I was told by one of the locals who saw me looking at this church gate that it is only used for funerals and that the locals use a separate entrance for regular services. The inscription over the gate reads “Death is the Gate to Life”. Inside the gateway is another inscription which reads “When after a few years are come then shall I go the way whence I shall not return, Job XVI CH 22 V” In this context the words speak of life after (physical) death, eternal life as spoken of in the scriptures.
I have passed by this gate several times while cycling around the Leicestershire / Northamptonshire area (You can just see my bike in the bottom right hand if the photo to the left), I always stop and ponder the words but I have never thought of them as having to do with physical death. I have always considered the words in another way.
If we really want to live then paradoxically we must first die. What do I mean by that? Jesus had a phrase for this, he called it being “Born Again”. I know that that those words have some negative connotations for some people, but we cannot get away from the fact that being “Born Again” is a central facet of the Christian Experience. It’s not all about going to heaven when you die though, it’s about starting to live a real authentic life here and now. In fact if your focus on being born again is just about going to heaven when you die then you have missed so much of what Jesus came to show us about living life here and now.
When we are “Born Again” we become the person that God intended us to be, the Apostle Paul described it as becoming a New Creation, others call it becoming Authentic or real. We are not just changed but the person we were has to die and then we have a new life in the identity that God always wanted us have from the beginning and that is an identity framed by Love. Jesus showed us what Love looks like when he spoke what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. He said, Love your enemy, bless those who persecute you, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and so on. That is when we truly begin to live, when we express God’s Love to those around us and see Christ in others. Life is only really lived when we live in an attitude of love, this can mean the acceptance of people who do not conform to our personal views of what is acceptable morally, sexually or socially; it might mean being willing to give up time and money to help someone who we would ordinarily think doesn’t deserve our attention; it can mean forgiving someone for a hurt or wrong that they have done to us. In seeing Christ in “the others” and accepting them and serving them in Love as we would Christ we then truly start to live. Life after death here and now.
Strangely, we do not hear much these days about dying to self in order to live, I wonder why?