Monday, May 02, 2011

Death, Where is Your Victory?

There have been a lot of “takes” offered today in reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. These have not been measured and thoughtful reflections; not enough time has passed to allow for that. They have been quick, almost reflexive. Many have consisted of cheers and celebrations, some of sober questions, some of dire predictions.

As I have read them, I have been struck by how much power one man’s death has had over so many people. News of this death spread even more quickly than the official announcement. All night long and throughout the day, electronic opinions have been shared all around the world, in multiple formats - text messages, Facebook statuses, blog posts, Tweets, TV and radio commentaries.

These reactions have quoted scripture, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mark Twain, and a slew of commentators from here, there, and everywhere. It has been quite a phenomenon.

All of this from one man’s death.

Are we so feeble as to allow one man’s death to influence us to such frenetic affectation?

Especially for those of us who follow Jesus, over whom death has no power, it seems to me that Osama bin Laden’s death should not incite such outbursts.

After all, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 16:5-14).

When death controls your actions, it has power over you. Death wins. You lose yourself in your reaction to the stimulus. That’s not a bad thing when you cheer for your favorite baseball team. It’s fun to get caught up in cheering with a crowd of fans for a home run or a strikeout. But cheering for death? Allowing death to be “victorious” over our words, actions, even our thoughts? I do not find that to be compatible with the teachings of Christ.

“What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, 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” (1 Corinthians 15:50-56).

Those who loved the man will mourn, and although those who did not love him will not mourn, neither should we cheer. We should not allow his death to be victorious over us. We should not allow his death to have power over us. He lived, he did horrific, evil, despicable things during his life, and now he is dead. He was the leader of a group whose actions are a threat to innocent life all around the world, and now that threat is diminished. The inspiring service of the men and women in the armed forces of our nation is to be commended.

I don’t know if this is a fitting metaphor or not, but let me give it a try. Sometimes a football player scores a touchdown, and then proceeds to make a complete and utter fool of himself during the celebration. Other times, a player goes up to the ref and hands him the ball. It is just as good a touchdown, but the reaction is different. This time, I think America just needs to go up to the ref and hand him the ball, then go get ready for the kickoff.

For Christians, the time is now, more than ever, to remember that “if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

Christ revealed. You also revealed.

Is what you are saying right now revealing Christ? Is what you are doing right now revealing Christ? Is what you are writing right now revealing Christ? Do you remember that you have died, and now your life is Christ’s? Is your mind set on things that are above, on God?

Let us not succumb to the power of death, especially not now.

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