This past month has been quite difficult as so many of us were in some way affected by death. Loved ones or friends have become ill, or their illnesses have taken turns for the worst, or they have been involved in freak fatal accidents, and we have witnessed their passing from this life to the next. We do not always know why God allows these things to happen. Sometimes these burdens seem too heavy to bear.
In light of these things, isn’t it interesting that so much of Christ’s words and those of His apostles speak of the Christian life in relation to the dichotomy of death and life? We know physical death because of sin in the world, yet we are called to know death even more intimately if we are to be followers of Christ. In fact, Paul boldly speaks in Galatians 2:20 of having been crucified with Christ and no longer being the one who lives.
What does all of this mean? Why would we subject ourselves to yet another death if we are doomed to endure the first? The truth is that the only way we can truly live is to die. As Paul speaks of his crucifixion with Christ, he shows us that it is merely the first step into life in Jesus, saying “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” This is the death that all must die, being crucified with our Lord that He might live in us.
The death we die is the death to self: “[Putting] to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). All that makes us who we are in the here and now - the sins of our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls - must be laid down at the foot of the cross, and the wickedness within us that fuels those things must be put to death. Whatever tempts us, whether it is gossip or coveting or lust or greed or even white lies or favoritism, must be given over to Jesus as we die to ourselves.
If we die with Him, we will then be raised to new life in Him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You and I have new life in Him, and we can live it now. This is a life in which we can be free from the ravages of sin, and we can be full of the fruit of the Spirit. We can know and live in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
We can live as new people, image bearers of Christ. We who are in Christ are promised new life; we are promised freedom from death, for it is the Lord who said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). What a joy it is to live in Christ! We who know Him will always live and never truly taste death. Though our mortal bodies may waste away, we can know a new life now where we are continually being conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As such, let us not mourn for those who have fallen asleep. Let us celebrate the new life in Christ Jesus that both they and we know. Let us live in love and joy in Him. Let us remember that we who die with Him will also be raised with Him. What a joy to know and live in our Lord!