There’s something about love that inspires people to employ the language of the interminable, like “always and forever.”
Shakespeare’s Juliet told Romeo her love for him was “infinite.” Justin Bieber sings that he’s “never” leaving. Throughout the ages smitten lovers have penned poems to one another featuring terms like “boundless,” “deathless,” and “everlasting.”
And yet, couples break up. Marriages end. The heart strays. Upon closer inspection, the human experience of love is unworthy of the words we use to describe it.
Even so, we cannot stop ourselves from continually reaching for this ideal of unending love. There is something embedded deep within the soul of humankind that longs for eternal connection and intimacy. We are so insistent on this hope that traditional wedding vows close with: “Till death do us part.” That’s the biggest thing we know how to promise. We want to be with this person. Come what may! Let nothing separate us!
God’s love is like this too.
Death is swallowed up in victory.1 Corinthians 15:54-55
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
But his love isn’t hopelessly romantic. It’s not hormonal, temporary, or fleeting. It’s not a gamble, not a “put your best foot forward and hope for the best” kind of situation. God can not only make good on the promise of fidelity and constancy, but for him “till death do us part,” is too small.
He takes it a step further: “till death do us unite.”
We will be united with him in a resurrection like his.Romans 6:5
For Christians, death does not mean the end of life and love, but ultimate union with Christ.
Most people have experienced the pangs of separation that death brings. We grapple with immense pain when death causes separation from a parent, grandparent, friend, or even a pet. Ever since the Fall in the Garden, humanity’s earthly relationships have been marred and overshadowed by the impending separation that death will finally bring.
But our relationship with Christ is not vulnerable to discontinuity in this way. The love of God doesn’t come with an expiration date, or even the possibility of fracture.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39
Best of all, when death comes along to end our mortal lives, it not only brings us into union with Jesus, but also magnifies and expands our relationship with Christ into something fuller and more beautiful than could be experienced on earth.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.1 Corinthians 13:12
Whatever affection and warmth we feel in our relationship with God now is but a mere shadow, an echo, a taste, of what’s to come.
The Christian life is about coming to know, to dwell in, to reflect the love of Christ, which not only conquers death itself, but turns death from the ultimate separator to the ultimate uniter.
Prayer: God, thank you for your love which not only conquers death, but unites us in death.
Practice: Think of important relationships in your life: your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your children, your neighbors. Think of the varying degrees of love they represent to you. Perhaps some of them are no longer with you, or there is a rift in the relationship. Commit those relationships, those loves, those desires to God, trusting that if God’s love can conquer death, it can conquer anything.