It was C.S Lewis – the great writer, historian and Christian apologist who reminds us that in Ancient Greek, there were, in fact, two words for life:
Bios – that is biological life – our flesh and bones, if you like; that which is seen, and heard and smelt and touched, the tangible.
And, Zoe – which Lewis calls Spiritual life, ‘which is in God and which made the universe’. Here is that which is unseen, intangible; that which is sensed, and felt, that which stirs.
All of us our born with Bios but Zoe –the high and different sort of life that exists in God – this is something we are not born with but which we must receive.
This is the Christian affirmation and experience.
We will not accept (and emphatically so) the prevailing mood in the West that ‘this is all there is’. We will not embrace the doctrine of pure materialism. For every Christian disciple has – in their minds eye – seen something else. Something beyond. Something remarkable. Something life changing. Every follower of Christ has received the gift of God’s Zoe. To be sure it is not complete. It is a foretaste. An hor d’oeuvre that precedes the heavenly banquet. And so this gift of Zoe comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ. The only man in history whose zoe brought him through death and back to life.
Here then is life as Zoe. And Without such a central core of understanding, Christianity is pitiable, says St Paul. He is really saying, we should not bother with any of it – however noble it might seem in other ways.
Yet, with it. With this central core in place – Christ and his defeat over death – with this in place, it changes everything. It turns the world upside down as it turns us upside down.
At Easter we remember and marvel again at how the Zoe in Christ brought him through death and into eternity. It is the basis of our great hope. That as we put out life into the life of Christ – as we are unified with with him – so his Zoe in us will bring us through death and into eternity.
This is God’s great promise. It is also his great offer, which must be received, personally and individually by each one of us; it is an opt in system. God dignifies us to reject or accept it.
Back to Lewis, who having reminded the reader of Bios and Zoe, and with characteristic brilliance, closes the chapter in which he speaks of these things like this,
‘A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being carved stone to being a real man.
And that is precisely what Christianity is about.
This world is a great sculptors shop. We are the statue and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are, some day, going to come to life’