Why do we keep dying? That’s what I imagine non-Christians ask who hang out around groups of Christians for any period of time. No, I’m not saying we’re all zombies, half-dead but refusing to submit to our mortality. Not quite at least. Have you ever stopped to think how much we invoke the phrase “die to self” or other images of death? The casual observer must think we’re all necrophiliacs or something, always talking about death. I’m guilty of this as well.
“What do you think happens when you die?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I turn into a ghost or something.”
“That sounds sad.”
“Why? What do you think?”
“Well, I believe in Jesus so I know I’ll be in heaven forever.”
*Long pregnant pause*
“Do you always think about death?”
“Do you always think about death?” I think that’s a question we need to ask ourselves. It’s easy to get caught with our eyes fixed on the cross, the Roman device of choice for public torture. It is only the symbol of Christianity. Just because it’s the symbol, it doesn’t make it everything. It seems however that we’ve latched onto this half of the story and we’ve tried our best to make it socially appealing. I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but it’s death. Death was never meant to be sexy or cool. Death is ugly, morbid and grotesque. Death is what it is and we need to accept it for that fact. It is necessary in our faith as it is also a fact of this life, but was never meant to be the lynchpin.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 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. “ — Romans 6:5–10
It’s for freedom we’ve been freed. We have life in Christ so that we might live it. Death is the antithesis of life. We can spend our days focusing on death, or we can be giving life to those around us. Doesn’t that even sound better? We are called to let the dead bury their own, but we contradict this when we are so consumed in death. In doing this, we serve to waste the life we’ve been given, but not guaranteed. Our actions show instead that we take it for granted and serve only to invalidate the gift.
There is wisdom in death. We know death so that we can fully appreciate the gift of life. We know death so that we might have a right view of God and the healthy fear that is inherent in understanding this stark contrast. We are not to cast aside death as to do so would be to embrace it fully (think about that for a second). Instead, with death in the back of our minds, we are called to pursue life and this is the balance we are to strive for in this existence. This is the vitality that God grants us.
With death on our heals, should we not run all the faster toward life? Instead we slothfully dawdle as if life waits on us. We have only so much time on this earth and yet we waste much of it. We who were running so well, what has slowed us? Have our muscles grown tired, our shoes worn out? If God took perfect care of the wayward Israelites in the desert for forty years, will He not do much the same for us? It’s time to break free from the death which we hold onto so tightly and resume our fervent pursuit of life. Isn’t life what we’re really desiring in the depths of our hearts? Then why do we keep dying?