No life is lived in vain
Paul reminds us in Corinthians that in Christ, no life is lived in vain. There should be comfort in that message regardless of our age or how fairly life has treated us. Certainly for families and friends of people who have succumbed to COVID-19, these are powerful words.
I think of families forced to grieve for their sons and daughters killed in wars. I think of parents whose children have fallen victim to cancers or SIDS or other diseases or accidents. I think of victims of gun violence, many of them children. I think of people desperate enough to take their own lives. We do not live or die in vain!
When counting the victims of this coronavirus, the statistics show an overwhelming predominance of people of color, of prisoners, of nursing home residents and people given no choice but to work in unsafe environments. The statistics reveal the same ugliness of our nation’s past.
How many people really died in coal mines whose operators aligned with politicians just in our own West Virginia history? How many soldiers are still dying from their wounds from Agent Orange or PTSD? How many African Americans actually died in the fields picking cotton? How much sorrow and suffering happens just because of hunger and poverty? What if we had been born somewhere else?
How often has the Church turned a blind eye to cruelty, hatred or evil? How often have we been the source of such things? And yet we are promised that none of our lives are lived in vain.
What amazing grace this God of ours dispenses! We assert our rights when we should be on our knees. We claim the moral high ground while we are really stuck in the mud of the valley of the shadow of death. By what right do we live?
Only by the grace of God in Christ can we be justified in drawing a breath. However many we take is not the issue. What we do with our lives is all that matters. Do we love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Times such as these make these questions very real indeed.
Platitudes, predictions and posturings abound as we face this current crisis. Evil tends to gets its way in chaos unless good is very careful and dutiful. Our lives matter! They are not lived in vain.
I confess to the same anger, depression, frustration and sense of hopelessness that I am certain many of you also feel. I am sometimes overcome with waves of uselessness and despair. It’s more than being shut in; it’s being shut out of life itself.
That’s when Paul’s words, written from prison, mean so much. We may be severely restricted. We may even be sick or dying. We are not, however, living in vain. God has given to all of us everlasting meaning and purpose for however many or few be our days.
Tom Hartshorn is the pastor of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ.