Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25
As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming sacrifice and resurrection, he describes what a follower of his looks like. Like a grain of wheat, that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit.
A follower of the Christ must be willing do die to the false self in order to begin to experience the blessing of new life. (click to tweet!)
But within this passage, Jesus also uses a contrast between one who loves his life and one who hates his life in this world. He likens the grain of wheat that dies to one who hates his life in this world.
What does it mean to hate this life?
Is it a sin to enjoy a sunset? To delight in a good meal? Look forward to sexual intimacy with our spouse?
Does this teaching mean we are to avoid things that are pleasurable? Must the one who follows Christ become an ascetic – abstaining from all forms of pleasure or enjoyment?
Historically, this is just what some have done. Practicing asceticism, moving to the wilderness, living in isolation and in intentionally hard circumstances to avoid enjoyment.
Yet, we see a lot of this in our churches too. Not that it would be called asceticism, but those whose mindset is that to experience happiness is spiritual weakness.
But Judaism is filled with feasts and celebrations, that Jesus partook in. This same Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard. You don’t get that label if you do not find moments in which to have some enjoyment.
So, what does it mean?
Hating this life means that we should not attempt to find wholeness in the things of this world.
There is a difference between enjoying a meal that is well prepared and tasty and turning to food for a sense of comfort.
There is a difference between finding pleasure in different forms of intimacy with your spouse and needing that relationship to validate one’s worth as a person.
Hating this life means not to look to what we do, what we have, and what people think of us for our sense of worth.
It means not to use the standards of this world and comparison with others as a way to define our identity.
We should hate how the world builds a desire in us to be pulled from God and seek wholeness on our own. Exactly the desire we saw built up in Eve in the garden.
We should hate the brokenness that seeking wholeness apart from God perpetuates in this world and in our relational systems.
Loving or hating this world speaks to what you are pursuing.
Jesus is our wholeness. Clothed in the righteousness he provides, we experience freedom from this worlds false standards and also peace with God.
Dying to our false self means we daily – moment by moment – remember and live in our true covering.
Once we have experienced the unfailing love of Christ, the old things we turned to begin to lose their powers of satisfaction.
We can begin to learn to enjoy a meal for the taste rather than the comfort it provides.
God wants us to enjoy. That was part of his instruction in the garden. That is part of his being a Father that gives good gifts.
But, in those gifts we are not to seek wholeness apart from him.