Welcome back for the eighth installment of the Friends & Christianity series. Since we are still on season one, that means we’ll be discussing episode eight: The One Where Nana Dies Twice. This isn’t my favorite Friends episode, but it does address a pivotal point in anyone’s faith: Death.
The gang is hanging out in Monica’s apartment when a phone call comes through: Nana is in the hospital and she’s not going to make it. Monica and Ross race down to the hospital to be with their parents. Nana has been given hours to live. When the doctors tell the Gellers that Nana has passed, Monica and Ross go in to say their goodbyes. Only Nana hasn’t passed because she reaches up her arm to them. For obvious reasons, this freaks both siblings out and they run out of the room to tell their parents that Nana is not dead…
She’s not past, she’s present. She’s back. ~ Ross
He and Monica return to the room, and the buzzer on Nana’s heart monitor goes off. Ross returns to the waiting room to announce…
Now she’s past. ~ Ross
Later that day, when Ross and Monica go to the coffee shop to see their friends, they get into a discussion of the after life…
Maybe no one ever really goes ~ Phoebe
I don’t believe any of that. I think when you’re dead, you’re dead. You’re gone. You’re worm food. ~ Joey
Right there is the snag where faith and fandom intermix. Faith, all faiths even anti-faiths, seek to answer the pivotal question: what happens when you die? I’m not a religion expert so I’m not going to attempt to explain how every faith on our planet answers that question, I’m just going to tell you about how I believe Christ answers that question.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. ~ Mark 15:15-16 ESV
If you’re not familiar with the whole context of the Bible, this verse can be very confusing and easily misinterpreted. While I think everyone should read and study the Bible and come to their own conclusions, I’ll attempt to give an extremely brief overview:
God is good, always. Jesus said only He (God) is good. And Heaven is God’s home. As our creator He loves us and the Bible tells us He wants all of His children to come home to Him. But, because He loves us He won’t force us to. Rather, since it is impossible for us to be perfectly good (meaning we never, ever do any evil), He sent his Son to be perfectly good in our place and to also take on the punishment of our not being perfectly good in our place (death—specifically the second death of our souls). So, now that Jesus has paid the penalty for every evil action that anyone, anywhere has ever or will ever commit, we can finally be reunited with our good Father in His good home. But still, because He loves us, He lets us choose. We can choose to take this free gift He’s given us of grace from death by believing in his Son and following Him to the best of our abilities; or we can choose to reject His Son and continue on our own ways.
…But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. ~ Hebrews 9:26-28 NLT
This letter was written to the Hebrews, the Jews, who understood the sacrificial system of their times. Back then, sins were forgiven by sacrificing an animal of some sort. Usually one without any flaws. This sacrifice had to be made over and over again. However, when Christ came, he presented himself as the perfect sacrifice to put an end to the animal sacrifices and allow not only Jews but anyone from any nation, culture, background, etc. to accept the free gift of having all the evil we’ve ever done or will do washed out of the sight of God so that when we die we can go live in our Father’s good home.
Back to Phoebe and Joey’s comments. In the Christian faith, from my understanding, no one ever does “go” no matter if we choose for Christ or not. Death does not mean we cease to exist. Rather, I believe, we all continue to exist. Those who have accepted the free gift of having our slates washed clean get the undeserved pleasure of residing with God. Those who do not, do not. I’m not sure exactly what this “do not” place looks like as it is described in many ways throughout the Bible, but I know I would much rather be home with my Father in the good place. And, I genuinely love Christ, what he stood for, how he lived, what he did for me. So, I choose to follow him because that is what I want.
Being a Christian (“little Christ”) is a choice we each get to make, not an obligation forced on us by birth or religion or authorities. It is a choice to trust in Christ, to follow him, to not just let our favorite fandom characters be Christ figures, but to be Christ figures ourselves. And then, the bonus is that we get to spend eternity with Him once this present life passes and we enter the next life.
That’s my best shot, but the Gospel is so much deeper and more beautiful than I can put into one blog post, so I feel a bit like a drug-induced-Ross trying to tell Rachel he loves her. He REALLY loves her…