One of the questions philosophers have wrestled with, from the beginning, has been “What is a life well-lived?” It’s a Christian question, too, at least if you’ve been to a Christian bookstore. They’re often full of books on Christian living, although not Christian living in a very Lutheran sense. No, they’re often full of books full of principles for a successful life, a life that bears the marks of God’s love in material blessings (listen to Peter’s Scripture narrative in the episode coming out to learn more about the dangers of that thinking). In fact, in frustration, I’ve frequently joked that, if I ever open a Christian bookstore (which is unlikely, although I do have a name for a pub picked out, if my wife ever makes enough money for me to retire and lets me open one), the biggest section will be on Christian dying.
What is it to live as a Christian? It’s to die to self. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). He writes to the Ephesians: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV).
So, while I love and enjoy the question about what it is to live a life well-lived, and I think there is a place for it, and I think even the Christian can learn much from philosophers from throughout the ages and various backgrounds, the question that must precede any discussion of a life well-lived, for the Christian, is whether you’ve died well, namely, whether you’re living the baptismal life. Paul put it like this for the Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3,4 ESV).
I think one of the most frustrating things about the Christian life, when it’s not understand appropriately, is the struggle to live. I think one of the most liberating things is to know that you’re alive, because Christ died, and you’ve died, to know that your life is a gift, even if sometimes hidden. To go back to Paul, this time to the Colossians (it sure seems like he repeated these themes a lot—I wonder why?), “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3 ESV).
Rather than checking vitals, Christ would have us live, and marvel at every breath. There’s no checklist, only grace, freedom, and our neighbor. There’s a life well-died, all as gift, that can now be well-lived, not for personal benefit, identity, or salvation, but for the glory of Him who bought us (and has given us the greatest benefits, a secure identity, and eternal salvation) and the well-being of our neighbor. God grant us all, through Christ’s death and resurrection, by Word and Sacrament, a life well-died.