for the immediate gains of practical wisdom. Appearing wise we have become fools. There are less people in the west who have minds capable of embracing God. More young men let the imaginations of others lead them into gaming vistas. More young ladies let the movies transport them to a romantic fantasy. More old people are dying alienated and alone with white knuckles clinging to a 401k for security. Somehow we call this absurd degradation real life. These are a shadow of the real. Reality is found in Christ.
The Christ-centered plan for God’s salvation was laid in ages past. Abraham had a hope given to him that his offspring would be a blessing to the nations. Abraham was to bless the nations. However, he was a real man with real fears. When those around him did not share his faith, he decided that silence about God was the best way to avoid conflict. Gerar, his new home, had no fear of God as far as he could tell. His own fears led him to hold loosely to religion and to take practical steps to ensure his own safety. He lied. It was a half-truth, but half-truths are the most effective lies. We have all been wounded by truths told with spite or half-truths where the sting in the tale is revealed only in its later telling. Outright lies tend to be more obvious. It takes God to expose a half-truth – at least it did for Abimelech.
Sexual intrigue, religious pluralism, fear of reprisal, half truths. This is real life. The lessons learned by Abraham are lessons which applied to the original recipients of Genesis. These lessons also apply to us. Freud suggested sexual liberty as a healing for the nations. For centuries the primacy of Christianity as the religion in the west has been crumbling. Now the fastest rising position of faith is to have faith in no faith. Apathetic atheism has seeped into private life from public silence about God. Like Abraham, our fears encourage us to keep our distinctive beliefs to ourselves. Attempts to coexist or tolerate have resulted in a new creed which is post-Christian moralistic, therapeutic, and deistic. In Sunday school children are taught that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, The Life. However, by the end of their assimilation Jesus has become an inoffensive way, a truth, a life. When the faith revealed by God is emptied of its distinctives it ceases to reveal the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
However, the passage teaches us that God will not be silenced. Even half-hearted evangelists will be prophets to a pluralist society. God brings affliction when the world wanders along its own sweet path. God brings healing when the hearts of the humble bow low. My heart is divided and my will is weak because my flesh is fatigued. However, I belong to Jehovah, the God who used Abraham. The God who took Abraham’s story and transformed it into a destiny with promise can take my life lived in 21st century commerce. He does not promise the blessing of a car, a swimming pool, or a plane. He promises the blessing of significance. Our lives will be a path walked by the divine even as our flesh wastes away. Our words will carry a wisdom that transcends our textbooks because it will reflect the life of the Spirit. As the world fades to darkness the light of the faith shines brighter and with more distinction. Even through Abraham’s folly he is shown to be a servant of the God who closes and opens wombs.
Give us ears to hear and eyes to see the God who has created life. Give us courage to apply God’s world to the real life that we are living. Help us to learn from ages past and apply the word to reveal the Way. May we fix our eyes on Scripture’s Truth. May we lead others from the falsehood of technologically enhanced consumerism into the arms of the one who is Real Life.
May we remember that you are real. May we take our eyes off of our material obsessions and live for something bigger than ourselves.
- What events in Genesis 20 are most like real life today?
- What events or details in Genesis 20 seem farthest from life today?
- What do people mean when they talk about real life as opposed to simply ‘life’?
- How is the life portrayed in fiction still helpful in facing real life?
- How can we make sure that biblical truth connects with real life?