Someone once said that life is a sexually transmitted disease that has a 100% death rate.
Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of Sin is Death”. But can we not also consider that ‘death is the cause for sin’? We sing ‘O Death where is your sting, O Hades where is your victory?’ (1 Corinthians 15:55), but what is the sting of Death? Verse 56 tells us that the sting of Death is sin. It is our knowledge of death that drives us to sin. Attempting to forestall our mortality we will steal, kill and oppress others to garner the resources we believe will prolong our lives. We become angry if we perceive others as more attractive, more prosperous, depriving us of our rights on the highway, or just getting in front of us in the queue for coffee. It is fear that Death uses to drive our need to compete, to be better than, but most importantly, not to lose. It is our fear of Death that drives us to see others, or ourselves, participate in ‘death-defying’ activities. We stop to gawk at accident scenes so that we can be encouraged that Death was not victorious for those that did not succumb, and at the same time take comfort in our own continued existence in this temporal life.
It all began in Genesis 2:17, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This is when the seed of fear was planted, then took root and flourished in Genesis 3:8-10, “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid (emphasis mine) because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
So if we are exhorted to ‘fear not’ and to have the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’, then what is death, how do we handle death, and what, if anything, follows?
From Genesis 3:19 we know that we are destined to return to dust, at least this physical body is. The problem with this is how do we get there, that is, how do we go through the process of dying? And of course, is there more to death besides the physical aspect of the body returning to dust? The answer to the first question will depend on what we understand about the second. We are very much aware of the cessation of bodily functions, and the inevitable decaying process. We see this process around us every day in plant and animal life. But how do we cope with the dying process? Generally the thought of a sudden and unexpected death is acceptable, but not one that is lingering, possibly shameful and painful, also causing prolonged anguish and burdens for loved ones. Is it okay to die at our ‘fullness of years’, but not when we are ‘too young’ to die? Is it wrong to end your life yourself, or have someone else assist you to die? Is it right to take another one’s life in war but not in peace, in defence but not in offence?