I've heard the snide comment more than once, usually coming from an engaged guy's single buddies. Inevitably, shortly before his wedding day, at least one of his buddies will pipe up and say something like, "So, I guess you're ready to give away your freedom! You're signing up for the old ball and chain!" A statement like this, of course, is meant to evoke a visceral, almost reflexive, reaction from the betrothed as he defends his masculine autonomy: "No! She's not going to tie me down! I'll be the same guy I've always been!" The irony of his defense is that if he actually lives up to that statement, he will be a lousy husband. For at the very heart and soul of marriage is a promise to forfeit any selfish autonomy as "two become one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31). In marriage, then, two people, gladly, willingly, and under the blessing of God, give up their lives alone so that they may live life together.
The picture of marriage is an apt metaphor, and one that is employed by the Scriptures themselves, for a person's life in Christ. For when a person becomes a Christian, he is called to forfeit his autonomous life for one with Christ. As Jesus himself says, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it" (Mark 8:35). This is the background behind Paul's words in Colossians 3. He writes in verse 3: "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
Notice that Paul says that a Christian has a life, but to the outside world, it is not readily apparent. Rather, to the outside world, it often appears as if a Christian has signed up for a "ball and chain" of divine administrations, regulations, and stipulations. To the outside world, it appears as if a Christian has forfeited his autonomous and vibrant life of fun, frivolity, and freedom for a more somber and serious spirituality.
And yet, appearances can be deceiving. There is terrific and vibrant life in following Christ, even if that life is currently "hidden" from many. Paul says that one day, all will see the full vibrancy of a Christian's life: "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (verse 4). One day, on the Last Day, all who once thought that those who followed Christ had signed themselves up for a "ball and chain" of deathly dictums from Christ will see an eternal and glorious life emerge.
One of the most popular shows of the 1980's was Robin Leach's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Long before reality television and MTV's "Cribs" or VH1's "The Fabulous Life Of," Robin Leach was whisking us around the world for an inside peak at some of the world's most famous millionaires and bidding us "champagne wishes and caviar dreams." And the lifestyles of these millionaires were indeed breathtaking and alluring. After all, who wouldn't want a mammoth mansion with every conceivable amenity?
As tempting as some of Robin Leach's featured lifestyles might have been, the truth is, they cannot even begin to compare to a life in Christ. For long after mansions crumble and what were once cutting edge amenities find themselves relegated to obscurity, life in Christ remains. For life in Christ is eternal. Rejoice in that life today.