A Christian Response to Death

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Death – it’s the opposite of life. It destroys what God has created and is thus contrary to God’s ultimate desire and design. But in this broken world it’s a reality we all face.

I once took an informal poll on Facebook – I asked people what came to mind when they thought about dying. I received quite a variety of answers:

–          Does our spirit immediately go to heaven?
–          No more sickness and no pain!
–          Is it going to hurt…?
–          Jesus…and playing like a crazy person on a grand piano on the other side of the Golden gates. lol. I mean Pearly gates.
–          My Mother whom suffered for months, my Twin Sister who passed away with cancer – if you’re prayed up, packed up and ready to go then it is the final healing, no more suffering, pain, or sickness.
–          When I think of death and dying I envision two different ends of the spectrum. On one end is the person/s left behind which can be a very emotional experience. On the other end is the person who has died. In that I see calmness, blessing and a peaceful beginning with our Jesus…King of Kings.
–          I can’t wait! – Not for the trauma of the death of this old body, but for who is waiting for me in heaven. I can’t wait to see Jesus!!!!!
–          I know it sounds overplayed and we lose sight of the real impact and meaning of it but we get to see and be with The Lord Jesus Christ forever!!! If creation is intricate but still flawed as it is any indication of what is to come our minds our going to be blown!!! Wow! God forever!!!
–          Meeting my daughter in her Glorified body…..and knowing I MADE IT! LOL!!!!
–          I think how much I love my family and how I never want any of them to die, but neither do I want them to suffer. At the very least, should any of them go, I know where it is they go, with whom they’ll be, and that the family left behind will be civil toward each other.
–          Sweet release! The next phase of life.

Our responses to death cover a wide range of philosophy, religion, stuff we’ve read in Dante’s works, and myriad other places. Let’s take a little time and look at what the Bible says about death, dying, and some other related aspects of death.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. (Mark 14:32-39)

It is a normal human response to have an aversion to death. Even Jesus, when faced with death, prayed repeatedly that God would alter the path before him so that he could avoid the cross. In our own humanity it’s okay to dislike death. The Bible doesn’t tell us to “have a stiff upper lip” when it comes to our mortality. Like Jesus, we might find ourselves praying, “God, please change this course. I don’t want to walk this road.”

I once read that we fear death more intensely than other things because it is the only area of life that is uncontrollable and unknown. It’s something that comes to us all. Sometimes we know it’s coming. Sometimes it takes us by surprise. That not knowing can mess with us, can instill us with fear, can paralyze us. But fear is not a result of trusting in God. Fear is a result of our own attempts to control life. Jesus showed aversion to death – he didn’t show fear. In the end he surrendered his will to the Father because he knew that there was something more – something greater – in store.

Living here and now in light of tomorrow is the hallmark of Christian death. We might have an aversion and avoid it as we can, but embracing the idea that death finds us all compels the Christian to action in the here and now. The Apostle Paul talks about the death of Christ being a catalyst for a new way of living life:

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (Romans 6:7-12)

Life here needs to be lived in light of Jesus’ death and in light of the life that awaits us on the other side. To echo Maximus from Gladiator: What we do now echoes in eternity!

Because there is more to come. There is a world that awaits us when we cross from this life to the next. Grave sites originally called coemeteria (cemeteries), literally “resting places” – because people knew that dust was not the end – the spirit lives on. Thus, while Christians mourn our own loss at the passing of a loved one, we can celebrate death because we know of what awaits. Before A.D. 700 the funeral dress was white, not black. They were joyous occasions. Look at the words of Jesus:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”( John 14:1-4 ~ 14)

And the words of the Apostle Paul:

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”( 1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

This world is not the end. Christians used to say, “This world is not my home, I’m simply passin’ through.” There is more to life than this flesh and blood. And one day the pain, the suffering, and the sorrows that we face will cease.

As long as I have breath I know that God has a plan and purpose for me, but I won’t fear the day when I leave this world behind. All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong.

Give me Jesus.

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