Life and death…and life

When convicted kidnapper Ariel Castro’s body is cremated or laid to rest, I doubt if dooranyone will utter those five words heard regularly in every funeral home across the country: “He’s in a better place.” It’s an expression intended to comfort grieving family members and friends, with the hope that their loved one, in leaving a world marked by pain and sorrow, has gone on to a blissful, heavenly one. More likely the sentiment expressed by many regarding Castro will be along the lines of, “He’s where he deserves to be.”

While few may grieve the loss of one so callous and cruel, the matter of Ariel Castro’s present existence or non-existence, and his current location if he does still exist, is worth considering. Because if there is a life after death, it’s a huge deal, and the reality of an afterlife impacts this life immensely.

In Castro’s case, an awareness of a life to come where judgment would be dispensed for deeds done in this life, might have frightened him enough to constrain his evil urges. Might have. I’m well aware that even the most level-headed, forward-thinking among us can still find themselves saying, “I should have known better.” It’s too late for him now. What might have spared him from punishment, what might have redirected his path and changed his destination, could only have been realized in the life he has left behind.

And the reality of an afterlife alone makes complete justice possible. Castro’s victims and their families may feel cheated by his suicide, weighing the few months he was incarcerated with the ten-plus years they were enslaved and terrorized by him. If there is a just God, as I believe there is, Ariel Castro has not escaped a just punishment.

Many of us do believe we all have eternal lives that go on after our bodies shut down. And many others talk like they believe it, but don’t live like it. Then, of course, there are those who discount the whole idea. It’s a difficult concept because it’s so beyond our comprehension. We may instinctively sense that we are in essence a spiritual being, unhindered by our physical body. But the thought of being separated from our body is one that cannot be enhanced by any personal experience of our own nor any other’s. It simply leads us into the feared unknown, and so is likely one that we choose not to entertain.

But that’s a very risky choice. If you managed to secure your dream job but disregarded the fact of a 90-day probationary period, you might live and work as if your position was set, then find yourself unemployed after three months. If there are reasons to believe we may only live once but that one life is eternal, we are wise to consider it.

My atheist friends will think of Pascal’s Wager, and that’s certainly worth a thought. But a consideration of a life beyond the grave also offers great hope for those who do believe. If we can live with the mindset that even if today is our last on this earth, we will live on in a place where all is good and right, we can be beacons of hope and lights in a dark world as our lives exhibit true joy and contentment, even in the midst of suffering.

Of course, this presumes we know that we will be with God and not eternally separated from him. This is a precious, sure hope that God has provided for those who fear him. As he has said, he is not a God of the dead but of the living.1 I pray you have that hope.

If you don’t, it’s not too late for you yet.

1 Matthew 22:32