Thursday, May 20, 2010

"O death, where is thy sting?"

The title quote comes from I Corinthians 15:55a.

I've been finding lots of money in the laundry lately. Problem is, it's been play money. That's another difference between having big boys and little boys. My big boys are coming home for a visit soon. They have both been on the other side of the globe for about a year now; one at war in Afghanistan, one trying to make a career as an artist in Hawaii. I know, they've always been like a see-saw. Growing up they were best friends, a perfect balance.

I can remember once when they were little, maybe six and seven years old, they went with our neighbor on her paper route. It was just an ad paper we used to get, "The Bonny Buyer," and she delivered it in the afternoon. Somehow it had gotten late while they were still out--you know when it is getting dusk and things get gradually harder and harder to see. I was anxious, as my boys were really too little to be so far out of sight for so long. As I looked down the familiar corridor of our street, formed by sidewalk and tree lines, the darkness finally swallowed it all up--including my kids. That was a terrible, helpless feeling.

I have been watching a lot of programs about death. I recently saw "Troy" (again), and "The Time Traveler's Wife." I've also been hooked into two very violent and inappropriate series: "24" and "Battlestar Galactica." At this point I'm pretty desensitized. But death is an issue that pervades all this stuff I've been seeing, not to mention real life, where just about everyone I know is or has a loved one who is dying of cancer.

In "Troy" and "The Time Traveler's Wife" the protagonist (in both cases played by Eric Bana) is killed in the prime of life, leaving behind a wife and young child. Tragic. And yet, if these men had lived, eventually they would have died somehow. Why do we sometimes pretend that people don't die? Everybody dies. It doesn't always seem that way, I think, because so many people "live on" in pictures and movies. It's not like they are really gone when you see them all the time.

I think about my faith a lot. I think, "Why would anyone listen to me about my faith and hope in God. Who am I? Kind of a big loser in a way. I don't even obey the God I claim to serve. I fail all the time. I act like an idiot." But then I remember, "Oh yeah, it's not about me--it's about HIM." Who? Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can save us from this predicament. We are all going to face death one day. And all those imaginary people in those movies and TV series are being flung headlong into eternity without even a mention of God. I mean the real God. The maker of heaven and earth.

But what about real people, people that I know, that I meet, that I see? They need to know the truth. Not what we make up. Not what sounds reasonable to us. Not what is popular. Jesus said,"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."--John 14:6. These words disturbed me when I first read them. I tried to manipulate them into something more palatable; but it didn't work. I realized that I had to make a choice: it was black and white. It was either Jesus is who he claims to be, or he isn't.

And so, fortunately for me, when I tried to imagine the world without Him--it was so bleak, so hopeless, that I couldn't even hold the thought for a moment. I decided to believe. It was the easier, the better, the only choice.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

--I Cor. 15:51-57