Death, be not proud, though the whole world fear you:
Mighty and dreadful you may seem…
Though you may dwell in plague and poison,
You’re a slave to fate and desperate men,
So death, if your sleep be the gates to Heaven,
Why your confidence?
You will be no more.
Even death will die.
(Audrey Assad: “Death, Be Not Proud”)
The death of Kobe Bryant shook the world in January 2020. His untimely passing was made particularly bitter as the news unfolded, revealing that his young daughter had perished with him, along with seven other priceless souls. Little did we know, in a mere matter of weeks, country after country would be ravaged by a deadly and rapidly spreading virus. As death tolls rose, grocery store shelves emptied and cities began to look like ghost towns as people hunkered indoors.
In the US, we thought that’s as bad as it could get, but then an officer of the law barbarically crushed the life out of a man on the streets of Minneapolis, and our cities began to burn as citizens left the safety of their homes to protest the murder. Police officers, bystanders, and protestors died and continue to die in this struggle, as the virus continues to snuff out life around the globe.
In 2020, it seems like death is around every corner. This year, it has stolen lives young and old, and the number of famous men who have died, including renowned pastors and civil rights leaders, reminds us that death is not a respecter of persons — it is the Great Equaliser.
2020 has reminded us that death is not a respecter of persons — it is the Great Equaliser
Politics aside surrounding the nature and danger posed by the virus, the bottom line in all of this remains: people are terrified now more than ever (in many of our lifetimes) at the prospect of sudden death, whether it be by sickness, by police, or by riots. We know that we will all die, but it is not often a thought that consumes our every day. The events of this year have changed that, and people are desperate to live.
When I see my neighbours crippled with fear, as a Christian, I believe this should fill me with compassion. Indeed, I know more than my unbelieving neighbour how critical their situation is if they were to die in darkness — there is no time to waste.
I want to say that again and please let it sink in: Church, there is no time to waste arguing with one another as to whether or not this virus is real or as deadly as we are told. There is no time to waste shutting our doors to one another and to those who are desperate for the life-giving gospel we have to share. What kind of power does your gospel have, if it cowers at death, as though death is a new concept to us — or worse, as though death is the victor?
There is no time to waste shutting one another out with our politically-inspired biases. We fight like children at the doors of our churches as the masses around us scream for life and justice, and we act like the gospel of Jesus has no answers for either.
The masses around us scream for life and justice, and we act like the gospel of Jesus has no answers for either
As I challenge myself and encourage my readers to evaluate our hearts and think outside of our earthly and perishing nation to our eternal Kingdom, I am reminded of the passage in Isaiah 25:8a: “He will swallow up death forever.” This refrain is used in 1 Corinthians 15, as Paul reminds the Church that: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
As children of Adam, our sentence is death; as children of Christ, our destiny is life evermore. Death has always had a claim on my life and yours, but everlasting praises be to Him who succumbed to death and rose to life, in effect declaring a death sentence to death itself. We who have believed in Him can rest assured in this promise: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
I love the lyrics of the Assad song above because it taunts death: “You will not kill me.” Even in fear for my life and the lives of those I love, this causes my heart to sing and I hope it does yours too. Let’s not keep that song to ourselves. We have urgent work to do. Cross the party-line. Listen to your neighbour. Love your enemies. Speak the truth in love and live in a spirit of humility. Be like Jesus. Tell of His kindness that leads us to repentance. There is no time to waste.
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
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