Death of a Christian

                Yesterday I posted a comment online that has raised some questions and objections.  So I thought I would take a moment to clarify what I meant.  I wrote: “Saying a Christian lost a battle with cancer is like saying Jesus lost a battle with a cross.”  When someone dies from cancer, it’s very common to say they “lost a battle with cancer.”  But such a view is not only defeating and even insulting—it’s also incorrect.

                In its most literal sense, such a statement cannot be true biologically because cancer necessarily dies with the body that it kills.  Cancer is like a suicide bomber: in order to kill, it has to die.  It’s not as though cancerous cells claim a victim, then grow stronger and transport to a different person.  When the person’s body dies, the clock is ticking on how much longer that cancer has until it dies as well.  But this literal interpretation is actually the least of the problems with this popular saying.

Another problem with saying that a Christian lost a battle with cancer is it implies that he or she has somehow failed, as if they should have done something better or differently.  The simple fact is that the mortality rate among human beings is 100%.  Dying doesn’t mean we’ve been defeated or lost a battle—it means we’re human.  To say that someone lost a battle with cancer, or with any illness, is to suggest that they should have somehow transcended their humanness and defiantly attained immortality.  When there’s a battle, the outcome is not predetermined.  Through superior strategy and force, either side can claim the victory.  With certain diseases, however, there’s nothing the patient can do about it.  They can receive treatments and do everything else in their power, but sometimes a fatal illness is just that: a fatal illness.  There is no battle to be won; there is just an outcome to accept. 

                But what if the Christian did not want to die?  Let me ask: Does a newborn baby want to leave the womb?  No infant would want to willingly leave the comfort, security, and familiarity of the womb.  So would we say that a newborn baby has lost a battle with the womb?  Of course not.  They have simply entered this world as every person does.  A Christian who dies is born into a new phase of life, a life that is absolutely perfect and will never end.  I assure you there is not one single person in Heaven who regrets being there and wishes they could go back.  After all, the old saying is true that this world is as close as a believer ever gets to hell and as close as an unbeliever ever gets to Heaven.  That being the case, why would a Christian want to go back? 

                Another problem is that it is theologically incorrect to say that a Christian who has died has lost the battle.  Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  We are encouraged in Hebrews 12:2 to look to “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The cross is what stood between Jesus and His throne.  Death is what stands between us and eternity with our King.  If something helps a person break through that barrier, how can we say they’ve lost any battle with it?

                Jesus directly addresses this issue in a conversation with a woman whose brother has just died.  He says to her in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  That question is left hanging out there for us today, challenging us to answer it honestly. 

The clearest statement in Scripture which details the victory that the Christian has in death is probably 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: “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.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

                Whenever I die, whatever it is that kills me, please please please do not say that I lost any battle.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Death has lost its sting because God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Cancer loses.  Death loses.  We win.  Thank You Jesus.

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment