I believe in Christ the Lord with all my heart. However I am confused when it comes to the eternal life. I don’t believe because I want eternal life. I just believe. The truth is that I really don’t mind if I don’t have eternal life. Does that mean that I am NOT a Christian?
Thank you for your question.
Your very first statement, “I believe in Christ the Lord with all my heart” is enough to know for certain that you are a Christian. It is the answer that Jesus is looking for what he says to his disciples, believe in me and you will know my Father who sent me and he will give you eternal life. (see John 6.40-50). This is the first position we must take in order to open ourselves up to the fullness of Christ’s teaching about his Father and about our own salvation and the possibility of eternal life with God.
So what is it that Christians believe about eternal life? First; what is it not? What might come to mind is a life in the clouds surrounded by angels playing harps, everybody dressed in white robes and looking somewhat bored. Our images of heaven cannot possibly do heaven justice and if these images are what you are having a hard time reconciling your beliefs to then it is safe to let those images go. We do not know what eternal life with God will look like but what we can say is that it is life with God, forever.
The Catholic Catechism says that heaven (eternal life) is “to be with Christ”, to have a perfect life with the Holy Trinity, and that we will see God for who God is, face to face (1023, 1024)
That might seem a bit vague but I would put it this way; The joy that you feel in this life believing in Jesus Christ is but a taste of the joy that Jesus has in story for us when we come to that place that he has promised does exist. His words to the disciples when they were questioning were, “Would I have told you so if it were not true” (John 14.2)
Is it necessary to believe in eternal life? I think that is okay for our understanding of eternal life remain somewhat confused, as it was for the first disciples. Thomas, who was always honest in his faith struggles, in response to Jesus talking about the afterlife said plainly, “Lord we don’t know where you are going so haw can we know the way to come after you” (John 14.5). The belief in Christ that you have and which I am sure you are living, without need for reward and without fear of punishment is a very healthy sign of the strength of your relationship with God. God wants us to be fully alive here and now, living the gospel and bringing others to God by sharing that love. Heaven is our destiny but love is our motivation.
If heaven is what Jesus says that it is, then one day when our time comes I have no doubt that it will be the perfect place for us to be. After all, it will be the fulfillment of all our human desires and longings. But until that time comes it is enough that we believe in Jesus and live the life that we have been given according to God’s law, without undue concern about the future.
Blessings and Peace,
aka Fr. Jon, C.Ss.R.