“If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you… there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Moments of mortality hit us, often, from the blind side. When we least expect it, the fragility of life, and the oppressive weight this fragility lugs, can pounce on our backs. Whether it be something as impersonal as learning of a celebrity’s death on Twitter, or something far closer to home, such as the sudden loss of a loved one, mortality has a way of leaving a smarting, unexpected sting across the cheek.
A byproduct of the human condition is an inability to fully grasp the temporary nature of our existence. We know, from a purely biological perspective, that a day will come when we will perish. We know this, but we very rarely live as if we do. Even in those moments, so rare in a world determined not to acknowledge its own fleeting nature, our responses so often miss the mark.
We stick to trite, easily-digestible phrases imploring us to chase our dreams and live every day as if it were our last, to live exactly how we prefer to live. When the reality of mortality is forced into our field of vision, our default response is to remind ourselves to live a life as self-involved as possible for as long as possible.
The world does its best to assure us that happiness and fulfillment can only be found in our never-ending quest to focus on the self. Internal gratification, in whatever context we choose, is where we should devote our energy. This is how we give our lives purpose, we are told, through the full-scale exploration of our own desire.
As Christians, we are not exempt from these temptations. Quite the opposite. The temptation to throw ‘outdated’ ideology away and run into the warm embrace of public approval and private desire is very real, and has claimed the faith of many a believer. To embrace the temporary nature of our Earthly lives is challenging, and then to respond accordingly is doubly so.
As Christians, we believe in an afterlife. We believe in an afterlife either in the presence of God in heaven, or in the absence of God in hell. We believe those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior, and recognize his work on the cross as our only saving grace, are destined to spend eternity in His presence, while those who have not will not.
We believe this. Instinctually we recognize the importance of the gospel, we understand the desperate need every human has for it. Yet, so often, we shy away from sharing it.
Penn Jillette is a noted atheist. He is a recognized entertainment personality, and is best known as one half of the comedy magic duo, Penn & Teller. Jillette is very open about his atheism. He wrote an essay for NPR in 2005 simply titled ‘There Is No God’ in which he lays out his claim for a world untethered to meaning. He is an intelligent man who holds his convictions strongly. He is also a man who believes wholeheartedly in the demand on the Christian to share the gospel they hold so dear.
“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Jillette said in a YouTube video from 2010. “If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Jillette understands, while simultaneously in complete denial of his wholesale need for Jesus, that those who believe have an obligation to share the gospel. When that recognition is so easily understood by a man who has spent his life denying the gospel’s power – or its very existence – why are we so slow to share?
Our response to the temporary nature of our lives should, ultimately, reflect the point Jillette makes. We simply are not guaranteed tomorrow, which should impact today. With however much time we are given, we have the opportunity to chase fleeting satisfaction, or impact the Kingdom for eternity.
Life truly is a vapor. Invest well.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,’ - yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:13-14