If you are over 25 you may not understand what YOLO means. (I had to look it up, myself.) If you are among the younger set you are probably quite familiar with the term. For those of my age, more or less, an explanation may be in order. YOLO is an acronym for “You only live once.” Although the phrase has been around for over a hundred years, it was popularized recently in a rap by Drake and Rick Ross. Some say it is roughly equivalent to carpe diem (seize the day), as in the Robin Williams film Dead Poets Society. In the 1960s Peggy Lee popularized the thought in the Leiber and Stoller song, Is That All There Is? “If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing, Let's break out the booze and have a ball If that's all there is.”
In popular culture, YOLO is an excuse for doing something stupid or sinful. Examples might include, “Hey, I got drunk and totaled the car, but YOLO,” or, “I got an F on the exam because I didn’t study, but YOLO.” (These are among the cleaner examples, in deference to the sensibilities of some of my readers.) The apostle Paul expressed the meaning of YOLO in 1 Corinthians 15:32. “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.” If there is no resurrection of the dead, if this life is all there is, then YOLO.
I first saw the term on the Facebook page of the daughter of an elder in the church. When I looked it up, I wondered if her parents understood the meaning of YOLO. I am hoping they talked to her and put another spin on the phrase. There is, after all, a way of looking at it in a more biblically sound manner.
As Paul said, if there is no resurrection from the dead, then YOLO. But if there is an afterlife of punishment and reward as described in the Bible, then the term takes on a whole new meaning.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb 9:27-28)
Here the author turns it around. Because YOLO and judgement, Christ bore our sins. We only get one chance, and Jesus died to make sure that once is enough. Because there is a resurrection, Paul says that YOLO, in its popular sense, is an evil communication that corrupts good morals.
Because Jesus died for us, we don’t take advantage of God’s forgiveness. Instead, we try to live in a manner worthy of that forgiveness.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Rom 6:1-7)
YOLO should not be an excuse for sin or stupidity. Rather, we live as God would have us live because Jesus didn’t only live once.