Echoes in Eternity
Wrapping our whole selves in Christ.
In the movie Gladiator, the protagonist, Maximus, encourages his troops before a battle saying, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” A similar theme runs throughout the film as it follows Maximus’s heroic exploits as a gladiator to defy a corrupt emperor. In the end, Maximus’s struggle to restore the republic earns him great fame and a place among the Roman heroes.
The desire for glory and honor is a powerful motivator. And when someone commits him or herself to a noble and just cause, surely it is right to honor that person. Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to lead the nation through a civil war in the cause of freedom is commendable. A monument on the National Mall seems more than appropriate. The greatest athletes rightly win places in the Hall of Fame for their accomplishments.
The Bible too includes a hall of fame of sorts. Scripture lists Abel, Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Samuel, and others among the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 11). These are patriarchs and prophets who demonstrated great faith in God. They offer examples for Christians to emulate today.
Their stories tell us why the author of Hebrews considers them Christian heroes. Interestingly, they are full of suffering, persecution, trials, and death. Hebrews tells us that it was their great faith which “was commended as having pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). But it was the same faith which also invited scorn and humiliation from the world.
Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Denying ourselves is a fundamental aspect of discipleship. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son in obedience to God. Paul considered all his earthly merits as nothing compared to the worth of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8-10). The more we die to ourselves, says Scripture, we find new life in Christ (Rom. 6:11).
In fact, the denying of oneself is so complete, says John the Baptist, that Jesus “must increase” while we decrease (John 3:30). The mark of discipleship is actually to have one’s life “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). To truly live, says Paul, is to wrap up every part of oneself in Christ (Phil. 1:21).
Those who gravitate to politics are ambitious and hard-working. Most nobly spend their days striving to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. But Christians in public office ought to remember that few Presidential Medals of Freedom are bestowed on disciples of Christ who denied themselves and exalted Christ in their offices. The world is not interested in echoing the actions of Christians who glorify God above all.
But that is no reason for despair. To suffer for Christ is to demonstrate the promises of the Gospel. Jesus actually tells the persecuted to “rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12). By rejecting the false promises of eternal glory in this life, Christians point to a better, brighter glory: the glory of the Triune God who is worthy and deserving of all our praise.
Robert Hasler is Director of Communications and co-host of The Will & Rob Show.