The solemnity and respect, accorded to the dead, is unbelievably strange, as embracive of all cultures. Where, in the world are the dead not respected more than those currently living? The easiest way of receiving respect from fellow humans is succumbing to death. The descriptiveness of Christian hypocrisy is found in the glory that is currently given to Jesus.
The man called Jesus cannot be equaled to anyone else in this world. But it is His death that is highlighted, more than His life. There is no secret in that the common man’s claim of loving Jesus is ensconced in His death, more than His life. Hence, appearing as impossible for some to claim Christianity, without the cross.
If eking a living, out in communal lands, there is no hope of ever seeing close relatives, currently in the diaspora, or major cities. But, be certain, the majority of them will pitch up, paying their last respect, after you die. Some of them may, actually, purchase an expensive casket, to reveal their fondness of you.
Good income-earners are recognized as the best clients to funeral parlors and stone sculptures. The funeral undertaking business cannot compete with any other, in terms of profitability. Death takes the crown, as there is no argument in that the dead receive more respect than those still alive.
Ironically, in the history of humanity, nothing is feared more than death. Probably, only the psychopaths and witches comprise the groups that appear as unafraid of death? Nevertheless, the term “death” does not exist in the vocabulary of those appreciating having been created in God’s image.
For such people, death is as unimportant as zero does not count in mathematical figures. This means that there should be no need to put a value on dead bodies. The question of whether one’s body is interred in a million-dollar casket, or wrapped in a tattered old blanket, bears no significance.
There is no difference, even if one’s remains were tossed in hungry lions’ den. Or shredded and sold as dog’s meat. Only the spirit, comprising the life component, animating the physical body, should be treated as important. Without the certainty of human origin, both the religious authorities and scholars, alike, are far from understanding the problems of humanity.
It may only be the witches and psychopaths who are not celebrated, after their demise. Nevertheless, the general view of humanity is that death should be treated with more respect than life. The Bible bears a narration that sustains the Bible-believing Christians, as clinically unpacking the description of death.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die”(Genesis 2:15-17) (NIV).
To whom was God referring to, when declaring the above reality of death? That which was created in God’s image cannot relate to death and is not sustained by food. The man called Adam, formed of the dust, appears as having had limitations. His formation took place, only after the entire Creation had been finalized and pronounced as very good (Genesis 1:31).
There could not have been any need for God to add anything onto what had been created in His own image. The phenomenon of death is the opposite of life, which all normal humans seek to preserve. But the question is stuck on why the same humans give death more respect than life?
Perhaps the fairest question, before delving into the meaning of death, is to deal with the meaning of life. What is life and why should life be taken as more important than death? The purpose of Jesus’s death on the cross was to redeem life. But why should there be value in redeeming life?
The dead are not conscious of what goes on in the physical universe? In physical life, the plants and the animal kingdom compete for space. Although displaying survival challenges, other species are not conscious of anything better.
Those species desire to live, but they do not know the purpose for living, except to eat and procreate. There is no evolution in the plants and animal kingdom. The lion that existed at the point of creation, behaved similarly to the one existing today.
The soil feeds vegetation, while vegetation feeds herbivorous animals that, in turn, sustain the carnivorous animals. Without the carnivorous species, the herbivorous species proliferate, so as to suffocate everything necessary for continued survival.
In other words, in plants and animal kingdoms, one observes wisdom in creative tapestry, incomparable to any other wisdom of this world. Apparently, humanity carries a discordant story on the entire creation. Where did Man come from?
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”(Genesis 1:26-27) (NIV).
Right here, lies the mystery of all ages. In the physical universe, everything was created to sustain different species. The soil feeds the grass; that feeds herbivorous animals; that feeds carnivorous animals, keeping the herbivorous animals in manageable quantities. Whatever dies, enriches the soil, which sustains blossoming in vegetation.
There is no wisdom that surpasses God’s wisdom, as observed in creation. Humans, having been created in God’s image, were originally out of this equation. Although granted the responsibility to manage, humans were not part of this marvelous creation. There is only a special reason why humans were given the responsibility to manage God’s creation.
When considering this reality with a clearheaded mind, one understands that God’s image implies that which cannot die. God’s image, attributed to Man, also implies the ability to create, just as God is a creator. The Garden of Eden story shows what became of a man created in God’s image. But, how could the Man, created in God’s image succumb to sin?
In understanding this, we have to clear the meaning and significance of God’s image. Anything created in God’s image resembles God. Unlike animals, resembling their forbearers, humans were created to be God-like. If God is self-sustaining, individual humans should also be self-sustaining.
The idea of self-sustenance requires character and responsibility, highlighting the component of freedom and independence. Obviously, this idea cannot be accepted by idol-worshippers. Just as self-sustenance requires character and responsibility, self-determinism is the primary requisite, in what was created in God’s image.
Before acquiring self-determinism, freedom of choice is primarily essential. Hence, Adam was given the choice, at the Garden of Eden. The commandment to avoid the tree of knowledge of good and evil was directed to the dust formation—hence, “….For dust you are and to dust, you shall return”(Genesis 3:19) (NIV).
The revered term “Son of the soil” is as appropriate as affirmed by Genesis 3:19. But this term applies, only to the unbelievers. This term has got nothing to do with the Sons of the living God. What belongs to the soil, goes back to the soil, from where it came. The term “death,” depicts the cycle that is characterized in animals and vegetation, as commonly recycled through the soil.
However, death does not apply to what was created in God’s image. The privilege of surviving in the dust was for purposes of character development and self-determinism. The plan of salvation, through Jesus, was, specifically, designed for this purpose. Jesus does not manipulate, anyone to follow Him.
Anyone who chooses to follow Jesus, does so, without manipulation or cohesion. That is exactly how self-determinism applies. God does not require anyone to follow Him, without carefully making one’s own decision. The sacrifice of Jesus served to facilitate the route, only for the willing ones. (John 3:16).
While all-knowing, God chooses not to be all-knowing, on matters of humanity’s will-power. Is it not interesting that in Revelation 20, Satan is locked up, only to be released again, to deceive humanity as before? Why would God allow such a development, if not for purposes of granting self-determinism to humanity?
Having experienced the altruistic conditions, during Satan’s detention, many people would still prefer following the devil. Obviously, the lake of fire was designed for those choosing not to be in God’s Kingdom. Grace is extended to everyone, but the callous sinners will still prefer following Satan’s ways.
Who are those people? Before answering that stoical question, let us first understand that the principle of love does not violate anyone’s will. Salvation is a matter of choosing between two philosophies—altruism and self-centeredness.
Judgment comes at the end, but the effects of self-centeredness can be experienced in countries like Zimbabwe. It is true that some people draw comfort with what prevails. Just as it is also true that others lose sleep, worried about what prevails?
Interestingly, we have people who identify themselves as believers, on both sides. But, it is impossible for the altruistic ones to feel comfortable with what prevails in the governing system of Zimbabwe. This is notwithstanding that the governing system brings comfort to self-centered people.
This analysis does not prescribe who would make it into God’s Kingdom. But the same analysis displays certainty in that those investing in death are different from those investing in life. One reaps what he sows. Those appearing as respecting death, as to be also scared of it, are associated with this world.
Those who are not of this world, carry no respect for death. Their behavior is similar to that of David, who spent time praying and fasting for his sick son. Rather than fasting and spending time mourning for his dead child. Those of this world could not understand the behavior of David.
David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
On the seventh day, the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions, and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request, they served him food, and he ate.
His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”(2 Samuel 12:16-23) (NIV).
The identity of a being, created in God’s image, includes a lack of concern about death. The pain, inflicted on a physical body, does not affect the awareness of the awareness unit of a human being. The physical entity carries no value, except for everything that identifies with the physical universe.
Death affects the genetic entity, as understood by ordinary humans. It is necessary to rise above physical existence. When Jesus stated that there was nothing impossible, for the faithful, He intended to project the uniqueness of human beings.
This has got nothing to do with vanity, as describing the generality of humans, presently existing. All humans are capable and have an equal chance of reverting to God’s image. This does not take into consideration the race, skin color, or gender of an individual.
In short, there is no information surpassing the reality in that humans were created in God’s image. Although this information is suppressed by the proud, there is no need to lose sleep over the matters of death. But there is a need to lose sleep over matters of life.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99