Friend or foe?
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12. 24
It sounds macabre, this obsession with death which seems to characterise Christianity. Our symbol epitomises it: the cross was an instrument of death - indeed a particularly cruel death. Yet Jesus insists that the qualification for discipleship is that we should take up our crosses daily. In other words death of one kind or another must become our every day experience. Why?
Perhaps the most vivid explanation lies in Jesus' memorable illustration of the humble seed. Unless a seed is inserted into soil - dead and buried - it remains a single seed. But once planted/ buried, it eventually produces a crop - of plants or flowers. The metaphor is suggestive of resurrection. We all long for resurrection, yet there can be no resurrection without death.
This is not an excuse for suicide or euthanasia. Death itself is not the goal. Quite the opposite: we are made for life - in its fulness. Yet in a fallen world we have first to rid ourselves of sin, which is cancerous - affecting our whole being - from which we need the complete cleansing that only death can bring. There is another reason for our willingness to die. But that is for another day...