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Defining Eternal Life

Why do videos go viral? Some capture a moment so spectacular that the craze is understandable – like Susan Boyle’s audition on Britain’s Got Talent. No one questions why the video has 240 million views. Other videos are harder to explain. Gangnam Style is the seventh most-watched YouTube video of all time. The song is catchy, but there are countless other catchy videos that struggle to get a million views, let alone the 3.6 billion Gangnam Style has. We could dissect videos and speculate what makes some viral and most not, but our conclusions would be vague at best.

I have the same question about why certain Bible verses and stories are popular and others aren’t. John 3:16 is famous for obvious reasons, but why are the stories of Jonah and Zacchaeus popular? I like these stories – especially Jonah – but I think other passages are more essential and deserve more attention, like this quote from Jesus:

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

Jesus famously used parables to make points, but here His words were explicit – no parable needed. In one sentence, He defined eternal life. Why isn’t this verse more well known? Perhaps we don’t like God’s definition of eternal life? Regardless, this verse is foundational for understanding God and the Bible.

The original Greek word translated as ‘know’ implies an experiential knowledge, so Jesus is saying that eternal life is an intimate and personal relationship with God. Too often we falsely view eternal life as the absence of suffering along with the presence of constant joy. This fails to acknowledge God as the source of joy, and it leads us to exclude God and focus only on the things God provides. Jesus is not okay with this. Eternal life is God Himself, not His gifts.

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