The first part of today’s message comes from Ephesians 2:1-10, where Paul talks about the spiritual status of his audience prior to their conversion: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). The passage emphasizes how lack of a spiritual life results in a living death. A contributing factor to the peril Paul mentions is a distracting illusion, one which tries to substitute a busy, materialistic existence for true spiritual life. The good news is that God offers a rescue plan, a redemption through love, mercy and grace which restores spiritual health.
The distractions and idols of day-to-day living often result in the neglect of spiritual health, which is at the core of a person’s relationship with God. This means that one of the greatest challenges each person confronts is recognizing the need for cultivating awareness and renewal. Absent a healthy spiritual life, a person exists in a state of degradation and death, dangerously concealed under a veneer of denial and normalcy. No matter what else is going well in life, without spiritual health there is little to no chance to experience true wellbeing.
Paul’s writing underscores a continuing problem: How can a person be alive and dead at the same time? The situation outlined by Paul refers to a virtual death, a status where a person is alive biologically but dead spiritually. We might refer to a person caught in this form of existence as a virtual zombie. People are in a flurry, caught in hectic activities scurrying and often stumbling through life just as a zombie lurches impulsively toward the next meal. Aside from their ferociousness, there’s another problem with zombies and that is their terrifying lack of a soul, the essence of humanity. Similar is it in the real world, where people move about, animated by worldly success and pleasures, yet neglecting their souls, rendering a spiritual life almost non-existent. Even many outwardly cheerful people can be eaten alive on the inside, harboring fatal appetites that ultimately consume themselves and others just as what happens in a zombie apocalypse.
Perhaps as nightmarish as a blood-hungry zombie lunging toward you is a less obvious monster, one residing within, driven by a greed and selfishness that taint and undermine love of self and neighbor. Residing in the heart of humanity is this threat from fangs of evil, which threatens to pierce souls as much as the virulent bite of the undead entity in a Hollywood horror flick. The metaphorical zombie pursuing you is often hidden, concealed by a veneer of normalcy and a layer of denial. The most horrifying zombie craving you is, like all such specters, intent on destroying you.
The inoculation against becoming zombified boils down to love, God’s core and the most powerful force in the universe. People can talk about love, even feel its force, yet resist transformation by love and thereby risk zombification. Now’s the tie-in to today’s final lectionary selection, an iconic verse from John’s gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Contemporary Christianity has invested these words with superlative significance. Modern American Christendom is inextricably combined with the talk, if not the walk, of God’s love. Love is the timeless, pervasive power of the universe. God’s love is the promise to set humans free from the horror of living death.
As people receive and share God’s love they are rendered zombie-proof. Redemption rather than destruction is God’s plan. The key to spiritual life is the journey from darkness to light, from death’s black goo to the scintillating flow of God’s love. The transformation from death to life entails a journey through transformed thoughts and deeds. This is how investing yourself in the power of God’s love activates a life of holistic wellbeing, a state of fulfillment not otherwise possible. Coming to the light is more than just another metaphor. In God’s love, humans embrace the salvation for which there is no substitute. Sadly, many people conclude that it is easier to hide in their ignorance rather than risk exposure by coming to the light. Trust God for your cleansing and healing as you embrace the Almighty’s love.
You needn’t remain dead in the trespasses and sins mentioned by Paul in Ephesians. Embrace the light and become a child of God, a soul energized by the holistic wellbeing of health in mind, body and spirit. That great love narrated by John’s gospel can become for you the ultimate reality, the promise and possibility realized in your life. Then, you can share with others what it is that God is accomplishing in you. Persist in loving and learning as you live a light-filled life, free from the zombies both real and imagined.