Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bonhoeffer & The "Sweetness" of Death

Death seems everywhere these days.  A neighbor of ours, a mother with young children, is entering her last days in her battle with cancer.  Two sets of families from church lost adult children this week; two more families from church have sick infants on the brink of eternity.  So how should we view this event that, unless the Lord returns soon, is certain to occur to each and of us?  
 About death, Germon theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up--that is for young and old alike alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death?...Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that is is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that it can transform death." Eric Metaxas, Bonhoffer, page 531.
It was faith that allowed Bonhoeffer to go calmly to Hitler's gallows in 1945.  Bonhoeffer was certain of what was to meet him on the "other side."  I pray that each of us would similarly strive to hold fast to the promises found in God's word so that, whether our illnesses are brief or extended, and whether we must endure our death or the deaths of loved ones, we would view the death of a Christian as "the mild, sweet & gentle" transition to eternity, where the currently unimaginable pleasures of God await those of us who are in Christ Jesus.   
Bonhoeffer, Metaxes, Page 531 

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