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15th October: Better off Dead. A Matter of Viewpoint (2)

It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. Matthew 26:24

God's criteria for judging the value of a man's life are in stark contrast to man's. They refer not to biological excellence, but to spiritual relationships.

Man's relationship to him

Referring specifically to Judas, Jesus highlighted the all-importance of the issue of acceptance or rejection of himself. Better not born than knowingly, calculatedly, determinedly and finally to reject the Lord of glory in exchange for transient and worthless things. `How often would I... and you would not' (Mt 23:37).

Read Jn 3:16-19.

Man's relationship to others

Better a millstone... and death by drowning than that we should cause a child who believes in him to stumble or sin (Mt 18:6). As Christians we are perhaps in greater danger here than in the matter of total rejection of the Lord. The world's values rub off, it is easy to conform to and walk in the world's ways and to lose the Christian difference. Paul tells the Christians at Philippi, `Imitate me!' (Phil 3:17). What will happen to others today if they do just that with me? If they copy my behaviour at the mess party? My degree of integrity in filling up claim forms or job applications? The conscientiousness or otherwise of my routine work? My minor distortions of the truth in covering up my mistakes or blaming others? My casual conversations and slanted gossip? We tend to have a higher standard for others than for ourselves, and to excuse in ourselves what we do not tolerate in others. If everyone I meet today copies me, will the hospital be a better or a worse place in which to live? Or, in those close personal relationships, perhaps hidden from other Christians, is my aim self-gratification or the standing of my friends before God? What a tragedy if friendship with me leads to forgotten ideals, forsaken standards, a diminishing awareness of God's holiness, or a broken relationship between him and one of his followers (or potential followers)!

Read Rom 12:1-2.

Man's relationship to himself

There is a sense in which every Christian is `better off dead', not only because to be out of the world and `with Christ is far better' (Phil 1:23), but in a spiritual sense here and now because Jesus said `He who loses his life for my sake will find it' (Mt 10:39). He was not just referring to physical death, though some are called to face that, but rather a death to self to which we are all daily called, and which is the prerequisite of experiencing the risen life of Jesus within us. We should do well to echo Paul's prayer: `That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death' (Phil 3:10).

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee.
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

George Matheson

Further reading: Jn 12:24-15. Rom 8:10-14.


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