The dying: Let them go gently into the night?

Christians, when last have you heard a sermon in your church about hell? If never, you have – although you might think not – been cheated, and your pastor will have much to answer for, even if at death he and you feel yourselves going gently into “that night.”

When I was living in England in a little hamlet, I attended briefly an Anglican church. After church, I was chatting with the priest who said he couldn’t talk long because he had to visit one of his dying parishioners. Being one daring you-know-what, I asked him what he was going to say to her. He replied “I meet her where she is at.” I asked whether he was going to find out if she was ready to die, that is, whether she was“in the faith.” He said, no, he tries to make them feel at peace. I ticked him off, and said, that a priest should do more than that. He scampered off. I am reminded of Mother Teresa who said that she helped her dying patients to reconcile with their gods, which any atheist would laud if not Lord.

In the biography Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work, she is quoted by Desmond Doig as follows: “If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are. … What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. What God is in your mind you must accept” (Doig, Mother Teresa, Harper & Row, 1976, p. 156). And in the April 7-13, 1990, issue of Radio Times tells the story of Mother Teresa sheltering an old Hindu priest.“She nursed him with her own hands and helped him to die and be reconciled with his own gods.”

And of Jesus Christ as the way the truth and the life; the saviour of the world? Not a word.

When Mother Teresa died, her long-time friend and biographer Naveen Chawla said that he once asked her bluntly, “Do you convert?” She replied, “Of course I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu or a better Muslim or a better Protestant. Once you’ve found God, it’s up to you to decide how to worship him” (“Mother Teresa Touched Other Faiths,” Associated Press, Sept. 7, 1997).

I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic” (Mother Teresa’s A Simple path, p. 31).

(See Mother Teresa: The missing peace of the puzzle).

My friend, who does not believe in Christ, is dying. With so much killing going on in this wicked world, I need to remind myself that most of the more than 150 000 deaths during the last 24 hours occurred in a bed of some sort.

Most people, whether they believe they are going to heaven or not, fear death. Many put it this way: “I don’t fear death; I fear dying (in pain).” Then there are those who have had near-death experiences, often on an operating table, where they saw “this beauiful light,” and, as a result no more fear of death or judgment. Thank you my Angel of Light (Lucifer).

How terrifying for someone to fall into the hands of God; and what unutterable sweetness to fall into His arms.

We must, says Charles Spurgeon, be very earnest with our own hearts this morning, to discover, if possible, whether we come under the number of those whose warfare is accomplished, and whose sin is pardoned; or whether, on the other hand, we abide with the multitude on whom resteth the curse of God, and whose sins shall be discovered and punished by the right-hand of the Most High.” (A message from God to thee – Charles Spurgeon).

(See also “Death-bed memoirs: The hands and the arms of God”).

The Bible says (frequently in the letters of Paul) that to be a Christian is to be “in Christ” and “Christ in you.” Christians are born of God (born again), which entails that Christ lives – through the Holy Spirit – in them. Once regenerated (quickened, raised to spiritual life), believers are enabled and therefore can choose the good things of God. If, though, believers don’t only want to be in Christ but also WITH Christ, this means they want seeking a better place and can’t wait to get there. Here is the Apostle Paul: Philippians 1:21-23 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” 

(See Jeremy Walker, in his “Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ,” where he discusses the difference between being in Christ and with Christ, where “the anticipation of the dying saint” is to be with the Lord. See also “In Christ and with Christ: I wanna be with you-hoo-hoo.”).

We Christians should not fear suffering and death. Yet we do. But when we do,

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, For your sake we are being killed all the day long;  we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.

Another friend – contra Dylan Thomas, beseeched me to let my dying friend go gently into the night.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.