Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The View from the Pew

by Kristin McGuire

As I wheeled my grocery cart around a produce display on a recent trip to the grocery store, my eyes fell upon the spectacle of a woman lying motionless on the floor. I gasped, surprised to happen upon such an unexpected scenario that nobody else knew about. Upon further investigation, it appeared that she had had a dizzy spell and grabbed the newspaper rack for support to keep herself from falling, but the newspapers weren’t heavy enough, and the whole rack had spilled with her. I imagined that that is what happened. Whether she hit her head or lost consciousness for some other reason I knew not, so, being the first observer, I called 9-1-1. Soon, she was surrounded by a bustle of rescue activity and was whisked off to Maine Medical Center where she remained in the I.C.U. for several days.

Later, as I pondered the incident over and over, I remembered the look of fear on the face of the woman’s father, who was there, as he took in the unexpected scenario. Death was a very real possibility. I guess you could say he was experiencing the fear of death (his daughter’s). Then I got to thinking about what the Bible says about the fear of death. (I am one of those persons who has a song or a Bible verse for everything.) According to Hebrews 2:14 and 15, fear of death causes us to be subject to or in danger of bondage. But we are called to liberty and should not be entangled with the yoke of bondage, according to Galatians 5:1 and 13. Clearly, then, bondage is not what Christ has in mind for us. He came to give us life—and that more abundantly (see John 10:10).

So how can we preserve ourselves from such entanglement? The best remedy for fear of death is this: you must believe that Christ’s death was your death. Then, once you are dead, you don’t have to be afraid to die. Right there in Colossians 3:3, it says that you are dead. The question, then, is this: how do you live when you are dead? The answer is in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “The love of Christ constraineth us.”[i]

Three things pop out at me when I look up “constrain” in my Bible dictionary. The first is the phrase “contrary to nature.” The force that constrains us is agape love, and that is contrary to our own sinful human nature. In other words, it does not come as standard equipment. It is a gift from heaven. The second word that stands out is “alongside.” It just so happens that the Greek word for Comforter is parakletos, which means “called to one’s side.” And the third phrase that stands out under constrain is “to hold together.” Putting it all together, God sends us the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, to come alongside us so that we might be constrained by His agape to live a life that is contrary to our nature. And that is how we live when we are dead. But there is just one more factor involved: the holding together part.

I recently saw Louie Giglio’s DVD How Great is our God. In it he showed the molecular structure of laminin, the stuff that holds our cells together. It is in the shape of a cross! First he showed a diagram of it, and it was pretty awe-inspiring, but when he showed an actual photograph of the thing, my heart was strangely warmed. While maintaining the distinct image of the cross, it was all kind of gnarly and bent-looking. Then he read the text, “In Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17, RSV), and I literally felt my insides heave. Our God put within us millions of little gnarly crosses to hold our cells together! The cross is where justice and mercy meet, where sinful human flesh meets with the Holy God and gets restored to His image, and where all the inhabitants of the galaxies will find once and for all that God indeed is love. This is what holds us together. This is what holds the universe together.

And this is how we live when we are dead!

[i] Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are taken from the King James Version.

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