Somehow we seem to have lost touch with the fact that we’re dying. I don’t know how this happens. It is the one thing in life that is absolutely guaranteed: we will die. Yet, we tend to live as if our days will last forever. We make money, buy big houses, buy new cars, watch our big screen televisions and whisper to ourselves that death is long way off…that we should eat, drink, and be merry, and pretend that life will continue on forever. That we are able to trick ourselves like this – to blind ourselves to our impending demise – is one of our strangest capacities. For death is all around us. Our friends and loved ones pass away. The evening news is filled with the reality. And if we’re still and quiet, we can feel ourselves getting older…heading toward death. How is it that we are able hide our eyes from this?
Yesterday I was working out and I overheard two guys talking about how many motorcyclists were killed in Myrtle Beach over the last couple of weeks. One of the guys had witnessed an accident that took a woman’s life. He spoke about it as if it were nothing more than a scene in a movie. I could tell that he was unable to believe that this could happen to him. Death is viewed by most of us as something remote…out there…something that happens to other people, but never to us.
Noted philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal commented on this phenomena. He said that though we are unable to deny the fact that we are dying, we do anything in our power to divert ourselves from it. Consider a few of his thoughts:
Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition.* Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things.* We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us (from) seeing it.* (Pensees, 434, 133, 166)
Pascal makes it clear. We deal with death simply by pretending, against all logic, that it does not exist. We pluck out our eyes to keep from seeing the sun. And yet, one of the greatest glories of the Gospel is that those who belong to Christ Jesus have been delivered, not only from Sin, but also from Death. We followers of Christ, of all people, are most able to look death square in the eye. Have we lost touch with this truth? In our day and age the Gospel has gotten high-jacked by so many other things. We try to use the gospel as a means to make us rich, happy, healthy, politically powerful, to get a job, to raise perfect children, to ward off Harry Potter, to make and sell bracelets, to adorn t-shirts, to make bumper stickers, to intimidate wrong doers, to affirm our opinions, to sell books and paintings, to validate our business ventures, to make movies, to build buildings, and to raise money. Of course, I could go on and on.
Have we forgotten, in the midst of our hustling and abusing the gospel, that the good news of Jesus Christ is given to rescue desperate people from the merciless power of Sin and Death? We must remember that the Gospel is meant to empower us to live free from fear, worry, and anger; to fill us with the power to live as people consumed with a Love, a Faith, and a Hope that looks death in the face; and gives us the strength to say, “You have no power over me. I have nothing to fear.”
With everything else that the Gospel may rightly provide us, may we never forget this great and terrible truth: Everyone will die. Christian, proclaim it! Proclaim it, because we all forget it. Proclaim it, because we so emphatically deny it. And with this truth, also proclaim, with much hope and courage, that the Gospel has freed us from the darkness of death. For the believer, death is not final. May this truth take root in our souls so deeply that when the day comes that death knocks on the door of our lives, we will answer with confidence, knowing that this merciless robber will find nothing worthy to steal. Jesus has already claimed for himself – all that we have, all that we are, and all that we could ever hope to be.
My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come
– Song of Songs 2:10-12