All religions in their own way talk about “dying before you die”! They are all indeed saying that something has to die. We all know this, but often religions have chosen the wrong thing to kill, which has given us a very negative image. In almost all of history it was always the “other,” the heretic, the sinner, the foreigner that had to die.
In most ancient cultures it was the virgin daughters and eldest sons that had to be “sacrificed”; in Biblical times it was an animal, as we see in the Jewish temple. By the Christian Middle Ages, it was our desires, our intellect, our bodies, and our will that had to die; which made many people think that God had created something wrong in us. Religion then became purity/separation codes instead of transformational systems.
Jesus did say very clearly that we had to “lose our self to find our self” in several different settings. For much of Christian history this was interpreted as the body self that had to die, and for some miraculous reason this was supposed to make the spiritual self arise! It did not work, and it allowed us to avoid the real problem. What really has to die is our false self created by our own mind, ego, and culture. It is a pretense, a bogus identity, a passing fad, a psychological construct that gets in the way of who we are and always were—in God. This is the objective and metaphysical True Self.
It seems we all live with a tragic case of mistaken identity. Christianity’s most important job is to tell you that you indeed and already have a True Self, “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3-4).