Morbidity and Mortality
Updated: Jan 26
I read in Dr. Atul Gawande’s book Complications of how doctors would regular meet for their Morbidity and Mortality Conference. It is a meeting where they candidly talk about complications that occurred in the hospital during the week — what they did and did not, what they could’ve done, the close calls and the lost causes. In a nutshell, it’s talk about disease and death as the name suggests.
Genesis 5 looks like a summary report of a Morbidity and Mortality conference. In it you have list of names of people who lived, fathered sons and daughters, and then died. Cause of death? Natural cause - the coroner would’ve reported. But if we read Genesis 5 in context, it reveals a different cause. Primary cause was the deprivation of the tree of life. But the underlying cause was sin.
Romans 5:12 tells us “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Patient Zero (Adam) spread sin and death to us.
“Natural cause” is perhaps our way of downplaying the reason for our eventual expiration. Yet, though we tell ourselves that death is natural and part of life, we rarely think about our inevitable end.
Matthew McCullough, in his book Remember Death, provides proof. He says that by nature we do not imagine the world without us. Narcissistic as we are, we see ourselves as the lead characters in the story of the world, and everything else is defined by how it relates to us. But “death makes a statement about who we are: we are not too important to die. We will die, like all those who’ve gone before us, and the world will keep on moving just as it always has.”
Secondly, we rarely think about death because medical technology stretched lives as long as possible. It has also moved death from the home to hospitals and hospices. Death is removed from plain sight as much as possible.
We don’t imagine our non-existence. We aggressively extend our lives. And we’ve made death a stranger in our homes.
That is why the morbid chapter in Genesis is good for our souls. It reminds us of the sad and hopeless end that awaits us all because of sin.
And after that sobering reminder comes the good news.
Verse 21 tells us of a man named Enoch. Enoch lived. He fathered sons and daughters too. But he did not die. God took him away, verse 24 tells us. The immortality regimen? “Enoch walked with God.” (cf. vv.22, 24). It is something never described of Adam. Nor of Eve. “Walking with God” is an expression of uninterrupted fellowship and obedience to God. If only Adam and Eve “walked with God”, there would’ve been no sin and death.
But God undeservedly gave us a second Adam. He is Jesus His own Son, who “walked with Him” while on earth. His obedience to the Father gave us the antithesis of death - life. His obedience culminated in His death as payment for our sins. And His resurrection instates the death of death. So now resurrection hope replaces hopelessness.
The present pandemic spooks all of us because we are scared of death. It is a good and holy scare because like Genesis 5, it reminds us of our deserved end. So that we may number our undeserved days aright and ask God to give us a heart of wisdom.
Ponder: When death knocks on your door, what would be your reason for not opening? Remember, God did not leave Jesus in the grave. He would not too those whom Jesus saved. For further reading.. Complications: A Surgeon's Note on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough