Where I work, cigarettes are for sale. A lady today was wanting to buy some and noticed my unfamiliarity with a product and said “Well, you wouldn’t know that because you don’t smoke. (On a side note, while it is true that I do not smoke, it does not mean I would not know about cigarettes. I may not have experiential knowledge, but I can still have knowledge. Because I am a virgin, it does not mean I don’t know anything about sex.)
Then she started telling me she didn’t smoke and hadn’t for 20 years but then just started smoking again. Her opinion was that she was going to die so she might as well die in a good way rather than have something like Alzheimer’s and live for 10 years and not know who she is. (Makes one wonder if going down so mattered and you’re going to die anyway, why not go ahead and play Russian Roulette.)
It left me in an odd state. What was this lady’s sunnum bonum? (For those who don’t know, this is one’s greatest good.) It seemed to be avoiding pain in this case. It would be better to die quickly and painlessly how she was going to die.
That seems odd doesn’t it? Why base your life simply on a moment called death? Getting there can be a prolonged process, but the last breath is just a moment no matter when it occurs. When it happens, does it necessarily matter how you go? How you get there can matter at times. If, for instance, you get there by intentionally taking an overdose of pills, then you have a problem. If you die after a long battle with cancer, that’s something else. (This is assuming cancer not really brought about by your own actions.)
A lot of us think about how we’re going to die. Do we spend our time thinking about the larger point in how we will live? It has been said that it is easy to die for Christ, but it is not easy to live for him. If someone puts a gun to my head and asks me if I confess Christ and says if I do, I’m dead, then that is just a moment. It’s said and it’s done. I would also hope that I would say “Yes I do.” (I’m cautious to say such things. There was this guy named Peter who said the same kind of thing years ago.)
I find it harder though, and I’m sure you do as well, to live for Christ. In each decision I am making throughout the day, am I living for Christ? That is what I have difficulty doing. The Christian life is a life of virtue and that is difficult in our society. It is difficult to practice self-control and to properly long for justice without revenge and to give to charity when you’d rather go to the bookstore instead.
That is what is difficult and that is what matters most, for now that is. Ultimately, what matters most is not how we live now or how we will die, but how we will spend eternity. How we will spend eternity is not solely determined by how we die though. It is also determined by how we live now. We are living each moment telling God how we desire to spend eternity. (If that thought scares you, it’s not just you. It scares me when I think about it.)
We sometimes want to treat life as something off in the future. I’ll get serious about X later. Life is not in the future though. Life is here now. Why aren’t we serious about X now? Why aren’t we serious about God now? Now there are some cases that are clear exceptions. I’ll be a good husband when I get married. Why aren’t I one now? Because I’m not married. I’ll go to school when I get the money. Why aren’t I in school now? Because I don’t have the money.
Some aren’t like that now. The question to ask is why aren’t we being serious about our faith now? As far as I can tell, there is only one answer. We don’t want to be. All of us are like that to some extent also. All of us make Christ less than #1 at times. If we always had him as #1, we’d never sin. We all do though, so we all have work.
Of course, there is good news in that. (And it’s not that I’ve saved a bunch of money on car insurance by switching to GEICO.) The good news is that while we don’t love Christ completely, God has his complete love always available for us. He will love us as much as we accept that love. It’s there and waiting and it will work for our good for our good is his good ironically. (Not our good necessarily as we picture it but as he sees it.)
How shall we live? With Christ as #1. How shall we die? The same way. How shall we live in eternity?
You know the answer by now.