Congress voted early this morning to reopen the federal government by passing a $400 billion budget deal. Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics opening ceremony began in South Korea just a few minutes ago.
These events are leading the news, but I want to focus on a completely different story.
Lucas Warren is 18-months-old and lives in Dalton, Georgia. He was chosen this week to be Gerber's new "Spokesbaby of the year." Lucas was selected from more than 140,000 entries in the company's photo search contest.
He is the first child with Down syndrome to be chosen.
As Nick Pitts notes, Lucas would probably have been aborted if his parents lived in the Netherlands. Their termination rate for babies with Downs is between 74 percent and 94 percent.
In Denmark, the abortion rate for Down syndrome babies is 98 percent. As much as 80 percent of the Danish population is irreligious. Here's my question: Should not such a secular culture be especially committed to the value of this life since they don't believe in the life to come?
My son Ryan and I were discussing this subject and he asked the converse question, "Why would we mourn death if we don't value life?" If life has no intrinsic meaning, why would death matter?
Ryan noted that Christians don't fear death because we value the life to come. We know that death is not the end of life but the beginning of its next stage. That's why Scripture teaches, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15).
"Make me know my end"
Genesis 3 records the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after their sin. The Lord sent Adam from the garden "lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (v. 22).
Being barred from the tree of life was not an act of punishment; God's purpose was to keep humans from living forever in our fallen bodies and broken world. Would you want to spend eternity in your body as it continues to age and weaken?
In this sense, death is a gift. And it is a daily reminder that life is a gift as well.
In Psalm 39, David prays: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!" (v. 4). From his wise prayer we learn the following:
One: We do not know the brevity of life. Most of us think we have more time than we do. We are seldom ready for the end to come. Maybe next week or next month, but not today.
Two: Only God can reveal the shortness of life to us in a convincing way. This is why David makes this a prayer rather than an observation.
Three: If we do not ask God to impress on us the brevity of our lives, we will waste our days. If we do, we will value our time with urgency.
"There are better things ahead than any we leave behind"
It would seem that God answered David's prayer, for the next verses testify, "Behold, you have made my days a few handbreaths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely man goes about as a shadow!" (vv. 5-6).
David echoes James's question, "What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes" (James 4:14). Job noted, "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle" (Job 7:6).
Paul advised us, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16). His encouragement should be our life motto: "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Mary Willis Shelburne was a widow living in Washington, DC. She was a journalist, poet, and critic, and was dealing with health problems and strained family relationships. She wrote a letter to C. S. Lewis asking for advice. Their extended correspondence eventually became a book, Letters to an American Lady.
One of Lewis's letters was written when she was in a hospital and fearful about dying. He asked her, "Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer?" He added: "Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind."
Ironically, she went on to live 12 more years; Lewis died five months later.
After asking God to help him understand the brevity of his life, David prayed, "I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers" (Psalm 39:12). His admission calls to mind an old Jewish parable.
A famous rabbi lived very simply, inhabiting a small hut with only a cot, desk, chair, and lamp for furnishings. An American tourist came to visit the rabbi and commented on his sparse lifestyle.
The rabbi replied to the tourist, "I don't see many possessions with you today." The tourist explained, "But I'm only passing through."
The rabbi said, "So am I."
First published at the Denison Forum.
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