1 Corinthians 15:54-55. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
As a pastor, I have seen the evil of death many times. I’ve been around dying people, and I’ve watched people die in front of me. I’ve heard all the cries and all the questions that come with death. So when Paul taunts, O death, where is your victory, where is your sting it can ring hollow. I’ve seen the victory of death. I’ve felt it’s sting. We all have.
But the greatest of hopes in Christ is that Jesus has conquered death for us. Our greatest enemy has been defeated.
Of course as Christians we all know this. We all know about the resurrection. We all celebrate Easter. But what we may not understand is HOW. How is death defeated? Paul’s answer – death is swallowed up in victory.
You see God didn’t just cancel death, or wave some sort of magic wand and make it disappear. The only way for God to defeat death was to take death upon himself. To swallow it. God didn’t defeat death from outside of death. He entered into it by letting death enter into himself. He allowed the greatest of evils to become part of who he was. The imperishable One became perishable so that we the perishable might become imperishable.
And this was the only way to victory. The only way to justice. The only way for humanity’s greatest enemy to be defeated and for the sting to be removed. Death had to be transformed into life by the Life. Jesus’ resurrection didn’t eliminate our dying. Rather, it allowed our death to be swallowed up into victory.
This has great implications, not only for our eternity, but also for our present day to day living. If the greatest of evils, the ultimate suffering, death, is only defeated by being swallowed up, then what about all of the lesser evils and suffering we face each day? How are they overcome? How can they produce victory for us in Christ?
How do we normally deal with evil and suffering? We avoid it. Or we deny it. Or we return evil for evil.
But how often have we tried to “swallow it into victory?”
What if the way to transform death into life, evil into good, and suffering into sanctification, is not to avoid it, or deny it, or return it? What if the answer is to absorb it? To swallow it? To take it into yourself? What if the way Christ swallowed the evil of death is the same way we ought to swallow the evils of this life? What if the sting of death is removed only when we allow ourselves to be stung?
Jesus didn’t deserve the evil and suffering of the cross. And yet in love, he swallowed the evil of the cross that we might live in his goodness. He didn’t deny the reality of the cross with his head in the sand. He didn’t run away from it. He didn’t seek revenge for it. He swallowed it so that his death might produce life for others.
“To live is Christ” calls us to do the same. To swallow death. To transform evil into good. How? By courageously taking it into ourselves, even when we “don’t deserve it” because, unlike Jesus, we actually do deserve it. Avoiding, denying, and returning evil and suffering will never bring life. These common strategies will never produce love and holiness. They are not the way of Christ.
It is only when we confront evil and absorb it into ourselves that we can see Christ’s life produced in us and through us. The life that comes to us as we allow suffering to confront the evil in our own hearts, killing it and resurrecting Christ in its place. And the life that comes to others when we allow grace and forgiveness to remove the sting of evil in their hearts.
“To live is Christ” is to swallow evil. No more running. No more hiding. No more revenge. Because death, evil, and suffering can no longer defeat us, we can now face them with the resurrection power of Christ. Transforming them into his life and love, his goodness and service.
Because his eternal victory is ours, our daily victory is possible.
How do you deal with evil? Avoidance? Denial? Revenge?
You in Christ
How does union with Christ allow us to not only confront the evil done to us but also our own inner evil?
Christ in you
How can you confront death, evil, and suffering today, allowing it to kill the evil of selfishness in your heart?
Playlist: Swallowing evil.