What would I like to tell the world about my insignificant little life before I pass into eternity? I believe that we all would like to think that we made a huge difference in the world. We would all like to think that, without us, the world would have been a much different place. This is because we are all endowed with a huge sense of self at birth. We see everything from the context of our perspective.
Sometimes, when I go to church, I try to think about all the people that aren’t there that I expected to see. I wonder if other people miss them as much as I do. I also wonder why I miss them. I miss some because they have a smile that lights up the room, that brings a little spice into things that is otherwise lacking. I miss some because I know that they would listen to me talk about my problems, give me a sympathetic ear. But, really, I miss the idea of them. After I leave the building, my life goes in one direction and theirs in another. We don’t socialize, we don’t work together on anything. If I died tomorrow, they would have a brief moment of sorrow, perhaps, then talk to someone else about gardening. Sure, some people look at me as resource. But if I am gone tomorrow, they will find a way to do it without me or someone else will step in a take over. No one will really notice that anything is different.
God puts us all on this earth to work for him. But God does not need us. The work that he gives us is for our benefit, not his. It is because we would find life pointless without it that he lets us help. It’s also a way that he keeps us connected to him. What we do in this life is really not the point. The point is only that we make it to the next life in God’s family. We tend to let our egos inflate the importance of our contribution on this earth. But none of what we do is the point. The point is that God did it. So, why do we beat ourselves up over all the things that we should do or should have done when there is nothing we can do in reality?
I’m not trying to say that the church is not important. It is of paramount importance. But many times we get these ideas in our heads that God is calling us to do some great thing. Maybe God just wants us to sweep the floor. Maybe, instead of starting a mission in some exotic place, God just wants us to be there for our neighbor some time. Maybe, we are just here to be an example to others that a worthless lowlife can still be loved by God, can still go to Heaven.
Some people look at a rapist or a murderer and believe that God couldn’t love that person, couldn’t forgive that person. They look at that rapist or murderer with hatred. But the Bible claims that hatred is the same as murder and an impure thought about someone is the same as rape. So how can anyone despise another for sins of which we all are guilty? Anyway, maybe you are that guy, or maybe you were a prostitute, or a pimp, or a drug dealer, or whatever. Then, if Jesus finds you, he may hold you up as an example of how far his mercy goes. But, no matter who you are, no matter how great the things you think you have accomplished, you should never think of yourself in any light other than the light of God’s grace.
If you have children, then you know what God gave you as a first priority — train up your children in the way they should go. Think about your own parents. How many times did they fail to be perfect parents? You probably resented them for years. I know I did. Then I got old enough to understand that they were just the same as I am. Hopelessly unfit for the task. How do you treat your children? Are you always fair, always patient and long-suffering? Do you always discipline them properly? Are you always an example of Christian living? If you are honest with yourself, you know that you have done a poor job many, many times. But it’s a good lesson in humility, to see in yourself the same failings that you saw in you own parents.
In the Bible, we hear that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags”. Actually, it speaks of rags used to stop the menstrual flow. So in modern parlance, we look to God like a used tampon, covered with dead and decaying discharge. How can anyone then call oneself important or even precious in God’s eyes? Because the Bible records that God says to us, “though your sins be as scarlet (dead, decaying scarlet discharge), they shall be as wool; though red as crimson, they shall be white as snow.”
Why do we matter to God? Because God has made a huge investment in us. God has allowed his son to suffer death and punishment for us. God has covered us with the righteousness of Jesus, because he wants us to be holy. He has literally flushed all of our dead, decaying filthiness away by immersing us in the pure, holy blood of his son.
Suppose you had an old pickup that had practically rusted away. Then suppose it were possible to undo all the rust, undo all the engine wear, restore the pickup to absolutely new condition. Suppose that it cost you everything you have, including your only child, to have this miracle performed, but you paid the price and did it. Do you think that you would care a little about the pickup? Do you think that you would treat the truck as if it were still just a rusted, decayed pile of junk? It’s been said, “God don’t make no junk.” True. But man corrupted himself. Think about that moment when you have given everything for your old truck, but that it was not yet restored, only the promise that it would be in the future. Then you get some idea of how God feels about us. And you get some idea of what we truly are. We are still junk, but to God we are a potential jewel. He knows he will restore us, and he treats us with the love and respect of the jewel that we will some day be. This is why the Bible also says, “Don’t think of yourselves as being better than you are.” Don’t think you are somehow already perfect, because you are still a used tampon. But know that God will change you some day to be like himself. So you are very valuable to God, not because you are anything now, but because God has a huge investment in your future.
St. Paul spoke of his desire to depart and be with Jesus. He saw death as a means to be freed from the corruption of this life and be forever in holy unity with God. But this is not how we see death today. Death is to be avoided at all costs. But no one can avoid death, no matter how many new procedures are done and no matter how many wonder drugs are created. In the Bible, we hear of Methuselah, who lived 969 years. We can hardly fathom that. But even if we were to live 969 years, or even 9690 years, eventually we would die. Death is inevitable. So why try so hard to put it off? Paul knew that true life doesn’t begin until after we get rid of the mortal flesh. The only way to do that is by death, when the soul is freed from the corrupted body. The Bible says that we fly away at death. Our destination is determined by the grace of God or by our refusal to receive God’s grace. For those who die in the grace of God, we go to live in that grace forever.
Now, humans were not created to die. This is because the soul is immortal. But the body is now mortal. So we have to cast it off. It would have been interesting to know just how wonderful the bodies were of the earliest people, before they had generations of chances to mutate into the pathetic bodies we have today. Oh, we are still amazing creatures. But think of how much work it takes now to maintain the body. We look at the highly trained athlete and marvel, but that is because of how different they are from the rest of us. Imagine a time when the human body was better than today’s best athlete without any training, and that these bodies stayed in this kind of shape for centuries. Now, even the best athlete can only stay in peak condition for a few years. And we find out more and more about the debilitating effects later on from so much training. It is said that the long jump winners in ancient Greece could jump 55 feet! In modern times, the “world record” is not even 30 feet. And yet we think man is becoming better. It is just another ruse to keep us from thinking about the inevitability of corruption and death.
So, as Paul said, it’s better to depart and be with God, to return to the proper immortal state that God wants us to have. So why are we sad when people die, or when we know that people are soon to die? It really isn’t because we want them to stay here and keep suffering. It is because we are selfish. It is because we don’t want to be left behind to suffer without them. It is because we want to die, too, really. We want the hurt to stop for us. We are also afraid that we will never see the dying again. Because no one has ever come back from the dead to tell us what the other side is, or even if there is another side. But wait! Jesus brought people back from the dead. So, obviously, they did not cease to exist. Of course, most people would rather believe a tabloid about aliens than believe stories from “the old days” that were witnessed by thousands of people.