A hopeless philosopher once wrote that the only real choice we have is to kill ourselves or not. This is a philosophy of despair.
Albert Camus believed that life is absurd and makes no sense. As an atheist, he saw the contradictions and suffering. Still, he clung to the will to live, a philosophical version of the shallow sentiment of the song, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
In one sense, however, Camus was exactly right. The only real choice is to embrace death or cling to life. But for those who believe in Jesus Christ, the apparently simple choice holds a paradox.
To embrace death is to live, truly live. Not just any kind of death, mind you, and certainly not suicide. But the death of the self, death to self, death to death itself.
For those of us who live and breathe and eat and sleep are but dead men walking.
The death of Christ brought life. His resurrection proved God’s power over death and proves that we too can come to real life through death, his and ours.
The threat, the prophecy, the sad divine warning given to Adam and Eve, “Or you shall surely die,” came to pass. Man and woman died, as did mankind, death as separation from God, just as soul and body are wrenched apart at physical death.
We bore the consequences of their actions, the tasting of death in the Garden of Eden. And we bear the consequences of our own as well, that inexplicable link to Eden bearing fruit in our own forbidden knowledge of good and evil, in our own fall to the valley floor of separation.
Then came God in the flesh to bear to us yet more deathly consequences, this time, of his action at the cross, consequences that result in eternal life.
As God presents to us those history-making consequences, a new choice is born. The old choice can be, in a sense, undone. You can go home again.
So, to pull in Camus again, the only real choice in life is whether or not to pull the plug on this existence that we now have, in exchange for the fullness of life with and in God and the eternal bliss which kicks in as soon as the choice is sealed, in obedience to the gospel.
Those simple steps, as we are wont to call them, constitute the ticking of the last seconds of the old life being swapped out for the new.
I choose to believe it can happen, that God is and does and speaks, that he is for me, does for me, and speaks to me. Tick.
I choose to change from a life of dulling the spirit and perhaps even the body, in order to breathe the air of God’s holiness. Tock.
I choose to publicly declare that the old is gone and the new has come, that the generator of this change is Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. Tick.
I choose to melt away from the will of self into the will of God, be buried with Christ in order to touch his cleansing blood, and be raised up to life with Christ, in order to please him and trade the world for eternity. Tock.
The old life still surrounds us. The pain and suffering now appear before us louder and more intense than before. The cracks in the wall of this world widen even more.
But the old life is no longer in us. The new is born.
And so we set ourselves to the newly received task to which God has devoted himself since before the world began, that of rescuing those who age with this last, closing era, those who have no hope and deny its despair, those who live for the moment thinking to stave off the darkness of the future.
We have made the choice. And in the making of it, we see the unmade choices of others, so we stand in the downward flow of perdition, not merely to cry “Stop!”, but to offer the divine escape and urge the perishing with all urgency to grab hold of the one and single opportunity.
This is the only true choice. This is not a philosophy of despair, but the gospel of hope.
“This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him” 2 Timothy 2.11 NET.