Sunday, June 12, 2016

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 -- On the Sting of Death

"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

I love the whole idea of victory over death.  It might not make death less sad in the short term.  We still have to live without our loved ones in life, and that is very hard.  I don't mean to belittle that struggle at all.  Long term though, it definitely helps to know that, eventually, we can all have that victory, because Christ gave us the gift of eternal life.

I have read that phrase "O death where is thy sting" before, and it always seemed rhetorical, making the statement that there is no sting, through Christ.  Today though, I realized that there could be.  The verse afterward says that the sting of death is sin.  And even though resurrection is a free gift for everyone, through the grace of God, if we haven't unburdened our souls of sin before death, we will still feel the sting of that sin on our souls, which won't be very fun since resurrection precedes judgment.

Christ gives us a solution to sin as well, but in this case, we have to actively choose it and work for it... and it is something that we should take care of *before* death, so that there is no sting. :)  None of us want to stand up on resurrection morning and have to face God with a sullied soul.  ... I don't even think any of us really want to feel that right *now* ... it's a horrible feeling.  So, today, let's do something about it.

Yes, it might be hard: embarrassing, or emotional, or difficult to imagine how to let go of that sin or shame.  Sometimes only a little part of us wants to, and the other part wants to keep the sin as long as possible.  And that's why we have help.  The first step is always going to God and telling him how we really feel about the whole thing, even if it is something we don't want to give up yet.  Maybe asking him to show us why it is wrong is a first step in that case.  Asking him to help us understand is always something that he will help us with... and never something that we need to be ashamed of.  God wants us to understand as much as we can. We just need to be open to God's information rather than only accepting our own, so that we can get an answer.

I like the last verse telling us that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.  In a way, every choice we make in this life is an investment in eternity.  We are the sum total of our choices, and that is who we will still be when we are resurrected.  We don't suddenly become different creatures and grow wings and halos... not that halos wouldn't be cool, mind you.  Just that isn't the way it is.  We're going to stand up on resurrection morning exactly the same people as we are at death.  And that is the person that is going to stand before God to be judged.  So, we have our work cut out for us, right?  We have between now and then to shape up a little and do some soul-scrubbing. :)  And yes, it is hard, but as it says... our labor is not in vain.  We have much more than many lifetimes to look forward to in the future.  Let's make sure we become who we need to be now, so that there is no sting in that future.

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