To Die Is Gain
So on the spur of the moment, I ended up taking the helm for this week’s conversation, meaning there might be a lot of crossover between the two since my blog was already started when we recorded: my blog shaped how the conversation went and how the conversation went shaped my blog. I say this just in the hopes that I don't repeat too much and that I am able to continue the conversation through my blog.
To die is gain.
I think about death a lot. I suppose I should not say that as nonchalant as I am, but here we are. I believe that I have struggled with depression for over 10 years and there have been plenty of times where I thought it would just be better for be to be dead. to be honest, I often want to just give up. I often do not want to be alive anymore. I have plenty of memories where I told someone I just don't want to exist anymore. I know that this is not compatible with my theology and beliefs but that does not change the fact that I am often over come with these feelings. Anxiety and depression are things that I struggle with regardless of my ability to rationally acknowledge their incompatibility with the rest of my life. There is a Bible verse that I often misquote to people when I am in a very low place. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” - Philippians 1:21. I know that I am not using it correctly and luckily my friends at Empty Church do as well. How I am quoting it, the context in which I am using it, is making Paul say that I am allowed to just die, I don't have to live anymore. As long as we live it must be in a Christ-like fashion but death itself is makes everything better because we are now with God.
What does Philippians 1:21 actually mean?
Really all that is needed is a contextual reading of this verse e.g read most of the chapter (if not the whole book). Philippians 1:19-30:
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Although Paul looked forward to being together with God in heaven, he knew that his work was not done yet. God was going to continue to use him to spread the Gospel and to help others know God better. Today, we can see that Paul went on to write a couple more books of the Bible. He would not have known this, but he saw the importance of following God’s plan and we benefit by having more books of the Bible. I am sure he wrote many other non-canonical letters as well.
To live as Christ
Notice which order I used these phrases as headings- the wrong order. I checked 5 English Bible translations and they all put it in the same order but when I use the verse wrong I am always stressing the second part of the verse about dying is a gain. I need someone to come back at me and say “yeah, but to live is CHRIST!” I’d respond about how I’ve lived and it’s time for a gain. I believe that Paul is talking about physical life and physical death (as opposed to spiritual). He's basically saying that the only thing better than representing Jesus to other people is to actually be with Jesus and that he pines to be with Jesus but understands his purpose on earth. He was not done yet.
I have to remember that I am not done yet (whether or not I believe that is another story entirely).