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RIP: dealing with death

January 11, 2016


This is not a blog post about David Bowie.

Bowie’s death announced today is one of a number of recently, and certainly the highest profile of all. What has struck me over the past few weeks, whether it has been Lemmy of Motörhead, radio DJ Ed “Stewpot” Stewart or Bowie, is that as the tributes pour in, 3 letters dominate the messages.

R. I. P.

3 letters that are all over the net.

I know what those three letters stand for, but I almost felt today as if I needed to remind myself.

There’s no surprise.

Rest. In. Peace.

From all the people today who posted their “RIP David Bowie”, the one that struck me most was comedian Ricky Gervais.

An outspoken atheist.

Of course atheists believe that death is the end. There is nothing to look forward to beyond the grave.

So it occurs to me that for an atheist to be addressing a dead man and using the word rest, is on a par with the shopkeeper in Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch, insisting “he’s not dead, he’s only resting”.

But when you die that’s it isn’t it? Or is there something even in the atheist that longs for something better? Something that will last even beyond death itself?

Instinctively people look for a life beyond the dead. They talk about their departed loved ones “up there” looking down on them. Or they talk about the great musicians who jam together in the concert halls of heaven. For those who are good, those who are talented, those who enriched our lives, we want something better for them.

Interestingly too we have strong views about who should be where. We don’t bring out the RIP  for a Hitler, or Hussaun or a Saville. Burn in hell is more likely to be heard.

Somewhere in us we want the wicked to be punished and the good to be rewarded. We want tabLes turned for the victims of this life. We want it to be more than “Ashes to ashes”.

And as Christians we can trot out the RIPs. And I wonder sometimes, have we as Christians become blasé about death? About the importance of the good news that God calls us to share with the world? Have we come to believe that because of the love of God in Jesus everything is going to turn out alright – for everyone we like.

Thankfully it is not my job to pronounce on anyone, celebrity, friend or neighbour. The bible teaches that God is the judge and that he is just. 

The bible teaches plainly though that what we do in this life has an effect that will go on for eternity. Specifically what we do with Jesus. If I accept him as Lord of my life, then he promises eternal life, that starts now.

And when we pass to the other side, will it be rest? Will it be peace? The bible does talk about those who die entering into rest. Falling asleep. But then a resurrection where there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

The bible struggles to do any justice to what heaven is going to be like. It is too beautiful, too big for description in mere human words. But at times the visions we are given are of pretty loud, physical worship.
Jesus, on the point of his own death, promised a crucified thief that he would be with him in paradise. Certainly our struggles will be over.

Revelation 21:3-4 says “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” “


From → Christianity

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