I probably shouldn’t be asking this.
If death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15), then why does it … sting?
Stings hurt. They bite. They cause pain. Death does that. So why does the word say that it doesn’t?
Another translation has it as about last words and so on, which makes more sense. But we still have to wait a long time for the last, the final word. It’s an age away, literally, when you’ve lost someone who’s not here any more.
Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote a great little book called Lament For A Son, a snapshot of his journey through grief after his death in a climbing accident. Wolterstorff is a Christian philosopher, one of those people who is supposed to have answers; or at least help us find the right questions. The most moving section of his book, for me, is where he talks about how doctrines that he thought would comfort him didn’t. What use is the resurrection (true as he holds it to be) if you can’t have a hug from your son?
That’s a hell of a sting to not have.
My murdered friend is gone now; I believe, utterly, that I’ll see him in the new creation. I really do. But it doesn’t help now. I need him now; not then.
Some will see this is a crisis of faith. I once heard someone explain his nervous breakdown as doubting the doctrine that some are elected, chosen to go to heaven and some aren’t. Once he’d accepted it was true he said he’d got over his breakdown. Well I’ve never believed that doctrine; I don’t see it in Scripture. Questions are not symptomatic of losing faith.
I need to ask, though. Death seems to me have a hell of a sting. The last but one word echoes for a long, long, long time before the last one is finally spoken.
It’s easy for God, risen and ascended as His Son is, surveying it all from the vantage point of eternity where it all fits together, what with being the one who from His perspective has uttered, will utter and is uttering the last word.
We’re time-bound, here and now, and we can’t see or hear the final reality of those last, final words. I have to accept that. I have to accept that I can’t know, can’t see my friend, can’t have a hug or an argument or sort something out with him.
Hard, though. It stings.
Is the Bible wrong? Or did I miss the point?
If you can’t cope with silence, don’t ask an unanswerable question.
Where is death’s sting?
It’s right here, right now, where I am and you are.
The sting will be drawn. In time.
For now we live with the sting.