Why do we Have to Die? – Part 1

All Saints Day is coming up on November 1.  This is a day where we remember those who have died in the faith.  It is a day we remember that in life and death, we belong to Christ.  This is the first of a two-part series.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. – John 12:24 (NRSV)

Jewish tombs on the Mount of Olives.
Jewish tombs on the Mount of Olives.

About a decade ago, when God first called me back to my faith, I began to serve in a variety of places within the church. I didn’t know what my gifts and passions were, and I didn’t know how practicing Christians lived. It didn’t take very long for me to settle in to children’s ministries. Because Scripture was such an important part of God’s call to me, I began to teach youth club Bible study.

I loved teaching kids. Starting when Eldest was in first grade, it was a place of relative safety because I figured I had to know more than they did. What I grew to love, however, was their desire to learn. They came anticipating they would encounter something new. I also loved that they would ask any question. They weren’t worried about sounding dumb. Their questions challenged me to respond in simple ways rather than with big church words.

It only took until second grade for them to start asking hard questions, though. How would you answer the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” or “Did God come out of Jesus when he was on the cross?”

By the time we got to fourth grade, I found that they had better questions than the curriculum had lessons. I began to allow for weeks where we would talk about their questions. One of the ones we talked about was, “Why do we have to die?”

This question returned to me as I thought about All Saints Day. I’m a root cause sort of person, and as I reflected on this question those many years ago I didn’t think this was the first question we should ask.

Maybe the first question is, “Why do we live?”

This question causes us to go back to the beginning – all the way to the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2:

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV)

The LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. – Genesis 2:7 (CEB)

Time for a quiz – I promise there will be no math (or trick questions).

  1. When did God create people? (day 6)
  2. What did God create before people? (everything else)
  3. What made people different from animals or plants? (likeness of God, breath of life)
  4. So why did God create people?

That’s the hard one, right? We tend to cast God in our own image, giving God all sorts of human likenesses and traits. But Jesus told us God is spirit[1]. John writes that God is love[2], and we know the fruit of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[3] Therefore, I believe that we are human and our likeness to God is in our spirit, or soul – especially when we bear the fruit of the spirit.

But why did God create us?

God is all about relationships. God is love and love always wants to be shared. Have you ever had something really amazing happen to you? Maybe you learned how to do something, earned a great score on a test you really studied for, or saw something beautiful?  Did you want to keep it a secret? Why not?  Who do you tell? Your friends, your family? Why?

When something amazing happens, we want to share it. When we share our excitement with someone else, we get to experience that excitement over again. Our joy increases. What’s more, when we share what we love, what we are excited about with someone we care about (and who cares about us), they get excited, too. They share in our joy. I believe God created us because God wanted to share creation with us and because we bring God joy.

So that brings us back to the kids’ question – and really our question, too. One of the greatest pains of human experience is the death of a loved one. So if God loves us so much, why do we have to die?

[1] John 4:24

[2] 1 John 4:8, 16

[3] Galatians 5:22-23

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One Thought to “Why do we Have to Die? – Part 1”

  1. […] All Saints Day is coming up on November 1.  This is a day where we remember those who have died in the faith.  It is a day we remember that in life and death, we belong to Christ.  This is the first of a two-part series. You can find part 1 here. […]

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