A Plaid Santa
October 26, 2021
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:2-4, NIV).
I was driving home from work, on call for Labor Day. Traffic was light. He stood there on the corner of a major intersection with a big sign that could be read by those passing by. He was a big man, with a big belly and a bushy white beard, plaid shirt with blue jeans held up by suspenders…could have been Santa Claus, had he dressed in red. His signs read: “Jesus promises life after death, even if from a virus. Don’t be afraid. By the way, when is the last time you read Isaiah 53?”
Yesterday in Bible study someone mentioned the obvious: “The world just doesn’t get it—why aren’t Christians afraid of this pandemic?”
This includes Christians like me who themselves have been infected and seen people they love die from the virus. As healthcare professionals, we live responsibly and follow consensus guidelines to keep us functional and to protect others. We mask and vaccinate and distance, but we do not tremble.
Perhaps a few of you know Ralph Bethea Jr., a prior missionary to Kenya, with whom I played as a boy. He tells the story of a day in Kenya where an Islamic radical held a knife over his head and told him he was about to die, then paused with the question, “Why aren’t you afraid? You are about to die!”
Ralph answered him, “I can’t die.”
“And why not?”
“Because I have already died.”
Ralph shared, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a, ESV).
Ralph shared this good news and lived.
We as followers of Christ remain in this world for God’s purpose, not ours, God’s kingdom, not ours, and God’s plan for life and death, not ours. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8, NIV).
God has created us as humans with a deep desire to live, to hold on to life this side of glory. Becoming a Christian does not take that away. But when our bodies do let go of this physical shell, our faith reassures us that we will grasp something better. The end of our lives may be terrible indeed for those we leave behind, but our physical death is for us the door to achieving our deepest life goals: the never-ending presence of God Himself and a never-ending fellowship with believers we love—unhindered by time, or distance, or sickness, or sorrow, or distractions, or sin.
We now live knowing that our death leads to life more wonderful than any we have yet known, even for those of us who have been extraordinarily blessed this side of glory. Sometimes we don’t feel this truth because we are distracted by the lies of this world, but it is time we commit to living this truth.
My plaid-shirted Santa Claus got it right,
“Jesus promises life after death, even from a virus. Don’t be afraid.”
Let me live the truth of life that includes the truth of death, which we have already completed, and Christ has already conquered.
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