If you have been at a Christian funeral you may have heard these words at the graveside service:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
The more common rendering of these three lines is this;
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
Christian hope is a living reality for those who follow the way of Jesus. There is more to this life than eating and drinking. Many people of told me the do not believe in any existence after this world. “This is it,” they tell me.
Yet the belief of some kind of immortal existence permeates every religious belief system. Even belief in reincarnation bears witness to the belief that death is not the end of one’s existence.
Dr. Ernest Becker, a cultural anthropologist, argued that the history of the human race was one long story about human attempts to prove their immortality. He called the story, The Denial of Death.
What difference does it make to believe in an immortal or eternal existence?
1. We are not simply physical beings consuming the earth’s resources and then dying to add our carcass to the earth to be consumed by the worms. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
2. We are not animals who fulfilling our human appetites. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” will not create a culture that cares for the least among its residents. If our human existence depends on productivity and consumption, then we can leave the infirm, the handicapped, the elderly on the street corner to die. Yet, our better natures cry out to demonstrate some compassion to these.
3. We are called by our spiritual natures to know that our lives are part of a larger spiritual reality, a reality most of us call God. It is inner spiritual reality that cries out for a spiritual home, a place to reside. St. Augustine was right when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” Christian hope believes that followers of Jesus will enter into such full rest at some future date.
Ronald Friesen © 2015