On August 17th, the Time magazine cover featured Palmer Luckey. The twenty-two year old invented the Oculus Rift, a virtual realty headset. Last year Luckey sold his startup company to FaceBook for $2.3 billion—yes, BILLION with a capital “B!”
The cover article discussed the emerging field of virtual reality. Headsets transport users into a computer generated landscape. Although still in the development stage, science fiction promise is becoming science fact.
Work also continues on augmented reality—the updated term for holograms. Experts foresee a day when glasses will be able to project realistic holograms on the real world.
First adopters of virtual and augmented reality have even coined a term for the world around us. They call it REAL reality! However, a reader gets the sense that most prefer their alternate realities to the real world.
But is even the real world really REAL? Much of what we consider real is no more substantive that a computer generated world. Albert Einstein said: Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Jesus told The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12) where a man enjoys a great harvest, builds bigger barns, and plans to enjoy a wealthy retirement. In the darkness of the night, however, he dies—and all his riches go to someone else.
Christ defines what is real with a simple, diagnostic question: Will it last? Is it eternal or temporal? Storing up the things the world calls real will result in disappointment. Only treasures stored up in heaven’s vaults will last. True reality is not the physical but the spiritual, not the temporal but the eternal.
After all, what good is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul? (Matthew 16:26)
In his classic book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis describes a man’s visit to heaven. Lewis presents a strange but mesmerizing image of the afterlife. God’s kingdom is so real that the grass will not even bend under the feet of those newly arrived. Streams of water are as solid as moving roads. And those who first enter seem as ephemeral and transparent as ghosts. As persons travel up into the “high lands” towards God, however, they become more and more solid.
Lewis summed up the theme of the book when he wrote: Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. (p. 69)
The real world is NOT: paychecks . . . traffic jams . . . stocks and bonds . . . insurance policies . . . social status . . . school awards . . . recognition by our peers . . . latest fashions . . . our favorite TV program . . . politics . . . bank accounts . . . trophies . . .
The real world IS: reading a book with our child . . . holding hands with your spouse . . . talking with a friend . . . studying Scripture . . . worship . . . prayer . . . sharing with someone else about Christ . . . feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, housing the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting those who are sick or in jail . . .
In summary, reality is the spiritual part of life, the part of life that is invested in eternity. Any part of life that is exclusively related to this world is not reality, but only a passing moment, necessary for the time, but certainly not ultimate. What is really real connects us to the eternal while we live in the temporal, links us to God’s kingdom while we continue on in the world.
So . . . get real.