You Only Live Forever

September 4th, 2012
Image © randii2015 | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

If you pay attention to young peoples’ social-media posts these days, you are likely to notice that many of them include the tag, #YOLO. YOLO is an acronym that stands for “you only live once.” It arrived as a pop-culture staple late last year when the rapper Drake mentioned it in his hit single “The Motto.” Even more people became aware of it when actor and singer Zac Efron had it tattooed on the side of his right hand. Efron says that “you only live once” is his personal mantra. A quick look at Twitter might suggest it has become the mantra of many a teenager as well. And it isn’t just a popular online comment; “YOLO” has become firmly entrenched in the teen vernacular.

But what is the sentiment behind “you only live once”? Is it intended as an inspirational observation, suggesting that it is important to make the most of every opportunity that life has to offer? Or, is it to be taken as more of a permissive slogan, offering an excuse for risky behavior, a sort of dare to see what one can get away with?

We Weren’t Created to Be Temporary

When it comes to only living once, Christians will agree that each of us lives only one earthly life. But God did not create us to be temporary. While our earthly bodies will die, our resurrection bodies will live forever. Life here on earth is a precursor to eternal life with God, which is available to us because Jesus sacrificed his own life for ours.

Compared to eternity, our time on earth is rather short, but it is not insignificant. In fact, a quick look at the teachings of Jesus reveals that God intends for us to use this time in wise and meaningful ways. In the parable of the valuable coins (see Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus tells of two servants who are praised for making use of what they have been given, while the third is scolded for wasting the opportunity. He reminds us, in the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30- 37), that we aren’t to hurry through life, focused only on our individual obligations, but instead to recognize the needs of others and attend to them with our time, compassion, and resources. Also, Jesus wants us to understand, in telling us of the separation of the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25:31-46), that decisions in this lifetime can have eternal implications.

I Just Told Off Satan! #YOLO

Not every decision a teenager makes is a good decision. This isn’t necessarily due to a lack of thought. It’s just that there are different priorities being considered. The possibility of looking cool in front of friends—or a potential date—or the need to save face rather than backing down from a dare, sometimes outweighs the risk of personal injury or damaged property. And if he or she can brag about it on Twitter, all the better. Because—you only live once.

Young Christians should remember, though, that Jesus was in a similar situation. While being tempted by Satan (see Luke 4:1-13), Jesus was taken to the highest point of the Temple and asked to jump, to show off how the angels would immediately catch him. But Jesus told Satan not to put God to the test. His life was not for showing off, but instead for showcasing the glory of God. So, when Jesus said, “Let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16), he was telling us that our lives are meant for the same purpose today.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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