I was going to write something on the dying of conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh, and before I got to that I listened to this interview from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s The Table podcast about embracing our mortality. That’s quite the counter intuitive notion, especially in our secular age, so I had to check it out. Given I think about death a lot, my own, but also death in general, I found the discussion right down my alley. Dr. J. Todd Billings, the interviewee, wrote a book called The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live. He should know about the topic. He was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2012, so immanent death is something he can’t help thinking, and writing, about. The reality for all of us is that our death’s are immanent as well. It may happen in five minutes, or in 50 years, but it will happen before we know it and are ready for it.

As Christians, should we “embrace” our mortality? That’s overstating the case, as I think he admits. The problem is that secular culture’s narrative building power is so effective, that many Christians see life and death more through secular than Christian eyes. The primary aim of secularism is to eek out as many years and months and days and hours as possible. Longevity is the ultimate value; what happens when you die, not so much. Here is a Christian perspective that today would be rare, and I’m sure some could consider it almost heretical. From C.S. Lewis in God in the Dock:

I care far more how humanity lives than how long. Progress, for me, means increasing goodness and happiness of individual lives. For the species, as for each man, mere longevity seems to me a contemptible ideal.

I’m not sure how he is using the adjective “mere” to qualify longevity, but at the least it would mean being obsessed with it. He wrote that in the 1940s or 50s. Imagine what he might think of our day when almost the entire world is wearing masks and “social distancing,” treating other healthy people as a threat to our very existence, and for a virus that has a 99.5+ percent survival rate. I don’t think he would be impressed.

How, then, should we think about death as Christians? I know, it’s a silly question given we all know we die, and as Christians, we worship a Savior who conquered death for us, and promised that we will live eternally with him, but secular culture is always exerting its influence that this life is it, and nothing is more important than staying alive as long as possible. The Apostle Paul may have sympathized with such a sentiment, but would reject it. After all he declared, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He also said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” By far. I’m not sure many of us could honestly say that, and really believe it. We should, obviously, and pray that God would help us to grow into truly believing that this faith we embrace is an eternal hope, or what is it for.

Thinking of Rush, he spoke more boldly of his faith in the last number of years, so I’m confident he is at this very moment behind the golden EIB microphone in the radio of heaven. Still, for me, it’s hard to believe that’s actually real. When I’m contemplating our mortality and eternity, I almost always go to the words Jesus spoke to Martha in John 11 before he was about to bring her brother Lazarus back from the dead:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

We can say this with confidence: either this is true, or it is not. There is no in between. When I lean to the latter, I always immediately ask myself, well, if it isn’t, what is? Every alternative is pretty much infinitely less plausible to me than that Jesus was exactly who he said he was, the resurrection and the life. People are deluded into ignoring this very simple and obvious fact: if what Jesus said is not true, than something else has to be. If something else is, then prove it. If you can’t prove it, then give me enough evidence that compels me to ignore the mountain of evidence that points to Jesus being exactly who he said he was, the way, the truth, and the life. It can’t be done, and the more you study other religions and worldviews, the more obvious that becomes. So Rush, and everyone who dies in Christ, is at this moment very much alive. That’s what Jesus said, and I believe it!

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