I just recently lost a friend, Jordan, who died what could be called an “untimely death.” He was 31 years old, had a beautiful family, with his wife and 3 young children, and an impact on the lives of others that belied the mere 31 years he was with us.
If you knew Jordan, you knew that one of his big things was the idea Live Life. He signed off his emails with this phrase. His email address contained his own reminder to himself: liveJordanlive. This was a man who wanted to drink in life to its fullest.
Now, there is a strain of thought in our society that may misunderstand Jordan’s quest to live life to the fullest as basically a hedonistic pursuit. A few years back it was expressed with the acronym Y.O.L.O. You Only Live Once. The thought behind YOLO was that you should do what you wanted because you never know when you were going to die. Gather in as much pleasure as you could acquire: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.
To get at the meat of what Jordan’s little motto meant you had to look to the tattoo on his arm. It was a little snippet from the Bible, written in Greek characters, found in John 10:10. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
This little vignette is part of a larger discourse, where Jesus says things like "I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." Also, "I am the good shepherd, I lay down my life for my sheep." And "The good shepherd calls to his sheep and leads them, and they follow him because they are his." It is very much a worthwhile exercise to read Chapters 9 and 10 of John together to get the context of this verse.
Jordan's tattoo comes right in the middle of this section about the Good Shepherd. The image is a contrast between a thief who wants to steal and destroy the life of the sheep and the good shepherd who wants the sheep to "have Life, and have it to the full." A picture of what this full life means for the sheep can be seen in Psalm 23.
What we must remember though, is that the good life for the sheep isn't one where they simply wander wherever they want eating and drinking what they want. It is not hedonism. The shepherd directs the sheep according to what he knows is best for the sheep. The sheep, if it wants to be happy and healthy, will follow the direction of the shepherd because the shepherd knows best. It trusts the shepherd. If the sheep follows it's own whims and desires it will inevitably end up sick or injured or dead or eaten or all four.
This is the claim Jordan believed and had tattooed on his arm:
When Jesus says he came to give life abundantly, he really is capable of doing just that.
He knows what is truly best for the human condition, and not only what is best, but how to teach people to live in that order of life. One of the things we tend to forget when we think about Jesus was that he was a really smart man. He knows what a good life for a human being is in the same way that a shepherd knows what a good life is for the sheep. He proved it by living that type of life as a display of his understanding, and as an invitation to join and learn from him.
Everyone knows that Jesus died for our sins. It's such a common phrase that it has become trite. Even Bart Simpson knows that Jesus died for his sins. What people don't know is why Jesus lived. We tend to focus so much on his death that we forget that it is the smallest part of each gospel that focuses on his death -- the majority focuses on his life. And while Christians tend to emphasize the forgiveness of sins through his death (and the "ticket" into heaven this purchases us after we die), they have a tendency to ignore the new type of life, available now, that Jesus offered us through his own life. We will trust his death to save us after our own death, but we don't trust his Life. We tend to trust a single action he did instead of the person himself. We take up a benefit given to us after our death, but we won't accept the glorious life that is offered to us now.
This post is my meager attempt at a tribute to Jordan. These are things we discussed that really got the man animated. A man who I'm realizing, now that he is gone, meant more to me than what I understood while he was here. This is a distillation of some long conversations we had, some books we shared, some bourbon we drank and some pipes we smoked. He was an example of someone making his attempt at following the life of Christ. Who saw that the truly good life was to be had by learning how to live it from the Master of the Good Life. For some people being a Christian means accepting that Jesus died for your sins so that you can get into heaven when you die. Jordan understood that “trusting Jesus” meant much more than trusting merely in his death. It meant trusting in Jesus, the person himself, his life, his teachings, his actions -- trusting that He really did know how to live life to the fullest and that by following him, learning from him, we could too.
P.S. It would be a mistake to read the term "good life" in this post as meaning merely the morally good life. That is included in the breadth of the term, but it is a small part of the whole.