How can one explain the fascination of western culture with death? In December of 2007, when the body of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, was transported from the Apollo Theater in New York to C.A. Reid Funeral Home in Augusta, Georgia, the director of the funeral home received a midnight call from the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, requesting permission to come by and pay his respects. Michael Jackson spent the next five hours viewing the body and grilling the funeral director, demonstrating an unusual fascination with the death experience.
I have been blogging now for several years. I have written several blogs about death and what happens to people in the afterlife. These articles are some of the most popular blogs I’ve ever written affirming that people are extremely curious. What is it that causes us to have a nearly insatiable curiosity about death? The typical answer to plug in here is that we are so curious because it is in the realm of the unknown. But, there are a lot of things we have little knowledge about that don’t pique our curiosity at all. I know nothing at all about ice fishing in Alaska, or how microbes reproduce and I have no curiosity to drive me to learn of those things.
Perhaps our cultural obsession with death is not so much because it is so distant from us, like an older uncle we never met who lives on the other side of the globe. I believe we are curious about death because it is like the neighbor who lives next door. We are reminded daily of its existence. We see death on the obituary page, we see it on television and we are reminded of its perfect record of conquering all life when we see pictures hanging in our home of those who have already succumbed. For some, a fascination with death can be morbid, it can lead to an macabre obsession that may cause one to lose his sense of the world he presently inhabits. On the other hand, a balanced consciousness of death can be healthy if it reminds us of how we are to live in this present world and serves to caution us that there is a hereafter to prepare for.
Death is not an ending for the Christian. Rather, it is a transition into a life more abundant than the one we are now experiencing. Peter ignited this flame of hope in his followers: “…set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13) We are but wayfaring strangers passing through an alien world. We are wanderers unsatisfied until we find the new city whose maker and founder is God. We revel in this hope within us that is capable of smothering our fear of death. Those who have not this hope “are of all men most miserable.” (1 Cor. 15:19)
No onlooker can understand this hope in the breast of every Christian if he cannot understand the work of grace in the Christian life. Grace is the mysterious favor of God. A GRACE acronym that summarizes this supernatural work of God is: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. It is freely bestowed upon us but it was purchased with the precious blood of a willing Savior. This grace is the cornerstone of a Christian’s forgiveness of sins in that it satisfies the penalty for our sin. But grace continues for the true convert in its sanctifying capacity by which a Christian experiences freedom from the power of sin. A Christian who is entertaining the hope Peter speaks of understands that there is a future demonstration of God’s grace, the glorification of the soul. Physical death is a necessity before we can experience the grace of glorification, God’s deliverance from the presence of sin.
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