So the Lord isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living. This means that everyone is alive as far as God is concerned. Luke 20:39 (CEV)
Do you want to die? This is the title of the first chapter in John O’Leary’s inspirational book, On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life. It is also the question O’Leary’s mother asked him when he was nine years old, laying in an ER bed with third degree burns on almost 100 percent of his body. Do you want to die?
Like most of us, O’Leary’s response was no. His mother went on to tell him that if he didn’t want to die, he needed to fight harder than he’d ever fought before to live. O’Leary writes that, “Life is not about avoiding death, it’s about choosing to really live.” He states that:
We all have that choice. We choose to vibrantly go about life, soak it up, embrace it, and celebrate it, or we choose not to. No one else can make this decision for us. We get one life. We either choose to live. Or we choose to die. (O’Leary, 2016, pg.10)
Like many people, my life can get stuck on autopilot. I get caught up in the daily drudgery of routine, failing to embrace and celebrate the fact that I get to make lunches for my kids to take to school. I forget to vibrantly wash dishes and do laundry, appreciating the time and space these somewhat mundane tasks give me to reflect, to pray or even to be still. I forget sometimes to really choose to live.
When Jesus talks to the Sadducees about life and death in Luke 20, his focus is on the resurrection (which the Sadducees didn’t believe in–it was a trick question). Jesus is establishing, through Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, that all of God’s children share in eternal life. Therefore, God is not God of the dead, but of the living.
The question for us Jesus followers is whether or not our lives reflect this truth. Do we live as people who have been given victory over death? Or, do we live in fear of death?
I’ll be honest with you. I often find myself living in fear of death. I’m a total hypochondriac. A mosquito bite in my armpit often becomes a death sentence in my mind. If one of my boys has a stomach cramp, I immediately think there’s some sort of internal blockage. Fortunately, I married a realist. He calmly talks me down from the “we’re all going to die!” ledge and says helpful things like: “It’s a mosquito bite.” Or, “He ate three hot dogs.”
My fear of death prevents me from truly embracing, celebrating and vibrantly living life. By fearing death, I’m giving death a power over my life that Jesus already vanquished. In working to avoid death (which is impossible) I’m not taking ownership of my life.
This is one of the key choices O’Leary lays out to ignite a radically inspired life. We have to take ownership of our lives. We have to be accountable for our choices, both good and bad. When we take ownership of our lives, we can choose the path forward. We can choose to forgive. We can choose to let go. We can choose to encourage. We can choose to build up. We can choose to serve others. We can choose to be present. We can choose to enjoy the mundane tasks. We can choose to engage others.
In short, when we take ownership of our lives, then we choose to really live.
God is the God of the living, not the dead. Let’s choose this week to really live.
Blessings and Peace