Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Helpful Perspective on Growing Old and Dying

In the book, The Word Leaps the Gap, there is an excellent article by Richard Hays titled, 'The Christian Practice of Growing Old.' He has some excellent insight on the New Testament's answer to the problem of death. He argues that Jesus' resurrection affirms God's firm, resolute commitment and faithfulness to his creation, us as humans and creation as a whole. Our bodies will one day be redeemed when we are resurrected like Jesus was, which means that what we do with our aging bodies matters. Also, Jesus resurrection, which overcame the power of sin and death should give us hope and take away our fear of dying. Hays goes on to say that,
In such confidence inspired by the New Testament's testimony, we are set free from the paralysis that the fear of death produces in our culture: we need not deceive ourselves with costly amusements that distract us from the truth of our mortality and foster the illusion that we are immortal. Likewise we are set free from the frantic urgency to forestall death at all costs: we need not grasp at life or harness every medical technology at our disposal. We can look death in the face without fear, because we trust in the promise of the resurrection. This means that the practice of growing old can be characterized by a sober confidence, no matter what trials and complications we face. As Christians we are people trained to die. We have been trained for this from our childhood by focusing, week in and week out, on the story of the cross and resurrection. We need not avert our eyes from our own death, for our identity is grounded in the crucified Messiah who has gone before us through death and resurrection (p. 663 emphasis mine).
I am still in my youth, but this has hit home with me. I can't say that I've trained myself well to die; I fear growing old and dying. But what is there to fear? We have one who has gone before us, providing us the certainty that we too can pass from death into abundant life.

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