“I hate my life.” There have been moments in the past when I have said those words in jest. I have that luxury. My life is great, and that’s part of the point. Things are pretty good for me. I really have no reason to complain. Yet there are, of course, things within me that I don’t really like. Just because everything seems to be going great doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own struggles. But, when I’ve said, “I hate my life,” I haven’t really meant it.
The radio program This American Life featured a two-week, two-hour episode on life at a public school in Chicago. This is a school in which violence has become such a way of life that shootings, although shocking, aren’t really surprising. As I finished my run the other morning and was walking the last block to my house, I heard one of the students talking about how he felt after accidentally shooting and killing his brother. His grief had been featured throughout the two hours, and I felt like I was starting to get to know him. Then, as he spoke to a social worker in the school while the radio recorder was running, he said, “I hate my life.” But, when he said it, there was no joking. And, even though I was all alone and was listening to a story on a podcast, I exclaimed out loud, “Whoa!.” It was that serious.
In the gospel lesson for today (John 12:20-36), some Greeks—some curious, honest seekers—sent word to Jesus that they wanted to meet him. And Jesus said, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Whenever I hear Jesus say those words, I want to say he’s joking, but he’s not. I want to say that the Greek word for “hate” means something else that we have hard time translating, but it doesn’t. I want to laugh it off as Jesus being Jesus—taking things to the extreme and speaking hyperbolically—but I can’t. I think Jesus means what he says.
How much do you really love Jesus? It’s easy to say that we love him with our whole heart, but do we really? What matters to you? Where do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? What do you think about and care about and worry about most of all? I don’t know what it is for you. For me and for my generation, I think the answer is our children. The world is in trouble because parents like me have given so much attention and love to our children that one day they are going to grow up and be pretty spoiled. That’s just how we live today. I don’t know if my father’s father ever hugged him. My dad hugged me when it seemed important. I hug and kiss my son ten times after he brushes his teeth and before he goes to bed. Am I willing to give it up? Am I able to count it as meaningless when compared with the call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? What about you? What must you give up?
We must hate this life. We must rip it off and leave it behind. When Jesus responded to the Greeks’ inquiry, it was a moment when East and West came crashing together. Semitic wisdom collided with European philosophy. And Jesus’ question was, “Where do you start? What has meaning?” Do we begin with the life we have and try to make space within it for God? Or do we start only and purely with God and let this life fall where it may? Your life—your very breath and the blood pumping through your veins—is an empty, meaningless accident when compared with the life that is to come. Jesus died upon the cross to give real life to the world. If you’re hanging on to this life—if you’re looking at your existence through the lens of this life—you’re in the wrong place. Start with your redemption. It’s the only thing that matters. Stop building a life for you in this world. This world doesn’t matter. Let it go, and give yourself completely and totally to God.