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Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15b-16a ESV)

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4/04/2005

On Death and Dying 

What a pleasant topic, huh? But with recent events, it has been on my mind a bit lately.

Contrast the two recent deaths for a moment. Terri Shiavo, for years on death's door. She's suffered, she's been through therapy and been withdrawn from therapy. What did she want? Who really knows -- from what I saw, it didn't really matter. It was about what everyone else wanted, simply because she didn't really make her wishes known to enough people, and in an official way.

John Paul II, the Pope. Leader of millions (billions?) of Catholics around the world. His health has been fading for the past few years, and some people had expected him to step down and retire. He wouldn't. He wanted to spend his last years doing what God called him to do -- what his heart's desire was.

That's all any of us really want, isn't it? In the words of a Steve Taylor song, it's better off to burn out than to melt away. I think ultimately people were upset about Terri's death because she, like so many of us, didn't get to burn out. She lived her last years in agony, and never had the opportunity to do things that she probably wanted to do. We cling to hope.

Christians don't fear death. We aren't all that eager for it, either, but we don't fear it. Death not the end; it's the end of the beginning. But this life is sacred. It is a gift from God to us, and we need to make the most of it. We need to be busy.

We cling to life because we see how much more we need to do. We cling to life because we want to accomplish more -- whether it's for God, in the case of Christians, or for ourselves. We celebrate the life of the Pope because he burned out -- he was active until he absolutely couldn't be active any more, and then he died. He are angered at the death of Terri Shiavo because we feel that she was robbed of something -- we want her life to have been more, because we want that for ourselves. We want our lives to have mattered.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
(Heb 9:27-28 ESV)

We all die. In the end, it's not how we die that matters, but how we lived -- and Who we lived for.


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