It has been wonderful to flick through a couple of books recently. First up is a biography of James Hudson Taylor who took Christianity to China. Taylor saw several of his family die as he strove to reach people with the good news about Jesus. Yet he never feared death and understood implicitly, as his son reports in his biography, that to be close to death was to stand in the ‘borderlands’- waiting to cross over into the promised land and be with Jesus.
Richard Baxter’s ‘Dying thoughts’ is another book I’ve been enjoying. A minister from Kidderminster in the seventeenth century, he is famous for his house to house calls, which utterly reformed the community where he ministered for Christ. When he arrived he reported people lying in the street drunk and widespread disinterest in Christ. When he left, it was reported the sound of swearing was replaced with families singing hymns and the converted were so many, he had long since ceased in keeping count. Baxter did not neglect the truth of the gospel in his own life and was known to refer to death as his ‘neighbour’.
This has really challenged me. How do I talk about death? Particularly as someone who will lead funerals and give pastoral care. Do I give into using the world’s language and fearing the things unbelievers fear, or am I regularly in the habit- not of talking about it arrogantly- but speaking of the Christian hope boldly? Do I speak naturally about death with Christians as a friend and neighbour. Or do I spend all my time treating death little differently from the way the world does- using euphemisms and the like that have their root in secular insecurity more than anything else? How often do I sit down with a Christian friend and say ‘let’s talk about how awesome it will be when we die to walk and talk with the Saviour. I can’t wait!’
Have I absorbed into my being the truth that because I trust Christ, one day Jesus will say ‘faithful servant come out’ as he beckoned Lazarus in the gospel from his tomb? Death is nothing more than our servant, taking us to the one we love. Welcoming us into his house to be with him and enjoy him forever. Let’s speak often and boldly of these great things.
Jesus said to her: ‘I am the resurection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.’ John 11:25