Comforting Lies?

An accusation made against Christianity is that it is a comforting lie. Those who claim it is not true say that this belief system has managed to stick around for so long in the face of reality because  it allows its adherents to avoid facing up to death. The idea of God giving us eternal life is just to ease the minds of those who are too weak to deal with the idea of there being nothing after this life. Instead they’ll get to live on without having to deal with all the people they don’t like and who they consider to live objectionable lives. The only other people that will be there are their loved ones.

But  Christianity does not always provide easy comfort. I just finished reading Death in the Family by Clifford Goldstein. It’s a short reflection on the loss of his father. “He shot his wife in the head, crawled into bed next to her, put the gun in his mouth, and shot himself.” This is a tragic and difficult situation for anyone to go through, and also for the Christian. For this, Christianity provides no simple, ignorance is bliss, escape from this reality. In fact, our beliefs may add extra challenges to the situation. There are times when it seems we have lost loved ones, not just for this life until we experience the release of death, but we have lost them in the life to come and for eternity.

But for the committed Christian who deeply pursues a Christ-like life, this challenge is not limited to our loved ones. For those it is not enough to take comfort that friends and family will be with them in the life to come.  Nor is it enough to hope for a change of heart in those who are casually dismissive of the gospel. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” – {Matthew 5:44 KJV}

The Christ-like Christian does not reserve their compassion and hope only for those who love them, but for those who hate them. They will not be content with only those close to them entering into everlasting life and eternal joy. They also long to see those who are cruel to them reconciled to Christ that they may be friends in heaven. For the very ones who call them fools for what they hold dearest, the Christian holds out hope that they may call them brother or sister. Even for those that take the lives of those they hold dearest, and even when facing their own murderers they pray “Father, forgive them” with hope that this one won’t be lost for all eternity.

This, I believe, is why when Revelation 21 speaks of the new earth and the beginning of eternal life it says “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The first thing the mind of the Christian will turn to is not themself and the eternity that waits before them. Rather their mind will turn to others who could have been there with them, and mourn for them. There is still comfort for them, but it is not an easy or vain one. It is not one that can brush aside tragedy without confronting it.


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November 2012
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