Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Last Act is Tragic

This is a column I wrote for our local paper, the Oakland Independent. It is the first in a series that uses different parts of the paper to encourage people to examine their lives.

What is one of the first places you flip in a local newspaper? I bet most of us look pretty quickly at the obituaries. Did you turn there to see if someone you know or someone famous or someone too young died.

Why are we the living so interested in death? Might it be because we know that death is a destination where we are all inevitably headed. No matter what modern medicine might do, we have not conquered death. No matter how significant your life here might be, it will someday, perhaps someday soon all be over.

Blaise Pascal wrote about our situation like this, "Let us imagine a number of men in chains and all condemned to death, where some are killed each day in the sight of the others, and those who remain see their own fate in that of their fellows and wait their turn, looking at each other sorrowfully and without hope. It is an image of the condition of men."

No matter what we do to try to ignore and put it off, death is inevitable. Whenever we read the obits or watch the news of another war or murder, we are reminded of our fate. Even if your life now is great, you will eventually die, and as Pascal also said, "The last act is tragic. They throw earth over your head and it is finished forever." Ecclesiastes declares that everything under the sun is vanity or a vapor, and this includes our very lives. They are here today and gone tomorrow, and if this world is all there is, then death is the final word.  

But Christians have hope that death on this earth is not the end. We believe that Jesus conquered death, and so we do not view death as the same kind of tragedy as those who do not know their fate or who believe death is the final end. In fact, we believe that Jesus conquered death and that when we trusted Him as our Savior, that He gave us eternal life. So we can now declare with the Apostle Paul, "Death where is your victory? Where is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:55, because we believe that death in this life simply transfers us to a new and even better kind of life.

This kind of confidence makes a huge difference, and if you don't believe me, then just join me for a funeral of someone who knows Jesus. We have had three such funerals at our church this last year. While there is sadness for us at parting from someone we love, there is also an incredible joy in the confidence that they are now with Jesus and that we will one day see them again.

If death comes for you today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now will you be ready? Are you confident that death is not the end? Are you confident in where you will spend eternity? The time to examine death and life is now, not some time later. If life is not just about what you can do while living under the sun, then you should figure out why you are here and where you are going before they throw dirt over your head.