1 Corinthians 15:19-26
"Death is a friend," I heard the Christian psychologist say... and as he uttered those words, I cringed. What does he mean that death is a friend? Should I welcome death to my dinner table? Should I offer death food and shelter and hospitality? Was he serious? Death is indeed a reality, to be sure... but death as a friend? This psychologist with Christian convictions was no doubt sincere, but his Christian psychology was less than Christian.
Paul certainly did not believe that death was a friend. "For he [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.26The last enemy to be destroyed is death." Death stinks! Death destroys our dreams and hopes for the future! Death comes at a moment's notice and makes life completely different. Death as friend? Nonsense!
I hate death, God hates death, and Jesus hates death... that's why Jesus walked out of the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. Indeed, I understand that we can in our pain and grief welcome death. We cannot fathom the pain from the cancer that slowly eats away at our loved one's body. We no longer wish to witness the loss of our mother's or father's identity as Alzheimer's ravages their brain. Death becomes a sigh of relief for us, a sad but reluctantly welcomed arrival. That is indeed the tragedy of life this side of perfection-- the enemy of death itself is welcomed because we no longer wish to see the enemy do its dirty work on those whom we care about so deeply and dearly. So we welcome into our midst the very force that leads to our demise in the first place. It seems that death has us trapped.
But death does not have the last word, "...in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (15:20-22).
On Sunday morning we do not sing, "What a friend we have in death;" but "What a friend we have in Jesus." Death is the enemy. Jesus has come to defeat the enemy. Jesus is our Lord and Savior and a friend that is closer to us than any other sibling.
And any good Christian psychology knows this to be true.
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)