Thursday, June 28, 2007

Death Aware

"A Warrior believes that his foremost concern is to keep death in mind at all times."
The introduction to Bushido Shoshinshu by Taira Shigesuke,
written in the mid-to-late 1600's

Shigesuke then goes on to explain that by doing so, the warrior will always be loyal to his employ, his family, and his responsibilities.

If he knows that death is imminent he will avoid base human evils and silly trifles and, thus, live a long healthy life (until the moment of death is required of him, which he is then prepared to do so willingly.)

Keeping death in mind, according to Shigesuke, will prevent a warrior from acting thoughtlessly with loved ones, with finances, and with each and every move. He will pick his battles with great care, not getting drawn into senseless debating or arguing.

The warrior will thus choose his words wisely and not speak carelessly for if death is required of him he can die without hesitation or regret; he can die boldly knowing his life is in order!

How true and noble! Having read Shigesuke's book again last night, I was greatly impressed at two things.
  1. Jesus was a warrior! He was not only a servant and King, but a warrior of great distinction, even according to the samurai and bushido.
  2. If a teaching like this can help one live their life more robustly, how much more so for the day-to-day Christian!
There are two powerful reasons that I believe that Christians should cling ferociously to the teachings of Shigesuke! I feel that we would perform our divine mission astronomically better by keeping death in mind, and keeping death in mind should be highly enjoyable and easy for us as Christians.

For the most part, Christianity is so ho-hum it would put a snail into a coma. We wake, work, wimper, and wink for forty, just to wake and do it all over again. When did this mission turn into a mission to sack the buffet?

When Shigesuke wrote about bushido, he wrote it to attack the lackadaisical attitude that had infiltrated the warrior class in times of peace. This is a huge indictment against Christianity. In our time of peace, with no real enemy except sluggishness, we have let the old disciplines go wayward.

Were we called to battle we could not perform.
Perhaps this is why we are not being called to battle.

To keep death constantly in mind would perhaps give us the impetus to step up to a platform we would:
  • not be pulled into useless conversation
  • not have a tolerance for poor performance, preaching, or half-hearted attempts to minister; this would be looked down on and bring shame to a home
  • not whine about this, that, or the other thing
  • not waste time or money mindlessly
To keep death constantly in mind we would:
  • wake each morning expectant, with a mission in mind
  • cause our wives and children to be excited about the things of God
  • instill boldness in our lineage for the cause
  • have our board members earn the right to serve as advisors based on loyalty
  • re-instill loyalty, duty and courage to the home
To keep death in mind would cause us to choose our words wiser, serve tirelessly, esteem others' lives as more valuable than our own, know what it is to bear one another's burdens, all because we would live as if tomorrow is not promised, as if it were a vapor.

Our daily lives could be poured out as a drink offering because we are not clinging to life and the things of this world. This is what keeping death in mind is to the Christian.

This act should also be easy for a Christian. "Why," you ask? Well, because our sight should be on the things above and not on the things below.

"Thank you, pat-Christian-guy. What does it mean?"

It means that with our sights on heaven spending eternity with our Lord and truly not having to worry about death as a reality, we should be able to look around us and say:

"It is far better to be with Christ now!
But, if I must remain here for one more day, then I will serve unto blood!
I will love until I can't love any more!
I will give until I can't give any more!"

Should God take me tomorrow, I will know that I have spent every last skin cell of this husk of a body in the service of God and man! THEN, I will sleep the night through in total rest. Then, waking tomorrow, I will do the same.

The truth is that when we keep death in mind constantly we will finally be able to begin to believe that we are destined to heaven. For a Christian, keeping death in mind should bring a thrill of excitement.

Perhaps He will allow me to come home today! In the meantime, I will serve my fellow man as if I were serving God Himself in the courts of His glory!

This is what keeping death in mind has meant for me!


Sabrina Rae said...

At the risk of sounding ignorant...

While reading this post; I could not help but think are we not built for survival? Does it not say countless times in the Bible that the death of Christ has brought us (sinners) eternal life? If we are ultimately seeking the goal of walking into the second Earth that God is going to create and that is to be our inheritance - to LIVE in this second Earth; don't those fundamental Christian views propose that as we have accepted Christ, and thus become members of the kingdom - we have accepted eternal life? Because we live with the knowledge that our physical bodies are shells which house our "spirit man" and we live on Earth - now, but to "die" in fact - is to merely switch forms of living. Life does not ever stop for the true Christian believer, does it? We were created to please God here in the Earthly realm, and in the spiritual one as well. (Lest we displease God and be cast out of the spiritual realm as Satan was.) I believe that to keep death in mind as a catalyst to perpetuate good works towards our fellow man and loved ones; ultimately takes the glory away from God who has designed, for his pleasure - human beings, in His image to LIVE. According to his law - do unto others, and judge not - lest ye be judged. We should not look to death, but to Christ to model, inspire and perpetuate our behavior. God owns everything by creative right. He has given us authority over the earth. The way to respect that authority, and ultimately respect and glorify God (as we are commanded to do), is to steward well over our time, finances and relationships. We do not pick our battles, but rather put on peace and love and clothe ourselves in the loving nature that is reflective of our God, and allow Him to guide us into battle - should He ever feel that is necessary. And if it is necessary to do battle than I have the utmost faith that God will be my strength to stand strong against any enemy. For we walk in faith and not by sight. I whole heartedly agree with you that Jesus is a warrior. He stands by our side constantly and helps to wage war on the enemy every moment of our lives. But Jesus did not die. We are children of the Living God, and we are guaranteed eternal LIFE. To me Jesus died to rise again, and save my life. If I live with the idea that each breath could be my last; does that not de-glorify and dishonor Christ's sacrifice for me? I agree that to know Jesus is to let your old worldly life die on the cross, but only so that your new life and identity in Christ can spring anew. And in my humble opinion; the motivating factor to do good works is because I have an eternity to spend with my Living God, and I'd prefer to spend that time in His good graces. If I thought I was going to die and become food for worms - then I might as well; live it up, drink it down, speak my mind and " like it's 1999."

Grant R. Nieddu said...

I totally agree.

To keep death in mind would be a practice I recommend, because a) Christians don’t keep eternal life in mind, let alone death. Without thinking about death, they don’t value their eternal life, therefore they are living like the unsaved who live as if they were already dead. B) whenever a Christian thinks of death, they are therefore immediately reminded of eternal life (as you were!) But when they don’t think of death, then, as stated above, they don’t contrast that to their gift of life.

Simply put, Christians don’t value death as a change of states therefore they don’t value the Life that has been given to them, therefore they don’t value the Price that was paid for it.

Without death in mind, they miss the whole point.

“I die daily…”

“To live is Christ, but to die is gain…”

“Put to death the deeds of the flesh…”

I think that death is a fundamental of Christianity that is avoided like the whole “money” talk is avoided; lack of understanding the meaning perpetuates lack of understanding of the value of death as a whole.