|Volume 23 Number 10 October 2021
Brian R. Kenyon
Fear of death. That is the bottom line. Whether people are afraid of their own death or the death of their loved ones, fear of death is the main reason why this virus has shut down America and much of the world. It is not really about sickness (which happens all the time) or politics (though plenty are seizing the “opportunity”); it is ultimately about the fear of death. Threats on life such as this are great times for us to reflect on our level of attachment to this life.
Human Life Is Valuable
There is no doubt that human life is inherently more valuable than any other life (Genesis 1:26-27). This is why that intentionally taking innocent human life is always sinful. This is also why only Jesus’ blood was sufficient (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:24-26; Revelation 1:5). Even Jesus knew the value of human life, including His own. Part of Him did not want to physically suffer. He prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44 NKJV). “This cup” refers to the suffering Jesus knew He would have to endure (Matthew 20:22). Thankfully, He desired to do His Father’s will above all else, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Thus, He joyfully “endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). If Jesus saw the value in preserving physical life, then so should we! We must take every reasonable precaution during this pandemic to protect ourselves and those around us. However, are some, who should be the stalwarts of courage, crouching in panic, covering their light to the world?
Human Life Is Temporary
People living today benefit greatly from medical advancements. Illnesses that routinely ended human life a century or so ago are almost forgotten. The lack of news stories about AIDS testifies to this generation. People are no longer dying en masse because of the development of effective medications. We should be thankful to live at such a time as this. However, even with all these advancements, God determined physical existence to be temporary. No one will live forever in this body (Hebrews 9:27). Yes, the human spirit is immortal (Ecclesiastes 12:7), but concerning the flesh, “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years… For it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). Therefore, if we think we can avoid physical death, we are mistaken. If Covid-19 does not take us out, something else will. This, of course, is not to say we should live recklessly. Rather, it should cause us, first and foremost, to realize our mortality and seek God through Jesus while He may be found (Acts 17:26-28; cf., Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20). Are people who call themselves Christians really Christians as the New Testament teaches? Are some New Testament Christians presently more focused on this life than on the life to come (1 Corinthians 4:16-5:7)? What we focus on will control our lives (Proverbs 23:7; Romans 8:5-8; Colossians 3:1-2)!
Human Life Is Fearless in Christ
One of the beautiful blessings through Christ’s sacrifice is that Christians have no reason to fear death. The writer of Hebrews declared, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:14-16). This passage teaches the “fear of death,” not death itself, is that from which Christians are delivered. “Release [deliver, KJV]” means to set free, perhaps comparable to being released from a lasso (cf. Luke 12:58; Acts 19:12). Fear enslaves (Romans 8:15, 21; Galatians 5:1). Those who refuse God’s gift of deliverance are still enslaved to the fear of death. Even if a person is a Christian, death occurs. However, Christians need not fear it for at least three reasons: (1) Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8); (2) Christ’s resurrection makes death powerless (1 Corinthians 15:26, 55) and (3) Christ has complete authority over death (Revelation 1:18).
Jesus’ death, and thus the delivery from the fear of death, applies only to “the seed of Abraham,” which are those whose faith is like Abraham’s (John 8:39; Galatians 3:26-29). Although the spiritual world was made aware of Jesus’ death and its implications (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18-22), Jesus did not die for angels. If a person is not the “seed of Abraham,” then he or she has every reason to fear death. People become the spiritual seed of Abraham when they obey the Gospel (i.e., believe that Jesus is the Christ, John 8:24; repent of their sins, Acts 17:31; confess their faith in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10 and are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, Acts 2:38, which puts them in Christ, Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27-28). Have we obeyed the Gospel? Do we have fearlessness in the face of death, knowing that Christ will see us through (Matthew 10:28; Revelation 2:10)?
Let us consider these attachment-to-this-life questions. First, how much time are we spending in the Gospel’s good news compared to the world’s virus news? We must continually “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). If we are now news junkies, we may be too attached to this life. Second, how much are we trusting in men compared to the promises of God? Are we allowing experts to persuade us to lose confidence in God? Long ago, Jeremiah said, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5). God promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). If we feel abandoned by God, we may be too attached to this life. Third, are we feeling more enlightened by Dr. Fauci than by the God-breathed Scriptures? Yes, there is much to learn from medical personnel at times like these, but are we more enamored with the science of the spreading virus than the Savior of the transforming Gospel? If our spiritual growth is on hold because of this virus, we may be too attached to this life. Let us be strong and courageous in the Lord!
True Love Takes Time
Although Song of Solomon 2:7 is frequently misunderstood, when seen in its context, it provides a valuable lesson about love. Here, the Shulamite woman talked to a group of women. These women, like most women of any age, longed for a loving relationship. The Shulamite woman said, in effect, “Don’t rush it.”
In my years of marriage counseling, I have sadly heard a common refrain from numerous wives: “I wish I hadn’t jumped into this so quickly!” For various reasons, they seized the opportunity for marriage (financial security? get away from home? thought she would eventually grow into love? thought this might be her only chance? others thought he was the right man?). Yet, after a year or so (sometimes much sooner), she realized that she made a mistake.
Jesus taught that marriage is for life (Matthew 19:3-6). Once one makes the decision, it is a decision with which one must live. As a matter of fact, He explained later (19:9) that the only reason for divorce and remarriage was if one’s mate committed fornication. This teaching led the disciples to say, “If such is the case… it is better not to marry” (Matthew 19:10). What they were saying is, “If you are bound to one for one’s whole life, you might think seriously about getting married at all!” Not all men can make such a choice. They need to have a wife (1 Corinthians 7:1). Yet, the general point of the disciples is a good one. This is far too important a decision to jump into quickly.
The words of the Shulamite are wise words for today. Don’t rush it. Let love take its natural course. If it is true love, it will show itself in time. That way, when the decision is made to marry, you’ll know it was the right decision.