It Doesn't Matter What You'd Die For
On Sundays, when I write, I do so at length on some topic of religion, Christianity, Jesus stuff, or faith. Beware. The great tragedy of life is that most of us don't really consider living until we really consider dying. A few country songs have been written to this effect, and we've all seen movies and heard stories about cancer patients or others who face death sooner than they'd hope who return to their lives and communities with a renewed focus to connect, make a difference, and build relationships.
What's really tragic, though, is that we don't have to wait to face death in order to face life. We know this. Yet somehow, we still plod along, devoting more time to TV and jobs we hate instead of spending time with those we love. In this way, education does little to motivate us to change. We know where our time and effort is better spent yet we carry on with habits that add little value to our lives.
Worse yet are Christians who take solace that their faith is strong or vibrant simply because they give lip service to the idea that they would die for Christ, should the opportunity present itself (it won't). It's amazing how we think that we'd be willing to stand up for Jesus in the midst of a crisis when we can barely manage to give to others in his name.
But saying it with our words placates us so we can return to a life of distraction. Because we've convinced ourselves that we would die for our faith, we think we don't have to live for it. Such is the core hypocrisy of Christianity. In addition to so many Christians who live nothing like Christ, so many believers prioritize death (Jesus' and their own) and ignore life.
For me, this is why I don't concern myself much with the death of Jesus. For me, the few hours spent dying on a Friday afternoon pale in comparison to what he did many years prior. Putting up with people who want to be around you all the time, being willing to feed people again and again, teaching your closest friends and followers the same lesson each week because they still don't get it - that kind of love and patience gives all of us hope that we can make it through this world.
As Peter Rollins points out, gods who raise the dead aren't that impressive. Gods who can raise the living on the other hand? Now we're talking.
Same goes for the life of Jesus. His death is overhyped. So are the martyrs'. The only reason their death means something is because their life meant something, too. In fact, you don't get to die for a cause unless you live for it first.
It was Jesus' life that made his death significant. For many people on that Friday so long ago, his execution was just that of another criminal. His life and teachings meant nothing to many, so his death was just a regular political spectacle. But for many followers that day and hence, Jesus' death was tragic and meaningful because his life was so rich and full of love, spirit, and hope.
That's why I don't care what you'd be willing to die for. Such is the conversation of fantasy, imagining that you'll be confronted with a choice (death or a particular admission) and ushered to an early grave rather than being hit by disease or old age, which is likely for most of us. I'm more curious about what you pack into 80 years than what you fit into eight minutes before you take your last breath.
And this is why I care about what Jesus did in his first 33 years of living and why I think it's important to read, learn from, emulate, and share. Glimpses of God are equally present in Jesus' living as they are in his dying. It's time we pay attention to what he said and did and worry later about what the crown of thorns adds to his legacy.
I think all of us can meet God in Jesus before Golgatha, if we're, too, willing to get busy living.