Death is ugly. Jesus himself agreed, as we can surmise from his response to the death of his friend Lazarus. Standing before the tomb where his dead friend had been buried four days Scripture says, “Jesus wept.” Why in the world would Jesus cry when in moments he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead? Because he saw, powerfully, what he created as good (Col. 1:15-17) experiencing the horrific effects of the Fall: Death. Paul says that “the wages of sin is death,” and the Lord God says to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Eve had not yet been created) that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would surely die. This is why we cry. Death is . . . . wrong!
I felt emotions of despair this morning when I learned that Nabeel Qureshi, all of 34 years old, had finally had succumbed to the cancer that had begun to ravage his body a bit over a year ago. Part of the reason the death of this stranger effected me is because I’ve been praying for him since I learned of his diagnosis. Yet he experienced all too soon the wages of sin that we will all experience one day. There is nothing in life so as inevitable as death, and something we need to reflect on more.
If you don’t know of Nabeel, he grew up in a devout Muslim home and in college made the acquaintance of some solid Christian apologists. Eventually he came to believe that Jesus wasn’t who Muhammad proclaimed him to be, just a prophet, but what orthodox Christianity has declared him to be for 2,000 years: our God and Savior. You can get an introduction to his amazing but short life by Justin Taylor, and read his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, no surprise at number 44 among all books at Amazon today. He became himself a solid Christian apologist, and touched many lives for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. No doubt this very day Jesus has told him, well done good and faithful servant.
Since this is a website dedicated to “keeping your kids Christian,” the question might arise what has the discussion of death to do with that end. Only everything. We live in an age of constant distraction, and the thing we most need to be distracted from is our own mortality. Seventeenth century mathematician, physicist, and Christian apologist Blaise Pascal captured this perversion at the heart of human self-deception perfectly:
In spite of all these miseries man wants to be happy, and only to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy. But how can he go about this? It would be best if he could make himself immortal, but since he cannot do this, he has decided to stop thinking about it. Being unable to cure death, misery, and ignorance, men have decided that in order to be happy, they must repress thinking about such things.
A better example of this could not be found than in our after church lunch at a local Brew-pub, and silly us we’d forgotten it’s NFL season. I couldn’t help pointing out to my wife and kids that people are obsessed with football, and sports in general, to not only give their lives meaning, but to keep them from thinking about death. But that only works for so long. Try as we might, death stalks us at every turn, and as Pascal further says, “The last scene of the play is bloody, however fine the rest of it. They throw dirt over year head, and it is finished forever.”
While most in our secular age think it impolite to talk about death too much, the uncomfortable fact of our morality is the ultimate question mark of our existence. Why do we die? There are few explanations, and only one, Christianity, that answers that question with any plausible satisfaction. If we don’t continually remind ourselves, and our kids, that death is our destiny, then we will find ourselves deluded into thinking, maybe this death thing won’t get us after all. It will. So as Christians we stand with the Apostle Paul who declared:
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.