People die every day, every hour, every minute and every second. In fact, the world statistics show that on average, 150,000 people die every day translating to 1.78 deaths per second, 107 deaths per minute and 6390 deaths per hour. There is a Kiswahili saying that “kifo ni lazima, kuishi ni bahati”. It can be translated to some old saying that says “There are only two things you can count on in life: death and taxes.” Everyone experiences death. Death and dying are an inevitable part of human life.
According ti Wikipedia, death is the cessation or permanent termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnitrition, disease, suicide, murder, abortion, euthanasia, accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury. All known organisms inevitably experience death. Other definitions for death focus on the character of cessation of something. In this context “death” describes merely the state where something has ceased, for example, life. Thus, the definition of “life” simultaneously defines death.
We are all well aware of this fact, yet every time, it catches us unawares. No death has been mentioned as timely, even that which comes from old age. We never really seem to anticipate it, neither do we prepare for it. We just die, or couch death each second of our entire lives. The author of truth about death website explains that, the truth of the matter is, most people do not welcome the peaceful rest of the grave. They would rather be alive and productive. After all, the death rate is still one per person. Each of us at the appointed time will face the grim reality of death. But the reality of death, according to us is that it should be avoided at all costs. Death is the worst thing to ever happen in all of existence. According to Samuele Bacchiocchi, death brings an unacceptable, sudden interruption to one’s work, plans, and relationships. It is a subject that touches the life of every man and woman, uniting the entire human race under a cloud of inevitable mortality. The rich and the poor alike meet the same end; the black and the white both go to the grave; the powerful and the humble all leave this planet eventually. Well, if I may borrow the tusker beer saying, it makes us equal.
Death can be traced back to the beginning of humanity, actually the beginning of sin. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” The instruction was plain. Eating from the forbidden tree would result in death. Death did not exist at that time, and would not have ever existed on earth if the man and woman had obeyed this simple command. But either way, eventually, man ate the fruit, and he “must surely die”. He, man and woman, eventually had children, and every person ever born is ultimately descended from this original pair. Everyone born since that time has been subject to death. This sad tale has affected everyone who has ever lived. Through no fault of our own, we were born into a world that is separated from the God who created it, and as such we all must face the day we must eventually die. We must ask ourselves why the penalty for this small infraction was so severe. The answer is simple. The Bible is clear that God “alone has immortality” and that “the gift of God is eternal life” ( iTimothy 6:16; Romans 6:23). So immortality can only exist through a connection with God. If that connection is severed, immortality ceases and death ensues. The Bible uses the word “sin” to describe this separation from God; though it is used to label specific actions that are contrary to God’s will, such as adultery and murder, God sees sin as a much bigger problem because it severs His children from Himself and makes them subject to death. Sin is a state of being apart from God. Therefore, even a small act of rebellion separates the sinner from God and results in death.
But there is hope! According to the truth about death website, the same God who made mankind “in His own image” cares too much to allow us to die in despair (Genesis 1:27). Through Jesus Christ, we have the hope of immortality restored to us. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” and also, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 14:6; John 11:25). He also instructed people that, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). So yes, most Christians do believe in life after death. The debate of what happens between when we die and the second coming of the Messiah so that He may take us to His mansions as aforepromised, is another debate, however we believe that our ultimate goals as Christians is to live with Him, so that where He is we may be too.
Why I am writing this is because, today, two of Kenya’s Government officials died, the internal security minister, his assistant, their body guards and their pilots for the day crushed to death in a police helicopter and were burnt beyond recognition. A few minutes, they may have been talking to the members of the families, the next they were gone, leaving the country shocked and in total grief. Their untimely death! It reminded me that no one is promised tomorrow. The only thing we can count on is today, this day, this minute, this second. We are actually not sure of the next second. It is only this one that I am living now that counts. We are assured of death for a fact as my former catechist used to sing, that we shall surely die, and we cannot prevent ourselves from this fact, the only questions we can ask ourselves is, how will death find me? What am I doing with my now to make it count?
We are called to be Christians, we are called to be Christ-like, and we are called to be perfect just like Christ was. Every day is a constant journey towards perfection. Yet we are not perfect ourselves, but we perfect each other in day to day living and we are constantly being perfected by Christ. We are called to reach out to people as Christ did, in love. We are called to live the truth as Christ did, in word and deed, where we believe what we read from the Holy Scripture and we practice what we believe. We are called to stand up for that truth even if it means death like that of Christ or the martyrs who died after him. We are called to love one another just like Christ loved us, the true selfless, self giving humble love, where the lower you go, the more love is manifest. We are called to literally live the words of Mathew 25:35-36, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,” because “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” says verse 40 of the same chapter. We are called to fulfill the temporary assignment we are assigned the moment we were created because before we were born we were consecrated.
Today we live in a death-denying culture. People live as if death did not exist. May we from the day to day activities of this world learn to appreciate that life is not permanent, that all is vanity, and in learning this, we may cultivate that which really counts, that life is a temporary assignment, that in doing this temporary assignment we glorify God, and in Glorifying Him, may He in that moment we stand before Him, not be ashamed of us, and then our death will never be untimely. It will be TIMELY; we will have concluded our assignment. But more so, may God grant us graces to recognize that assignment.