A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity (p. 56-7).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
When J.R.R. Tolkien was asked what the theme of all great novels his response was (slightly paraphrased), “Death, of course.” Death is something that all people have in common. Death is something by which we (eventually) measure each relationship, activity, and cause. When we ask, “Was this worth living for?” we measure that thing against death.
We talk about “cheating” death. We know that death has a claim on our life and we resent it. We want to make death wait as long as we possibly can before it seizes what is rightfully ours.
We know that death is final. Every moment of our earthly life has a “next chapter” that can redeem the one before it, except death. That finality is daunting. But not only is it final, death is unpredictable. We know we have a debt we cannot pay, but we do not know when the bill collector is going to arrive. At times, we live in fear of its coming. At other times, we live as if death were only a fairy tale.
All of this presumes two things. First, it presumes that we were made for this world. Second, it presumes that death was the ultimate end. Thanks to Jesus (and Him alone) both of these presumptions are now false.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection we did belong to this world. We were bound to this world and were the property of its prince (Eph 2:2). The only hope or significance we could have achieved would have been bound to how well we could manipulate the people and matter of this world and extend our life to enjoy achievements.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, death was our end—at least in terms of anything good. We would have died, faced judgment, and then eternal punishment. Death would have marked the last time we would smile, laugh, rest, hope, dream, or love.
Jesus disabled death. He removed those fears for those who trust in His death on their behalf. No longer is death the bully club of life; death is now a transition not an ending. Death is a graduation, not a termination. Death is the point where investments are cashed in, not forfeited.
Death is when we hear “Well done!” not “Game over!”
The challenge for us as Christians is to change our view of death. Obviously, per the statement from Tolkien, we struggle to see death for what it is. I include myself in that number. At best, I tend to see death (and heaven) as retirement. The image of retirement has too much of an image of “slowing down” or “coming to an end.”
That is not death disabled. It would only be death maimed. Personally, I do not yet have that picture of death disabled—I long for it. I am still too attached to this world and all I am doing in it. I dread death (when I think of it) as an interference to the things I am passionate about now. I think that reveals that I am missing the significance of what Jesus did to death.