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Wanting Not To Die
September 24, 2011
I’m writing today from West Boylston, Massachusetts (I’ve never managed to spell Massachusetts without using spell checker), at the site of the Psalm 119 Conference. Yesterday I spoke on desiring discernment and a few minutes ago on how to be discerning without being a complete jerk (a.k.a. speaking truth in love). It’s been great to connect with some people in this neck of the woods, though such Christian fellowship requires overlooking the fact that the folk around here are Red Sox fans.
The plane I flew in yesterday was small enough that it had an open cockpit and we could see the crew going about their business. As I watched them do what they do to get us from Toronto to Providence, I was struck by one very simple fact of life—we all want to live, or at least, we all want not to die. Obvious, I know, but significant. I sometimes think of this as well as I hurtle down the highway at 60 or 70 miles per hour, surrounded by hundreds of other drivers doing the same thing. We all stay in our lanes, we all drive straight, we all brake at the right times and we all keep alert. It would just take one or two people to completely alter all of that—one or two people who just stopped caring whether they lived or died.
The same is true in the air. When we fly, we just assume that the pilots at the front of the plane care about life as much as we do, that they have as strong a desire as we do not to die. The alternative is almost unthinkable.
God has built into us this desire to remain alive, not to die. We love life and cling to it with all we’ve got. But can you imagine what the world would be like if we were ambivalent about living? If we didn’t care so much? Seriously, just think about what it would be like to fly or drive if pilots were only half-committed to remaining alive.
As I think about my desire not to die, to cling to life, I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus who said, “Greater love has no man than this: that he would lay down his life for his friend.” To give up your life and to give it up for another person, this goes against our built-in desire to remain alive. And this is why we are so moved by tales of sacrifice, by those who surrender their own life for the sake of someone else. And, of course, the greatest sacrifice of all was made by Jesus, who, though he knew no sin, though he was perfect and unblemished, more worthy of life than any of us, gave up his life for the most sinful, becoming sin on our behalf.