Saturday's Times newspaper ran a fascinating article about a new form of therapy which is proving popular in South Korea. In order to help people to deal with their problems, their past, and to face a better future, a firm is offering a service whereby clients/patients can go through the experience of having their own funeral. The 'therapy session' consists of individuals being placed in a coffin, and having the lid nailed down. Once safely enclosed within their caskets, earth is scattered on the lid, and they are left alone in their box. After fifteen minutes the lid is opened and as The Times says 'the nearly-departed are declared reborn'. The therapy technique has proven so successful that companies are sending hundreds of their employees for these sessions, in order that they might be liberated from their past problems, and face the future with hope.
Whilst the method is completely absurd, it does carry a certain degree of recognizable logic. In a world which has cauterised its conscience, and done away with the concept of repentance, it is little wonder that people need to employ some means to try to forget their past mistakes and experiences. The Times states that 'Lee Hye-jung, a 23 year old woman studying engineering, emerged from her coffin saying 'I felt really, really scared. I'll live differently from now on, so as not to have any regrets about my life'.
There is - unsurprisingly - no mention of eternity, or what may lie beyond death. Rather than the prospect of one's own demise acting as a prompt to seek God, and receive Christ, death is now being treated as just another form of catharsis, through which people might be liberated to live.
The Scriptures, of course, describe a better way - but it still entails dying to live. Paul writes to the Romans, and provides them with a wonderful survey of the Christian message. In dealing with the difference that the Gospel makes in the life of a believer, Paul states 'Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life' Romans 6:3-4.
This is teaching which really changes things. Having died in Christ to our old sinful ways and having come to life in Him, we truly know what it is to die before our death. Such a death, and such newness of life, makes literal physical death become not a conclusion, but a continuum in the presence and grace of God.
Now that really is dying to live.