To Me, to Live Is Christ, And to Die Is Gain
St. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippian churches: “…to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
The Bible looks at many things in this way, in a strange way when compared to our way of measuring the value and quality of human life. We imagine that the highest goal of anyone's life is to gather and stick away stuff, to gain much, to possess much, to become wealthy and care-free. But the Bible says, “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?”
We imagine pleasure and enjoyment will make us happy and satisfy us, and so we chase after them like a thirsty animal chases after fresh water. Then it all passes away. Everything will be counted as loss in the end. Then death finally comes for each of us and takes away everything we've enjoyed, everything that makes us happy, everything and everyone we love, and it's rarely counted by anyone as gain.
But, to be united with Christ Jesus means peace. Peace with God, peace with men, peace from a tired body, peace for a soul that yearns to be at home with his Savior. It means heavenly riches and glories and happiness with Christ Jesus forever. Into this blessed, sweet communion each baptized saint, each beloved child of God, enters. So then, do we really want to linger over-long in this vale of tears, grasping at people and things that fade, fray, and wither away? Do we really want to be selfish with our Savior, clinging to each other in fear and insecurity when the table is prepared and the wedding feast is about to begin?
See, the thing is, real love, godly love in the way of Jesus is never selfish. It always thinks first about the Beloved. So, we Christians do not only think about what we could lose. Instead, we think more about our gain. We think about what the saints gain in their death until the thought of each baptized man and woman's gain overcomes the thought of our loss. This our Father will use to usher peace into our hearts.
The death of each saint reminds all of us that because of our baptism in Christ’s name, when our death comes, it will be gain instead of loss. Christ is our hope and our refuge. He Who died His Good Friday death for us, Who rose from the dead on the third day, Who ascended into heaven, has become the beginning and end of our living and dying, and with Him we live even though we die. In and through Jesus we move and are daily renewed in His baptismal grace. His consolation will accompany us in the midst of sickness and death. He will strengthen us, even strengthen us to carry the cross of old age. God Himself will give us hope, and by hope connect us with Christ Jesus through faith so that by Him, through Him, and in Him all our losses are turned to gain.
By Jesus’ death in our name, and by our death in His Name, we have gained the final victory. In God’s baptismal promise all of us can rest, not in our heart’s desires, which fade, wither, and wear out over time, but in the grace of God which works entirely by raising the dead. No uncertainties. No anxiety. Just God's unbreakable promise that:
“We were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father, we too might walk in a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” – Romans 6:3-5
Many saints have gone ahead of us. They are not here with us anymore. They are with Christ our Savior, united with Him in the Resurrection today and always. And so, at present, we pray, too, that the Lord of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ, lead us through the darkness and dread of sin and death, and give us the same peace, hope, and courage He has gifted to the saints in every generation, so that at all times and in every way we may enjoy peace and comfort until He takes us also from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.