We’ve all done it. We’ve looked upon a person whose body is gaunt with disease and whose face is haunted by pain. His speech is slurred; his mind is fuzzy. The idea he tries to express to me consumes all his energy. Nothing seems more important than communicating to me what he desires. As I make out the words he struggles to pronounce I realize how far gone he is. He begs me for food. That’s his desire. Why is that bad? Why does that bother me? The nurse holds a spoon to his mouth at this very moment – but he swats the spoon away, and continues to tell me he’s hungry.
I look to the nurse and mumble with sorrow, “As much as I love him, and I don’t want to see him go – it would almost be a blessing if he did. This disease leaves him crippled and confused. Death may bring him peace.”
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord God has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider.”
Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.
Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up or soothed with ointment.
God’s people are entering church buildings, consumed by their own lusts and desires. The Church lives in sin – and sin, by nature, is destructive. The consequences of her actions leave her confused and tired, reeling in agony, yearning for freedom – and yet, she swats away the nourishment Jesus offers. The Church is hungry – starving for spiritual nutrition – and yet she scoffs at the food offered to her. She’s obsessed with her desire, distracted by her pain. Jesus looks upon His bride, the Church, and then He declares death a blessing. He hates to see her diseased and delusional. He indicates death is the cure.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”
Christ asks the Church to die to herself daily. Die to her fleshly desires. In death He will bring her peace, and then offer her new life. Abundant life.
We may face withdrawal and excruciating pain when we deny our flesh, when we walk away from our addictions. We may feel as if we are losing a part of our innermost being. “Who am I without that man? What feelings must I endure without that drug? What can I say if I don’t gossip?” But after the choice has been made, the pain will wither to an end. The choice to die will never come easily. But is life marked by sinful agony really any easier? Church, let’s not be sick.