Life or Death?
When we were in Israel last year, our guide told us that the Israelites were given two choices before entering the promised land: life or death. He told us that the choice for life was much more complicated than choosing to deal with death. It’s easier to prevent the end than it is to try to survive and thrive in a new world. As I reflected on his words, I think he’s right.
In our society, we know the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness, stroke, and accidents. We spend millions in research trying to prevent the end. Our society goes into hysterics over a handful of ebola cases and struggles over preventable ourbreaks like the measles. But what about life? What does it take to survive…and thrive in this world?
Gary Gunderson has written about the 5 leading causes of life. He’s the president of Wake Forest Medical Center and formerly served in Africa in public health and disease prevention with the Carter Center. He claims that death prevention is the default of most people. We forget that we need a new mentality to deal with our world today. We need to focus on choosing life. In his book Leading Causes of Life, he identifies five causes that prolong life and help people thrive:
- Connection. No one can go through life alone. Everyone needs somebody.
- Coherence. Everyone needs to sense that their life has a purpose. Even a person alone in an assisted living center asks what purpose God still has for them on earth.
- Agency. We need to change, and change requires causes that are meaningful and give us purpose in life.
- Blessing. We need to know that we are blessed with a free gift of grace by God, and it cannot be taken away. Why do you think Jesus opened his Sermon on the Mount with “Blessed are…”
- Hope. We need more than wishful thinking and future plans. We need to know that our plans are grounded in a living reality in Jesus Christ, that our plans are accompanied by his promise that God is continuing to work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
The church provides all five of these causes; when we share them, it becomes like a virus sustaining the people around us. Righteousness, justice, love, faith, hope, and peace are just as contagious as sin. It requires of each one of us a different kind of mentality. It’s the one that Moses offered to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:19.
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and cursings; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
Spread life today. It’s contagious.