The Fear of Death
The Lord abhors the man of violence and deceit.
But as for me, in the fullness of Your mercy I will come in Your house…
It can be safely assumed that much of society today operates under the fear of looming death. St. Athanasius said that death came as a corrupting consequence of humanity choosing to be separate from its Creator. It is for this reason that death is often accompanied by violence as if the two are united in a satanic matrimony of sorts.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
When one looks around at his surroundings, especially in the current circumstances involving the pandemic, one can conclude that our fear of death has led to the dehumanizing of our neighbors. The contemporary fear of death, embodied in the ‘Karen’ meme, has made us imitators of the ideal citizen of Oceania—that Orwellian superstate depicted in the novel 1984.
The fear of death has instilled in us the need to pay homage to corrupt institutions that demand the turning in of our neighbors. It has made it a necessity for us to be envious of our neighbors who love their children, wives, husbands, parents, and friends. It has made a necessity to hate our neighbors, those who enjoy the God-bestowed freedom to love and care for our brothers and sisters. In short, the fear of death results in us sacrificing our neighbors so that we can live.
Fear itself is like a contagious disease, and it is only fitting that it pollutes us spiritually as does the COVID-19 virus physically. As COVID-19 leads to physical death, fear leads to spiritual death—death via human sacrifice.
Christ the God-man destroys this fear and He does so comprehensively. In sacrificing Himself on the cross, Jesus counters the disease of fear with His own death. He brushes aside the fear of death by embracing death, not as the Nietzschean madman Kirillov in Dostoevsky’s Demons, but as the ultimate self-sacrifice for humanity’s redemption.
In Christ’s crucifixion, we recognize that death no longer holds sway over us. In Christ’s resurrection following the crucifixion, we recognize that we have nothing to fear from death. Death is the gateway to God and his kingdom of infinite love, joy, and mercy. Why then must we fear death?
The apostle Paul writes:
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
~1 Corinthians 15:54-55
The fear of death is laid waste and in its place we are beckoned to embrace courage—courage to lay down our lives for our neighbors. We are called to imitate the One who laid down His life for us, and in imitating Him there is no room for betraying and sacrificing our neighbors; we can only pursue our neighbors through self-sacrifice and voluntary discourse, and to do that we must be willing to first repent ourselves, for change is initiated by becoming righteous role models for others to imitate.
Just as Christ imitates His Father, so must we imitate the Son of the Father, for the imitation of the merciful Christ is the triumphant way of the regenerative Spirit—love realized in us.