What Christians believe about life and death
War inevitably turns people’s thoughts to the most important questions about life and death. Does life have any meaning or is it just a battle for survival? Is death the end? Is there a God or are we just here by chance? The First World War was a time when millions discovered a Christian faith which sustained them. But it was also a time when many turned their backs on any kind of religion.
This is what Christians believe about life and death:
Firstly, there is a God. Before the Big Bang began the process through which everything we know of came to be, something existed. That something was God. God not only has power, but has love and goodness. And God can be known.
So life is not just a phenomenon that overtakes some planets in their dying years. Instead Christians believe that God always intended human life to be the climax of a vast plan, driven by love and goodness. He didn’t intend humans to make such a mess of the planet and their own lives – that is something men and women have done by their own choice.
Two thousand years ago God showed the absolute extent of his love for human beings. A man called Jesus gathered around him a crowd of supporters in the part of the world that is now shared by Israel and Palestine. At the height of his popularity they numbered thousands.
Broken people found hope, suffering people experienced healing, brutalised people saw the possibility of justice, and for three glorious years there was wonder in the air.
But the popularity that led people to want Jesus as king was threatening to political and religious leaders. It led to an end that seemed inevitable - arrest, trial and execution.
But something unprecedented happened. Within days, the followers of Jesus announced that, despite witnessing his death, they had subsequently met with him. They believed that their leader had been raised in a unique way from the dead. What’s more they proclaimed that, in Jesus, God himself had been walking among them as a human. They began to worship him. They were following Jesus, and Christianity had begun.
For two thousand years the followers of Jesus have found that their lives have improved as a result. They have a restored relationship with God, and it transforms life.
When they know they have done wrong, there is someone to go to for forgiveness.
When life is inexplicably full of wonder, there is someone to thank.
When life is at its lowest point, they know they are not dealing with it alone.
All this is because the universe is at this moment full of the Spirit of God – very much alive and active.
When they face death, Christians have a credible hope that it is not the end. They believe this because of what Jesus has done. Jesus said, ‘Follow me,’ and his followers do so in life, through death, and into eternity with God. Love and goodness will be made perfect in God’s presence. Christians trust this is so because we have a God who knows the way out of a tomb.
Jesus promised that his followers’ lives would have a real sense of purpose. He said memorably, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ That’s why it all matters so much!
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Where to find it:
About these words:
These words come in the biography of Jesus, written about seventy years after his life. They are either the writer’s explanation of why Jesus (the Son) lived and died, or perhaps Jesus’ own words about himself.
And they said...
Frank Skinner, comedian:
I’m probably not what one expects a Christian to be, but I’m very wary of what one expects a Christian to be because … it’s often a lot of bad skin, acrylic fibre and people who don’t have many friends, or whose way of coping with life is using God as a kind of handrail to support them. [Christianity is not] a consolation. I don’t want to believe in something because it makes me feel happy, or I might as well believe in Father Christmas. The fact is, [Christians] believe in some things which are some ways unbelievable in the modern world. We don’t have to try to explain why we do, or excuse why we do. We just do.
Andrew Lancel, Coronation Street actor:
Faith has never been a huge question for me. Just like my shadow, it’s always there. I have always gone to church, going on my own sometimes. I’m not people’s ideal of a Christian. Sometimes I feel very close to God; sometimes not at all. But I always come back to him. It’s my heartbeat.
Professor Derek Burke, biochemist and former Vice Chancellor of East Anglia University:
There are several reasons why I believe in God. First of all, as a scientist who has been privileged to live in a time of amazing scientific discoveries ... I have been overwhelmed by wonder at the order and intricacy of the world around us. It is like peeling skins off an onion: every time you peel off a layer, there is another one underneath, equally marvellously intricate. Surely this could not have arisen by chance? Then my belief is strengthened by reading the New Testament, with the accounts of that amazing person, Jesus - his teaching, his compassion, his analysis of the human condition, but above all his resurrection. Third, I'm deeply impressed by the many Christians whom I have met who have lived often difficult lives with compassion and love. They are an inspiration to me.