Honor Oak Christian Fellowship Centre

Thought for the month

Life and death

There are very few subjects that our society considers to be taboo, but I think talking about death is one of them. Most of the time we avoid mentioning death, and if we have to refer to it we tend to use a euphemism: we say someone has passed away, or that they are no longer with us. Indeed most people do their best not to think about death at all, or what might be beyond it. Instead they just seek to have as good a time as possible in life, with a vague hope that somehow things might work out okay afterwards.

This approach is very different to that of the apostle Paul in the Bible. When he is in prison and conscious that he might be executed, he writes to the Christians in one of the churches he founded and says this: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV)

Paul views death as a gain because it means he can go to be with Christ. He says that being with Christ would be "better by far" than this life. He can face death with the certainty that after death he will be with the Lord Jesus Christ - a prospect that brings him joy. Paul has put his trust in the Lord Jesus and he knows that through Jesus' saving death, he is assured of eternal life with him.

Yet it is not only Paul's attitude to death that is striking - it is also his attitude to life. While many people live for themselves, Paul states that "to live is Christ" - that is, he sees his life as an opportunity to serve Christ. He wants to live not for himself or his enjoyment, but rather that he might be able to live for Christ Jesus in service of him and his people.

We too can share Paul's certainty about death, if we put our trust in Jesus. This isn't arrogance, as it is not based on our abilities or performance. Christ's death on the cross has made a way for all the wrong we have done in God's eyes to be taken away, meaning we can be welcomed into God's presence. In Christ we can face death with certainty. This in turn means we can live now not for ourselves, or for enjoyment in the moment, as we have eternity ahead. Instead we are free to serve our Saviour. Could you say with Paul, "to live is Christ and to die is gain"?