A month ago, the doctor's discovered that my grandfather, Dominic A. Baio, would face his fourth battle with cancer. However, unlike the first three battles, there was nothing they could do to remove it or delay its advance.
This was the closest death that I've had to face, and it certainly was a new experience. At many points, I wanted to stop everything and shout "This isn't right!" or even more dramatically, "Life isn't supposed to be like this!" Something inside of me was angered by this experience. There is an aroma to death that was extremely unpleasant. The weeping, the sobs, the whole process took me some time to figure out. But I think I have captured a large portion of my agitation about this situation.
I wasn't angry at God or at Papa or at anyone else. I was angry at death itself. Let me see if I can explain myself. The Bible tells us that God created everything and it was good. He created everything, plants, animals, planets, stars, and lastly, humans. God says he made human beings in "His Image." What this means is that we aren't God, but we are made in such a way that we reflect him. We are God's creation and we bear the fingerprints of our creator, much like clay to a potter. Whether that specifically means morally, relationally, physically, creatively, etc., in many ways we bear the resemblance of our Father, God. With humans though, there was a special caveat. God said to them, "...You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17 NIV) Needless to say, they ate from the tree God said not to, and the penalty for their sin was a new element of life. An unknown phenomenon entered the world after those actions and it was called death. All creation (mankind to follow and all nature)was then subject to the curse of sin and death.
I was upset that cancer had afflicted him four times. I was upset that doctors could not stop it from killing him. But most of all, I was upset that he had to die, and to some extent that we all will have to die. Death was not part of the original intention for the world and we can see that in the Garden of Eden. It now comes to all people because of that first act of rebellion against God. It comes as an expected event to all life because of the curse of sin through the experience at the Garden of Eden. Also, death comes as a consequence to all because all sin (Romans 3:23)and all people express defiance against a righteous God. As the common Christian phrase goes, "Our enemies are Sin, Death, and the Devil." I don't deny the existence of any of them. I can attest to my own sinful rebellion towards God. History is littered with examples of sinful actions and evil. I have seen the effects of death. Now, in my family and in the lives of close friends. And I know the Devil is real because the Bible says so. In multiple places, the Devil or other evil spirits speak to Jesus or to his disciples.
But in this, I don't declare that death is evil. Just an unnatural door thrown in front of every life path. As the Bible says, the last enemy to be defeated is Death (1 Corinthians 15:26). God has a wonderful plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and whatever comes after death is surely in his control as well. My hope in life and in death comes from faith in Christ, the Messiah. He restores from the curse of sin and death. Because he is the only one who has conquered death, he alone offers hope for life after death. Only through the blood of Christ can we rejoice with Paul in saying:
"For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17 NIV)