1 Corinthians 15:20-28
I’ve heard it said, “There are some things worse than death.” I’ve usually said it when someone is up against uncontrollable pain, irreversible declines, and degrading limitations. Suffering often reduces life, as God means it to be, to mere existence. In such extremities, death can be a relief, even a friend.
In today’s scripture reading, Paul says that the resurrection of Jesus will destroy death, the last enemy (v. 26), along with every ruler and every authority and power (v. 24). So, which is it? Is death a friend or an enemy? Both, I think.
On the one hand, death is the natural end of this life and a release into God’s tender hands and welcoming heart. Such death is a friend. On the other hand, rulers, authorities, and powers (think of them as exploitative and oppressive people, cultural forces and institutions) wield death as a weapon of tyranny, control, and dehumanization. Such death is an enemy.
Sometimes, the rulers, authorities, and powers are within us, emotional and spiritual enslavers who keep us in bondage to soul-deadening patterns of living. They hold us back from fullness of life.
I’ve experienced extended intense pain and prolonged disorientation, so it’s not hard for me to imagine a time when I will welcome death as a friend. I also know, however, how fear of death can ruin the life of someone who is physically healthy. Death as an enemy, as a tool of fear, will be overcome, along with everything else which demeans and distorts our humanity. We will be free, and God will be all in all.
Most of us will likely always have at least some fear of dying. But if our fear of death as an enemy, as an enslaver, had less influence over us, how might our lives be different?
All-embracing God, remind us that you are with us and that you hold us in life’s hardest places, including this life’s ending. Amen.