Last time I wrote (it has been a while!), I discussed the “Sacredness of Life.” If life is inherently sacred, then doesn’t it follow that death is the thief that robs us of what is most precious? Logically, life and death are opposite ends of the spectrum, not only from a physiological perspective but a theological one as well.
Yet, you can hear confusing messages about death all the time. Far from viewing death as an enemy to be defeated, many Christians talk about death as “no big deal.” “We are all going to die anyway.” Lately, these kinds of glib comments have been used to diminish our need to be concerned with the Coronavirus. We are all going to die anyway, so what’s the big deal? Why should we care?
Even before these troubling days, I have often heard Christians describe death as an escape from suffering. There is some truth to that. People suffering with intractable pain, may agree with the apostle Paul who once said, “…to die is gain…I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…” (Phil. 1:21, 23). Paul had suffered much. He was not afraid of death. He knew that his reward lay beyond death, but please do not think that Paul thought death itself was the reward.
Today, you hear people throwing caution to the wind because, “I am not afraid of death!” But if you are, “You should stay home!” Such comments are full of false piety and completely devoid of real life situations. They aren’t saying these comments from the solemn ground of a freshly dug grave or as their final words from their deathbed. Rather, they speak them out of the selfish hubris that has consumed a nation.
My comments here are not meant to be political, though politically outraged people will take them that way. I am making a theological point that is also thoroughly biblical. Death is the enemy. The same Paul we heard from earlier said so. At the return of Jesus, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
Yes, death can be a passageway to heavenly reward. And no, Christians should not fear death, because Jesus has defeated it. But treating death flippantly and acting as if there are no consequences diminishes the victory that Jesus has won over death. When I stand on that sacred ground in which we lay a loved one to rest, I know death will not have the last word. That is why I can face it, not because “we’re all going to die anyway.”
When I think of death as an escape from the pain, I understand the sentiment. But it is our culture, not Scripture, that treats death as an ally and suffering as an enemy. While suffering will ultimately not have a place in God’s new creation, it does have a sanctifying role to play in this death-marred world (e.g. Rom. 5:1-5).
I choose to keep living, even when it hurts, because that is the way I honor my Creator and the sacredness of the life he gave me. And though pain is no small matter, God can use it to increase my nearness to Jesus, and through faithful living, I can glorify him. I care about my life; I care about yours too, and so does God. Let’s try to honor the life God has given each of us!