We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
We pray these words from Romans 14 at virtually all of our funeral services. This passage reminds us that we belong to the Lord through life and death, no matter how life or death might find us. We can take comfort from knowing that Christ is Lord of all, at all times, regardless of our stage of life or death.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to members of the Roman church who were facing divisions. The church included some former Jews who, although they had become Christians, believed that kosher food laws still applied along with the observance of the Jewish high holy days. Meanwhile, other believers in Rome thought that following such rituals and food law practices was unnecessary.
Ultimately, Paul advises both groups to live together in peace. If Jesus is able to forgive us and bear with us, then we should be able to do the same for one another. Jesus is the one in charge, and in life and death, we belong to Jesus alone.
I believe these words still speak to us today, as our world grows more and more divided over numerous issues, and our culture teaches us to ask, first of all, what’s good for ourselves, not what’s good for anyone else. Our country is often polarized over social, cultural, political, and religious divides. Yet, no matter what perspective we come from, Christ is Lord of all.
It’s encouraging to remember, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that HE might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” This makes us all one, instead of constantly dividing us, as our disagreements often do. God has called us to focus on building up, rather than tearing down one another. Jesus is Lord, and our greatest hope, now and always.
Peace to you,
The Rev. John G. Rights