I’ve been meaning to share this blog post for a while but have been waiting for the right day. Maundy Thursday, the eve of the Easter Triduum or the three dark days when our story collides with with the weight of Jesus’ death and the darkness of the tomb, is the day for this post.
Restoration family member Justin McGee, inspired by The Slavery of Death by Richard Beck, wrote a reflection on the lure of immortality that enslaves us through the systems and presuppositions of a world that falsely defines what it means to be great. In the first part of his story Justin shares how coming to Restoration challenged his assumptions about his identity as a follower of Jesus.
In the second part, Justin ruminates on the crisis of identity that causes us to seek greatness of our own making. We fear death and work toward a vision of our own immortality. In short, we are slaves to death. Justin writes:
Leading up to my time at Restoration, I believed in a very particular vision of Christianity – a vision that is not fundamentally incorrect, but is reductive of the gospel’s entire message.
Culture and its institutions – religious, political, or corporate – say, “This is what it means to live the good life. Go,” and we follow along, no matter the cost. In gaining our significance through these avenues, we are pursuing what Beck refers to as our “neurotic anxiety.” We become slaves to death by trying to cover death up with our unrelenting, neurotic pursuit of the cultural hero systems which produce an arbitrary significance.
At the root of this sacrifice to the principalities and powers of the world – the institutions which call for us to participate in their hero systems – is our bondage to the fear of death. These institutions will survive long after us, so if we can find meaning and value within them, if we sacrifice our essential identity in order for them to survive, we can somehow transcend our death and live, theoretically forever, within the confines of the immortal institution we are bound to.
May we be secure in the life of God, secure in our identity of being his beloved, and empty our lives out for the sake of others – even if the culture or Christian culture’s version of success is at stake. May we truly believe that Christ has conquered death by his love and has empowered us to love – even in the face of our fears.