Stop Borrowing!

I’m going somewhere with all this, so stick with me…

Last week, a family in our church community grieved the death of their eldest daughter who was killed in a single-car accident. And we grieved together with them at a funeral at The Crossing on Thursday. It’s clear that their hope is in a just and merciful God who died for sinners and rose from the dead because he has an eternal love for his people. Death is not the end because He died and rose from death in order than we who believe would be raised to our own resurrection like Christ’s glorious resurrection. This is the hope of the gospel.

And it’s what we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 TNIV:

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Now, I believe that the scriptures teach that this meeting the Lord in the air is when believers are taken up to join Jesus as he descends with the clouds (see Matt 24:30, 26:64), coming from heaven to judge the world and renew the earth into his eternal kingdom. And this is our hope—something guaranteed to happen for us as believers in Christ. And the guaranty is the death and resurrection of Christ. Because he has already done that, it’s a sure sign to us that he will fulfill the reason why he did that—he will come and we will be with him without sin and without evil in a world filled with his glory and beauty and love forever. This is our hope. So when we face our own death, or the death of a loved one, we grieve differently than those who don’t have this hope. These are the kinds of things I said at the funeral last Thursday.

Now, this is where I’m going with all this. On the way from the funeral to the gravesite, I rode in one of the funeral home’s cars with two close friends of the daughter/woman whose funeral this was. They served as her pallbearers. They seemed like nice guys—a testimony to the type of friends this daughter had. In a candid moment, one of them asked me, “What do you tell someone who has lost their faith in God because tragedies like this happen?”

I basically answered that, if these tragedies mean that there is no God, then that means we’re all just atoms and chemicals who will die and then that’s it. And if that’s it—if the end is nothingness—then nothing in our lives has any meaning. If everything ends in nothingness, then nothing in this world has any meaning. But then I said that, if he indeed buys into that—that there is no God and death is the end—then he needs force himself to try to live all of his life that way. His parents are just collections of atoms without a soul. Same with his girlfriend and eventually his kids. And, of course, same with who/what he is. Just atoms. No soul. No meaning. No hope. I said that he cannot borrow hope from the Christian worldview when he needs it if he doesn’t believe in the God that is the only basis for any hope. If he indeed decides to lose his faith in this tragedy, then he must live consistently that way. No God. No real morality. No real personhood (just chemicals). No hope. Only death. No meaning to life. And if we’re tempted to think others’ memories of us give our lives some meaning, don’t forget that all of them die too. Gone. Nothing. No meaning. So be sure to live that way if you’re letting yourself lose faith in the existence of God. Don’t let yourself borrow hope and meaning to life from Christianity if you don’t believe Christianity. Force yourself to live out your beliefs.

Or, I said, he could believe what the Bible says, that death is that unavoidable elephant in the room of our existence that cries out for an explanation, because it is exposing to all of us—loud and clear—that there is something wrong with this world. We think death is a tragedy because it is a tragedy. Far from being a reason not to believe in God. Death being a tragedy is a reason for believing there is a God. A random world without God and without meaning cannot have tragedies. What is just is. No ought’s. Just is’s. But we all instinctively know that this world is NOT what we know it ought to be. There ought not to be death at all. It’s a tragedy. And death is the ultimate sign that there is a big tragedy between us and God. When we face the tragedy of death upon our hopes and dreams and lives and loved ones, it should force us to stop our distracted and diverted lives for a moment and ask the obvious questions about the ultimate issues of life.

Basically, that was my answer. And I felt somewhat happy with my answer as he graciously listened and had a friendly reply at the end.

Then a few days later it dawned on me. I’m a bit of a hypocrite! Because I do, far too frequently, borrow the false hopes, the life-purpose confusion, the moral ambiguity, the materialism and greed, and the meaninglessness and despair of the non-Christian worldview. I do believe the Bible—that God exists, that he is sovereign over all his universe, including everything that happens in my life, that he became human and died for me and rose for me and is coming back for me. But then far too often I borrow from a worldview that doesn’t really believe all that. I start thinking and feeling and speaking and acting as if none of that is really true.

Do I really believe what 1 Thessalonians goes on to say after the above verses I read and preached at the funeral?

1 Thessalonians 5:2–10; 16-18 TNIV
For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. … Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Faith and love and a real hope of salvation—in all my thinking, feeling, speaking, treating of others, actions, finances, time, service, relationships, husbanding, fathering, driving, buying. Am I more like the others in our world who don’t have the hope of Christ, or am I really different because I do? More loving. More sacrificial. More faithful. More giving. More sobered (with rejoicing). Less angry. Less frustrated. Less worried. Less proud. Less materialistic. Less selfish. Less self-focused. Less short-sighted. I need to stop borrowing so much.

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