Oh Christian, Why Are You Afraid to Die?
1 Cor 15:12 - “If Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?”
While you may not be using words to say that there is no resurrection of the dead, your lives actually reflect that you think it’s true. The choices we make are often better indicators of what we believe than our words. Many Christians have imbibed our culture’s fear of death. And don’t be fooled, although we live in a culture of death, as many Christian commentators have pointed out, the unbelieving West is still avidly afraid to die. If there’s one thing that this pandemic has taught us, it’s that unbelievers are afraid to die. This shouldn’t surprise us, because without hope in Christ and the eternal life He brings, I would be afraid of death as well. If there’s no hope of a future life, I’d do everything I could to preserve the one that I do have. But what’s shocking is how easily Christians have given into this very same fear.
Now I’m not advocating for reckless abandon. I’m not going out and throwing myself in front of a bus just for the fun of it. I will use wisdom in trying to keep myself healthy. But what has passed as “wisdom” over the past two years is directly contradictory to what God has said in His Word. Even more shockingly, we’ve passed it off as “love” as well. We’ve taken secular meanings of both words and imported them into the Scriptures. So when the Bible commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” we’ve taken that to mean that we should forego the gathering together for weekly worship so as not to potentially risk infecting them with a virus. And we’ve taken the idea of caring for ourselves to the idolatrous extent of foregoing the gathering in weekly worship.
But here’s the rub: the Scriptures, when they speak of love or wisdom, cannot mean to forego the weekly gathering in church, because attending the weekly gathering is a command given by God Himself (Hebrews 10:25). Godly love and wisdom cannot contradict one of God’s commands. That would be to see contradiction in God Himself, which is heresy. The positive thus reads: godly wisdom and love require that we gather together with God’s people for weekly worship. Godly wisdom and love means that we put our physical lives and that of others at somewhat of a risk because God said that this is actually good for us.
But how can this be? How can endangering our physical lives actually be good for us? The answer is rather simple: God cares more about the state of our souls than He does of our physical bodies. You see, when God commands us to not forsake the gathering together with one another, the context is clear. Disobedience would be a detriment to our spiritual life, a far more serious state than a risk to our physical lives. And this has proven true over the past two years. In our pursuit to preserve our physical lives we’ve forsaken our spiritual lives. I’ve seen Christians’ spiritual lives decay because they aren’t being renewed weekly by the grace that is found in church, a grace that is found nowhere else.
Of course all of this makes sense in a culture that utterly distracts us from what real life is actually about. Death has mostly been removed from our existence in the West. We are distracted with physical allurements, political stratagems, and pleasures beyond imagination - all good things as gifts from God but idols when made to be ultimate things instead of God. We’ve removed death so much from our societal consciousness that when we are finally faced with it in a large scale, we don’t have the necessary spiritual and philosophical tools to handle it wisely. And so we panic and inexplicably trust our own fallen wisdom. And fallen wisdom exalts the physical over the spiritual every time.
Paul says quite plainly, “To live is Christ: to die is gain.” But our own society speaks exactly the opposite. Dear Christian, which voice have you listened to? And I don’t mean to ask which one you mentally assent to. Any good “Christian” will say they listen to Paul. But which one have you acted upon? The stakes could not be higher. It is not only your own soul that I’m concerned with; It is the very name of Christ Himself. When we embrace our culture’s view on something over and against what Scripture says, we make Christ subservient to culture. But Christ is clear: the Christian should look different than the world around him or her. Churches that have embraced the virtual culture, aside from the fact they can’t carry out many of the very things that churches are meant to do, look no different than the culture. In stark contrast, those churches that have committed to gathering together despite the dangers are a condemnation to the world of its errant theology. The church should be a constant reminder to the world that Christ is King, He will return, and that it is our spiritual lives, our faith in Him that matters in this life.
We don’t continue to meet primarily because it’s different than the world (we aren’t contrarian for the sake of being contrary), but rather because we trust that God’s Word holds life when we obey it. Paul doesn’t mince words in 1 Corinthians 15:13-14: if we proclaim there is no resurrection of the dead, our very faith is in vain. We may say we believe in Jesus all we want, but it’s not the Jesus of the Bible in which we believe, but one of our own fashion and making.
Keith Kauffman attended University of Maryland (B.S.) and Capital Bible Seminary(M.Div.). Keith currently works at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, working in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases studying the immune response to Tuberculosis. Keith serves as an elder at Greenbelt Baptist Church.