Life Before Death

Let our society truly choose life, with all its competing moral claims and obligations to minister to the weakest among us.

BY: Forrest Church


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So do we stop and shake our heads in humility and wonder? No. We sit on our tiny spit of sand on this vast cosmic beach and argue over who has the best insider information on the creator and the creation. Is it the atheist or the theist? The Hindu or the Buddhist? The Catholic, the Protestant, the Muslim or the Jew? Is it Jesus? The Buddha? Mohammed? How about Darwin, Gandhi, or Freud? Billions of accidents conspired to give each of these compelling teachers the opportunity even to teach. Knowing this-pondering numbers beyond reckoning-doesn't strip me of my faith. It inspires my faith. It makes me humble. It fills me with awe.

If our religion doesn't inspire in us a humble affection for one another and a profound sense of awe at the wonder of being, what finally will? If we can't see our own tears in the eyes of all who mourn and would be comforted, how will we find comfort when we too enter the valley of the shadow?

These questions you won't find answered in the papers. There you'll see true believers with signs cursing judges and damning to hell a bewildered, angry man who has watched his wife linger on life supports in a twilight zone between birth and death for fifteen years. And you'll see pious politicians claiming fidelity to the letter of the scriptures, testifying on behalf of a narrow moralistic agenda, crafting sentimental ad hoc legislation that stands no chance of passing legal muster, while casting budget votes that defy the spirit of neighborliness without giving this a second thought.

Perhaps its time to put the papers aside for a moment. Time to gaze into the heavens, to recognize that we are all more alike than we differ, certainly more alike in our ignorance than we differ in our knowledge. Time to remember how fragile life is and how precious love must therefore be. Time to seize every opportunity we are given to offer thanks, to celebrate, to serve, hope and love. Perhaps its time to wander back once again to Calvary for our annual Easter visit. Nothing is there now. No crosses. No crowd. We stand alone, looking beyond a naked hill to an endless desert. You and I together, each of us alone, looking out on eternity, measuring time.

Alone we walk and yet together. Alone, together with Terri and with Jesus and with one another. We look into forever and we weep. And then we look back. How amazing it was! Wasn't it amazing? The people who loved us. The people who tried. Our parents, they weren't perfect no, but neither are we. Our children, if we are blessed to have children. Our friends, the sun and moon, touch and sight, taste, hearing, smell, every miracle we take for granted every day of our lives until the day we die. How amazing it was, life before death.

Look back and mourn. Then look back and sing. Remember how profoundly we are blessed. Yes, and then we too are resurrected. Removed from our death supports.

Whatever our theology, Jesus lived to remind us that we too can be saved. Not from others, but from ourselves. Saved from self-absorption, self-pity, self-despite. Saved from self-righteousness. Saved from unwarranted displays of conspicuous piety. Saved by love.

Let me leave you with a question. What if this is your last Easter? Or the last Easter you are blessed to share with someone you love? Will anything you do or feel today remain? In your heart you know the answer. Only love remains, only the love we give away remains, the rest is dross.

For you and for me, for Jesus and for Peter, for Terri and her parents and her husband, when death is the occasion, love is the only saving medium and forgiveness, love's most perfect catalyst. That is the message of Easter, its hope and its promise. Death doesn't conquer love, love conquers death. Those who love us live on in the love we receive. By their love we will always know them. And our own bequest of love, however imperfect, this too will outlast us. It will outlast us and it will perfect us. For not only does the love we give live on in our name. It redeems our own and saves our loved ones lives.

You won't find that in the papers either. But you will in the Bible. "Choose Life." "Love your neighbor as yourself." Can you imagine anything more amazing? Life before death. And love after death. Each miracle enough for me. Each sufficient cause for everlasting praise.

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