I have become more and more convinced that what makes eternal life, well, eternal, is that it is LOVE. "Love never ends" says St. Paul. The life that is in Christ and which He reaches us as His own IS love, and thus it is true life, life forever. Song of Solomon knows of a love that is as strong as death, but in Christ our Lord we've encountered a love that is STRONGER than death.
In his homilies on John XVII, Luther remarks on the nature of our unity in Christ:
For to everyone who believes through the word of the Apostles, the promise is given for Christ's sake and by the power of this prayer, that he shall be one body and one loaf with all Christians; that what happens to him as a member for good or ill , shall happen to the whole body for good or ill, and not only one or two saints, but all the prophets, martyrs, apostles, all Christians, both on earth and with God in Heaven, shall suffer and conquer with him, shall fight for him, help, protect, and save him, and shall undertake for him such a gracious exchange that they will all bear his sufferings, want, and afflictions and he partake of all their blessings, comfort, and joy.
How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who can harm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels and the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him? [Sermons on John XVI-XX, 1528]
So far Luther. But what he describes here is exactly love. And such love as is in Christ and which Christ our Lord gives to us to be our life, our life together. The communion of saints is the communion of love!
At the Last Supper, Judas went out alone. He left the light, the life, the LOVE that is Christ and wandered into the darkness. A sign that this is the alternative: the love of Christ offered at His table where He makes His own one body and one loaf with Him and with each other, or going one's own way, doing one's own thing. The darkness.
I write about all of this tonight because of a conversation with Dr. Herl this afternoon. He was asking the question of how to address someone who argues that if I as a pastor stand in the way of using rock music or whatever, to get them into the church and so save them, then I am responsible for their loss. We talked a long while, and it was very clear to me that the matter is not one of music or style or adiaphora or any such thing. It is a matter of salvation. What do we mean by "saved"?
The person who insists on their own way and would have everyone go along with that or else they take their marbles and go home, is precisely a person who is NOT saved. We are saved not by demanding and getting our own way; He saves us literally by liberating us from that. From the way of Judas walking out in to the darkness to do his own thing; into the community where what any of us will is only and always to love the other, and the thought of insisting on one's own way is seen as something we must shrink from in horror and ask forgiveness for. Salvation that can be conceived of apart from the healing embrace of love (both Love in His embrace of us and our embrace then of each other), is NOT the salvation that Christ has prepared for His people. The eternal life He gives us IS love. And it is life and it is eternal precisely because it is nothing less than love.
Do these ramblings make any sense at all?