With the recent passing of two women I loved dearly (a great aunt and a grandmother), death has been on my mind. Sounds morbid, I know. That’s because death is morbid!
Here in America, we are blessed (or is it cursed?) to be able to shield our children and ourselves from death. Most of us will rarely ever have to see death in the raw. Heck, I spent 6 years in the Marine Corps and never had to see anything remotely close to what my Fireman/EMT brother sees routinely. For all but a few of us, death in America is painted over and made to look dainty, even pretty. We even make comments when standing over corpses in funeral homes like, “Doesn’t she look so pretty?” I’ve often wanted to respond, “Well, I guess she is as pretty as a dead person can be.”
But as Christians living life from a biblical worldview, we must not miss out on the tremendous teaching opportunity death presents us. The topic of death is one of the simplest gospel “lead-ins” I know of. Nobody wants to think long on the issue, but when death draws near people, they typically become a “captive audience” to anyone who can offer words of counsel or consoling. And the gospel is all that and more!
But as Christian parents, solemnly charged by God to instruct our children in His ways and His word, we dare not shield our children from death, nor miss the teaching moment it brings with it. Here are a few thoughts drawn from my own feeble attempts at using death to teach my daughters in recent weeks:
- Teach your children death came into the world because of human sin (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12; 1 Cor 15:22). My Mamaw, as sweet as she was, died because she was a sinner by nature and by choice. That’s why we all die. There was no death in this cosmos prior to Adam’s sin. This is why the whole creation groans anticipating the day when God once again removes death from its midst (Rom 8:18-25).
- Teach your children death is an ugly enemy. Because it is a result of disobeying God, and loving someone or something more than God, death is a horrific thing. It is not to be trifled with or coddled or painted to appear pretty. Do you think Adam and Eve found death attractive or something trivial as they stood over their son Abel, bludgeoned to death by his own brother Cain? “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). This is what we’ve earned with God.
- Teach your children death goes beyond the physical realm. Yes, the physical bodies of Adam and Eve eventually died, just as God promised (Gen 2:17). Every person thereafter has also died physically, and all of us will, too, if Jesus does not return in our lifetimes. But friends, Adam and Eve died spiritually the moment they rebelled against the word of the Lord. To be spiritually dead is to be cut off from God, who is life (Isaiah 59:2; John 5:26). And now we all, too, enter this world spiritually dead, unable to patch things up with our Creator God (Eph 2:1). Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves . . . it did not work then, and it does not work now.
- Teach your children that after death, there is no “second chance” to repent and trust Christ alone for salvation (Heb 9:27). Jesus did not believe in purgatory (Luke 16:19-31). Neither should you. You see, friends, our children must know that how they, in this life, answer the question of Jesus to His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” matters forever!
- Teach your children that nobody knows the day of his or her death. “Boast not yourself of tomorrow; for you do not know what a day will bring” (Prov 27:1). “Instead, you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live'” (James 4:15). Living like each second of each day is not guaranteed has a strong tendency to help us focus on what really matters.
- Teach your children that in Christ, God remedied this greatest of dilemmas for us poor sinners. When Jesus died, death died with Him for all those whom the Spirit births anew. This is the best news ever! This is the gospel, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Who but Jesus, the Perfect Son of God, God in the flesh, could say, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live”? (John 11:25)
- Teach your children that for those granted repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, death is a defeated enemy! “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” (1 Cor 15:54-57). Those who die in Christ simply pass from “death unto life” (1 John 3:14).
- Teach your children that one day, Jesus will sovereignly eradicate death once for all. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (Rev 21:4).
Wow! Death is a great teacher, if we will let it lead us to Messiah. This all makes me wonder if instead of the “afterlife” we Christians should speak of the “afterdeath”?
“Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12). Got Jesus? If not, you have every reason to fear death.