Bear with me a moment….
Death is coming for many in 2021. Tens of millions of people will die this year. Many will die of cancer, heart attacks, malaria, car accidents, the flu, and yes…the Coronavirus. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we who have come into existence are destined to “die once” and then to face judgement (Hebrews 9:27, NASB). Having observed our propensity to devolve into systemic wickedness, God generally shortened our lives to around 80 years (Psalm 90:10). Death, of course, comes in many forms. Some live as long as 120 years, but we’re all taken by some form of sickness, accident, violence, or general deterioration of the body. To quote Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 2006 movie, Stranger Than Fiction,
No one wants to die, Harold, but unfortunately we do. Harold, you will die someday, sometime. Heart failure at the bank. Choke on a mint. Some long, drawn-out disease you contracted on vacation. You will die. You will absolutely die. Even if you avoid this death, another will find you and I guarantee that it won’t be nearly as poetic or meaningful as what she’s written.Professor Jules Hilbert, Stranger Than Fiction
All of us are going to die, and we only have a certain amount of time to live this life as best we can….as fruitfully as we can. If there is anything that 2021 has reminded us, it’s that we’re fragile and mortal. The “civilized” world has been playing games online, pretending to be our own masters and acting like we are the captains of our own destiny. We’ve been pretending that we can shape our faces and genders and fortunes in accordance to how we “feel” or want to feel each day, or how we want to see or be seen by others. We’ve been playing with our feelings like a child sitting in the mud. We’ve been pretending that we deserve the “good life” and that the next human technological development or “life-hack” will bring it to all of us. But we’re going to die…and like Harold Crick, we have an opportunity to decide whether we’re going to die well or not. Are we going to simply live life attempting to avoid death and obtain the most pleasure possible, or are we going to submit our decisions to the author of our existence, who will guide us into a truly meaningful and beautiful life? Each day this year, we can decide to die well. Jesus says in Matthew 24:42-44:
Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you must be ready as well; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.Jesus Christ
Our creator and master is coming! He’s absolutely coming, and we will be held accountable for whether or not we have honored him with our lives, thoughts, actions, relationships, beliefs, values, and commitments. Don’t be so concerned about saving and preserving your lives this year that you forget your responsibility to live a faithful and fruitful life. Safety is not synonymous with godliness. Human progress is not synonymous with godliness. Health is not synonymous with godliness. Wearing masks and being vaccinated might be a wise or appropriate thing to do at times, but those actions do not prove your value or virtue, and they certainly aren’t a litmus test for what is righteous. I hope that I don’t physically die this year. I hope that my wife, daughters, mother, and brother don’t physically die in 2021. But, more importantly, I hope that we do learn to die daily to our inordinate desire for control, safety, and temporal pleasures. I hope that we consider our neighbor as more important than ourselves; not just the sick ones or the dark-skinned ones…but all of them. I hope that I learn to love the ones I really don’t like much better than I did in 2020. Instead of watching our neighbors closely so that we can shame them at just the right moment, let us watch our own lives, homes, and families much more closely so that we can be better situated to invite our neighbors into our lives and bless them with what God has blessed us with. We’re going to die, and we’re going to be held accountable for what we’ve been doing each day.
And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I tell you, do not worry about your life, as to what you are to eat; nor for your body, as to what you are to wear. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, that they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a day to his life’s span? Therefore if you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about the other things? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither labor nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things are what the nations of the world eagerly seek; and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father has chosen to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:22-32)Jesus Christ