I work with high school students so I hear a lot of youthisms. One of the most popular ones is “YOLO”, which stands for “you only live once”. The phrase inspires people to do the most with their lives because they only live once. Unfortunately, in my experience, YOLO is merely used as a justification for unwise behavior.
“Should I get trashed at this party? YOLO!”
“Should I live my life like a Katy Perry song? YOLO!”
“Should I do whatever feels good? YOLO!”
I just spent a weekend in Las Vegas, a city that exudes YOLO. I’ve been going to Las Vegas a couple times a year since I was 5. As I’ve gotten older and spent time outside the arcades, it’s easy to see people getting all YOLO in Vegas. People stumbling down the streets at 2:00 in the afternoon or piling into a cab to head to a strip club.
It’s true that we only live once, so shouldn’t we want to do more with our lives than waste them on poor decisions and sensual living?
I think YOLO could be a powerful idea. If we walked through our days clinging to the truth that we only live once, we might be inspired to do more with our lives. Instead of wasting our lives on trivial temptations and fleeting desires, we could focus on leaving a legacy that endures.
The apostle Paul was a proponent of YOLO.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul encourages us to run the race in order to win the prize. Instead of giving into all of our desires, Paul tells us to get our bodies under control in order to make the most of our lives. Paul would have YOLO inspire us to God-honoring lives, not unwise, impulsive behavior.
For the most part YOLO is a harmless saying, popularized by a song, which will most likely disappear. While the phrase itself may disappear, the sentiment will not. People will always seek to justify their unwise choices by saying they’re living it up while they can.
But the opposite will always ring truer.
We do only live once but that shouldn’t be justification for stupidity; it should inspiration for leaving a legacy. We can leave a legacy by pursuing Christ, living in such a way as to not disqualify ourselves and impacting those around us. That may not make for as a good of a rap song but it definitely makes for a better life.
How else can YOLO be redeemed for Christ?