There’s a quirky thing that we sometimes do in evangelical Christianity called “life verses.” It’s when you pluck a verse or short passage out of the Bible and say it’s your favorite. It’s the verse you live by, sort of like your personal motto. It’s a relatively harmless, but wildly peculiar thing to do. Anyhow, if I were to claim a particular cherry to pick as my life verse, it would be 1 Thessalonians 5:21:
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
I like that verse. It’s pithy, it has a call to action, and it has a criterion for success. Best of all, I don’t have to remove it from its context for it to have meaningful significance for my own life. And for a long time, I had a pretty good handle on what it meant. I mean, obviously it means that if you want to know whether or not something is true, you need to do extensive research to determine its facticity (or lack thereof).
At least, that’s what I thought it meant… until a few months ago when I read it again.
You know how you can look at something over and over again, and never notice a thing? But then one time you look at it and suddenly see the thing, and then after that you can’t help but see that thing every time? Well, one day not too long ago, I read that verse again and noticed that Paul didn’t write, “hold fast to that which is true.” What he wrote was, “hold fast to that which is good.”
Good. Not true, but good.
And it reminded me of the short story, The Egg, by Andy Weir (you know, the guy who wrote that Matt Damon comedy, The Martian).1 I’ve included a short film adaptation of The Egg below. I really encourage you to take the ten minutes or so to watch it. I think it’s time well spent (and it’ll make the rest of my post make sense).
Wow, right? That’ll screw with your head, huh?
I know according to fundamentalist demagogues I’m not supposed to like that video and find it compelling, or even mildly entertaining. I’m supposed to get indignant and apologetic about it. After all, that’s not what happens when you die. That’s bad theology. That’s some liberal, new agey, Hindu-ish stuff.
But I cannot help but love that story. You see, I keep thinking, what if that were true? What implications would that have for how I treat others? How would having that insight change they way I regard my wife and my children, my neighbors and coworkers, even… or rather especially my enemies?
And I wonder, is the concept put forth in this video really such a terrible thing? Does it matter if I don’t think it’s correct or accurate or intellectually tenable? Because even if it’s not true, it sure seems good.
What do you think?
1: Click here to read the short story itself.