I DON’T WANT to write about death today, even though it surrounds me…particularly because it surrounds me. I am weary of the relentless reports of bloodshed and conflict and violence, and the despair they engender. Instead, I shall take shelter in the promise of life.
In the 10 months of this administration, I have often felt choked by the culture of death it has bred. I confess to being discouraged, frustrated, depressed, caught in the stranglehold of a mindless brute who commands a mindless multitude. And there were moments when I came near submission to defeat and an admittedly welcome numbness.
But I “raged, raged against the dying of the light,” for despite the carnage, there is yet life.
I am welcoming Lent with meditations on life and the militant fact that, while Christ went in His passion to the cross, He triumphed in resurrection.
I am thinking of Jesus and what it meant for Him to embrace death to satisfy His Father’s justice.
“We all fall short” of God’s standard, the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans. There is none of Adam’s seed who can boast of soundness or acceptability before God, he said. We all err, we all miss the mark, we are all in some way defiant and proud. We all fall short of God’s expectations. We can never, by our own doing, satisfy His just requirements, in spite of how good or charitable or sacrificial we are. Ultimately, Paul declared, we all remain sinners. We all fall short. Sadly, Paul added, “the wages of sin is death,” and every human being has naught to anticipate at life’s end but an eternity of anguish and acute suffering. This is just – for as sinful humans we deserve no better.
That is how things stood until Christ climbed the cross. He paid the penalty we owed, and thereby brought hope and an alternate future for those who put their faith in Him. By His death, Christ bought life for those who believe: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
He threw down death and conquered its thrall. The grave could not hold Him; His life was overpowering. It overflows now to those who have faith in Him, who are promised renewal and enjoyment of His presence evermore. We did not deserve a second chance; He bought it for us anyway.
These are the facts of Scripture, and for those of the Christian faith, they are binding. Unfortunately, many Christians only mull these truths at Lent and otherwise revert to the secular wisdom that requires no faith and no ethical commitments. That may be convenient, but it brings no hope. And this is probably why many so-called Christians have joined the mindless multitude that celebrates death today in the name of the great Punisher. They have lost sight that Christianity is all about life.
If we have received the gift of salvation from Christ, we can never endorse death. If we know Christ as our Master and Lord, we will always proclaim life. The end will never justify the means, especially if the means entails a method that neither Christ nor His Scriptures espoused and in fact condemn. If we are truly Christian, then we will make it our mission to support life, to give hope, and to militate for second chances.
Despondency might beckon, but we will not succumb. The vital divine power that called forth the cosmos can never be repressed. It will prevail. No matter how preponderant the forces of violence, oblivion, and decay, and no matter how they hold sway, life will prevail.
This is why I am confident that this administration – with its morbid objectives, its necrology, its penchant for the macabre – is bound for extinction. I am sure of it. For the embarrassment of death is its vanquishment; the celebration of life is its persistence.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
As I prepare to commemorate the Lord Jesus Christ’s passion, I will focus not on the grisly details of his crucifixion, but on the joy of his resurrection. He went to the cross to pay our dues; but He did not remain there. The tomb is empty, the cross is bare. He is alive, and if we commit our lives to Him today, so are we. May we be the vanguard of life and second chances.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)