Death, Fear, and Stinging Things

Something we are in no shortage of right now is social media debates on COVID, the upcoming elections, and racial issues. Some are interesting and insightful thus challenging my own thinking, while some turn downright derogatory and offer nothing of substance (I don't like those ones). Within some of these debates, one can often find repeated talking points, a sort of canned comments, that folks use to argue their side, and quite a few of these talking points are really, really bad. 

One that I have often seen used is, "How many deaths are acceptable?" as it relates to people dying from COVID. This is such a terrible argument point because the person on the other side sounds heartless if they contend there are deaths that are acceptable, but it is likely the person using that as an argument point doesn't actually believe it themself as it relates to how they live their life. Here are a few examples of what I mean:  if you drive a car, drink alcohol, eat a hotdog, fly in a plane, swim, walk down the block, use a ladder, ride in boat, hug someone, and pretty much everything else that we may ever do, then you are accepting that there is a certain amount of deaths that are okay with the associated activity. In other words, living involves the risk of death and therefore as a society, we are okay with people dying. And since everyone dies eventually, one could say that death rules all of us.

But that feels wrong. Should we be okay with that? Deep down inside, there is something that tells us that death is wrong, even when it's someone that has lived way past a normal life expectancy. And if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, you're correct, death is not okay. From the very beginning when God created humanity, it wasn't in the original plan for us to die - that showed up when we decided we'd take things into our own hands as opposed to trusting God - the churchy word for that is sin. That's why when people die, something deep inside knows that it wasn't supposed to be that way.

So spring forward a few millennia when Jesus shows up to usher in this thing he calls the Kingdom of God. It's filled with some pretty enticing benefits, but one of the big benefits is the promise of eternal life for those who die to themselves (what?! that's another post for another day) and trust and follow him, no longer taking things into their own hands. In short, death no longer rules. That's a pretty bold claim to make, and I imagine quite a few people thought he was nuts. But the thing is he modeled it for us through dying on the cross and then actually coming back to life through defeating death - here's a great book that details why you're not looney or intellectually dishonest to believe that, Jesus the King.

If you're a believer in that crazy story and a follower of Jesus and his teachings, what are we to make of this? Well, let's start with how we all think about death. I would say the biggest emotion associated with death for most folks would be fear. But the Psalms gives us lots of examples of giving fear over to God, such as Psalm 23 which in Luke Patterson's paraphrase says there's nothing to fear, even when facing death because God is with me. Or in 2nd Timothy 1 where Paul tells Timothy that God will never give him a spirit of fear, but instead, the Holy Spirit will give him power, love, and self-control - yes please! Or one of Paul's more famous lines on the fear of death specifically out of 1st Corinthians 15:

So death, tell me, where is your victory?
Tell me death, where is your sting?
It is sin that gives death its sting and the law that gives sin its power. But we thank God for giving us the victory as conquerors through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One.

This isn't a call to live recklessly and throw all caution to the wind when comes to our current circumstances. In fact, for some, the best way to love them is to help keep them safe, which might mean keeping your distance and/or masking up. Or it might mean calling out injustice when you see it even though it might cost you. But I think it's fair to say our current culture is pushing fear more than ever. It's in every news cycle, and social media is entirely inundated with it. And it makes sense, fear sells. But for those who love and trust Jesus, fear should never be the thing that drives our lives; instead, it should be love, hope, peace, and joy that overshadows fear, because after all, Jesus came for the death of fear, not for us to have a fear of death.

If I've given you some stuff to think about, great! I'd ask you to think about what does it look like to not let fear rule your life right now in your current circumstances?