The “End” of our Lives: Loving and Caring for Others
John StonestreetTimothy D Padgett
A friend recently overheard a young woman comment, “I feel like once you have kids, your life is just done.” So, despite pressure from her mom, she said, she was in no rush to settle down. “I’ve got too much living to do. I want to wait a while before I’m finished.”
It’s not uncommon to hear people suggest things like this. Marriage, family, and parenting are seen by many as distractions from what life is really about (amusement or travel or a career), or even worse, a sort of death sentence that marks the end of all our fun. For example, despite ample research showing otherwise, there’s a clear message in sitcoms and romcoms that the quickest way to become miserable and end a good sex life is to get married. Being single means being free and unencumbered, the story goes, especially for women.
In our recent conversation about the Dobbs case currently before the Supreme Court, Dr. Ryan Anderson described a similar sentiment: the claim often advanced by many in the pro-abortion movement that women “need” abortion in order to fully participate in society. Anderson observed, “If that statement is true, that is a condemnation of our society.” If we’re only fully human when we’re “free” from loving and caring for those closest to us, we have a puny vision of humanity.
So much of the American dream centers on pleasures and possessions, career paths and vacations, while seeing the dirty work of diapers, tending to a sick spouse, or making a meal for a neighbor as something between necessary and avoidable annoyances? Even Christians are tempted to imagine that in “real” Christian life and ministry, a big platform is preferable over caring for actual people. Or that those involved in serving people through “full-time Christian ministry” are doing the real work of God, while those caught up in ordinary, everyday life comprise the B-Team?
This way of seeing things has it all backward. Christians in “the ministry” play a vital and important role in God’s plan, but that role is to teach and support those faithfully living everyday life in obedience to Christ.
To put it differently, marriage and family life, loving our neighbors, and caring for our elders, really is “the end of life,” just not in the sense those two young women thought. Those things are among the ends – the intended purposes of humanity – for which God created and calls us.
Families and communities are real work and, through them, God works on us, in us, and through us. What if the ordinary tasks of life together are the front lines of the kingdom of God? What if it’s in the context of our daily relationships, including those that seem mundane, that we are most fully serving God? Many in the Church are ready to die for the Faith, but far less are willing to live for it.
It’s important to remember that in Genesis, God didn’t say that it is not good for man to be lonely. Rather, He said it’s not good for man to be alone. Our chief end is to glorify God, and most of our opportunities to glorify God are in loving and caring for others. And that’s what he intended, particularly those who make up our families and communities. It’s these endeavors that make up truly radical lives, especially today. It’s these endeavors that have the real potential to bring change to the world.
In 1955, C. S. Lewis wrote to a woman struggling to find meaning in her work as “just” a housewife. The great writer challenged her to turn the entire perspective around. Instead of being a nonessential worker in the economy of God’s work on Earth, hers was the center. Here’s how Lewis said it:
“We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.”
Though he was speaking specifically to what we call “stay-at-home-moms,” the principle applies across areas of life that the world and the Church are too quick to dismiss as insignificant or as getting in the way of our true selves.
Caring for one another, particularly when few see what we are doing, isn’t God’s back-up or second-best plan for human life; it’s what He designed for us to do from the beginning. This is the end of life.
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