How to Live Your Death
In 1947, John Ford directed The Fugitive, an American-Mexican film starring Henry Fonda as the last priest in a town where the government has outlawed religious displays. The film is based on The Power and the Glory written by Graham Greene. After attempts to escape the police are delayed by his dedication to meeting the pastoral needs of the villagers, he is captured and sentenced to die by firing squad.
Last-Minute Betrayal of Faith?
The night before his execution, the priest forgives an informant, and a somewhat sympathetic police lieutenant encourages him to betray his faith. After the priest refuses, the lieutenant offers him a jug of “bebida alcohólica” to help him forget about his upcoming execution in the morning. The priest refuses and tells the lieutenant he wants to “live his death.”
When I heard Henry Fonda as the priest speak those words, chills ran through my body. “What a stunning statement to make before facing certain death in just a matter of hours,” I thought.
The idea of living your death is a profound idea.
The idea of living one’s death has profound implications, especially if you’re someone who tries to live life to its fullest. If death is an integral part of life, and you want to live life to its fullest, then you should want to live your death to its fullest. But what exactly does that mean? Our understanding of how we live life to its fullest is a good starting point in answering this question.
Living Life to Its Fullest
Living life to its fullest could mean “being in the moment,” experiencing every moment as much as possible, whether circumstances are good or bad. It could mean living life on your own terms, doing what you are passionate about and what energizes you.
The execution scene of The Fugitive is a demonstration of these two options. The priest wanted to be alert so he could experience hearing the command, “Fire!” A split second later, he would feel bullets piercing his body, and experience his life ending.
Faith Even Unto Death
In refusing to betray his faith and standing before the firing squad to demonstrate his faith, he was doing what had energized his ministry in the village, and displayed his passionate faith in God, even unto death.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I want to die in my sleep. No doubt we all want a peaceful and painless end to our life. But there’s a chance there will be hours, days, and weeks leading up to that point, when physical and emotional pain, and relationship and spiritual issues, will be shadows in our valley of death.
How You Live Your Faith Daily
In conclusion, how you live your life and your faith, day in and day out, will be a significant factor in how you’ll “live your death,” if you have time and the blessed opportunity to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with loved ones at your side.
Listen to God’s Words
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. (Psalm 39:4)
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)
Also read: 1 Corinthians 15:51, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Luke 2:29
In the Words of Others
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain
“Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” Dag Hammarskjolk
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguishes one man from another.” Ernest Hemingway
Think About It
Describe what living your life to its fullest means to you given your current circumstances in life.
What role does your faith, and commitment to live out your God-given purpose, play in your idea of living life to its fullest?
In light of what you just read, describe what “living your death” to its fullest might mean to you.
Describe how “living your death” would be, given the current state of your Christian walk and your relationship with God.