Good Life

Clergy Column | The Rev. David Spaugh

Recently I came across a very thought-provoking comment. An interviewer asked a terminally ill patient, “What is it like to wake up every morning and know that you are dying?” The patient replied, “What is it like to wake up every morning and pretend that you are not?”

A good reply indeed, and one we should all ponder. Though we don’t dwell on it, each of us knows he or she is going to die. From the moment of conception, all medical treatment is preventative, forestalling what must inevitably occur at the end of each life. As the book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time to be born, and a time to die.”

Usually death occurs naturally, sometimes by accident. Usually it occurs after a relatively long life, sometimes in youth. But regardless, as sure as the turning of the Earth, death comes around to us all sooner or later.

Are you prepared for it?

Indeed, a wise person will leave a will or trust to make sure his or her estate is settled and family provided for after death. Perhaps amends will be made with anyone estranged. Maybe he or she will confess any wrongs done to clear his or her conscience or comfort others’ hearts. But what about that precise moment “when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?” Are you prepared for that?

The Scriptures are replete with exhortations and warnings to be prepared for death. Jesus offers us a poignant example. In Luke 13:1-5, he notes two contemporary tragedies: one concerns Pontius Pilate, wherein he murdered a group of Galilean worshippers. The second is an accident in which a collapsing tower killed 18 people.

“Were any of these unfortunate victims worse sinners than anyone else?” Jesus asks. “No,” he says, “but if you do not repent, you will all perish.”

Clearly Jesus was not simply referring to physical death, because even the repentant die physically. The word “perish” in the New Testament means to be lost, come to ruin or be destroyed. It is often used in Scripture to refer to hell and God’s judgment. Jesus used these two episodes to remind his hearers that judgment awaited them if they did not repudiate sin and self, and turn to him in faith.

As the Christ, the messiah, he can save from sin, forgive us all our wrongs and give us eternal life. Thus we read in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (ESV).

There it is: Condemnation (judged guilty) and perishing, or salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Turn to him in repentance. Put your faith and trust in him. Die you must, but you need not perish.