People in Boulder, Colo., attend a candlelight vigil March 24 to pray for victims of a shooting that left 10 dead at a grocery store. CNS photo/Alyson McClaran, Reuters

Charles Lewis: Jesus shows death isn’t the final word

  • March 31, 2021

We all know that Christ died on the cross. He took on all the sins of mankind and destroyed those sins. He died and was buried and on the third day He rose again from the dead. We call it Easter and that is meant to give us hope that death has lost its final sting.

By that terrible sacrifice, He opened up a path to Heaven. He destroyed death and we were made free.

It isn’t always that simple, though, to explain to those who are grieving.

In the fall my niece’s boyfriend in Colorado was shot to death. It appears it was random. It was a classic situation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Then on March 22 we learned that 10 ordinary citizens in Boulder, Colorado, were shot dead in a grocery store. My niece lives a good 70 minutes away so I assumed it couldn’t be anyone she knew.

It turns out one of her best friends was a victim of this senseless violence. The woman who died consoled my niece when she lost her boyfriend.

For my niece and all those others who have lost someone close in such a terrible way I wonder what it means for them that Christ has risen? My niece is not a believer and I don’t know how many of the victims were. She would take no solace from His resurrection. And I will venture to say many Christians wouldn’t either.

But I am a believer and I tried to imagine whether Christ’s resurrection from the dead would offer me solace.

Would I think “she’s in a better place” or that “he is at peace”?

Could I have walked through one of those gut-wrenching memorial services and assured others that their friends and loved ones were in now in Heaven?

Even for true believers, the immediate shock of violent death is impossible to compute. Many years ago I had an uncle who was shot to death in Brooklyn. He wasn’t a bad man but he gambled continuously.

When he and my aunt would visit for Thanksgiving he would lock himself in the master bedroom and we were forbidden to use our own phone. He’d have the TV and a transistor radio switching from game to game. He would gamble on each inning, sometimes on each at-bat, how many yards a team might make on each play.

But he also cared a lot about the safety of his family and that’s what got him killed. He kept a small apartment away from his home. He also hated drugs. And so one night a local drug addict, a punk, demanded my uncle’s winnings and he refused because he knew how the money would be used. And so he paid the price.

I was not close to my uncle. It was almost impossible for anyone to have been. But I often think of the moment when he died so violently and alone.

Nevertheless, people do die alone and tragically and for reasons that make no sense. And yet as Christians we must somehow cling to our faith and keep our eyes locked on the next land. Otherwise death has the final word and we are nothing more than flesh and bone and all there is what we see around us.

I have been reading Life’s Living Toward Dying: A Theological and Medical-Ethical Study by Vigen Guroian, an Orthodox Christian writer. I found this book when I found out about my liver cancer returning. I wanted to find something to remind me that death does not have the last word.

I wish I had read it years ago. It’s less about dying than about our beliefs about death as Christians. He argues that two extremes — euthanasia on one hand and the medical obsession of keeping patients alive past beyond reason on the other — has steered us away from death’s true meaning: a passage from this world to the next.

He argues that unless Christians formulate a “contemporary ethic of death and dying with a compelling vision of human values and ends, pragmatism, utilitarianism, sensationalism and a pervasive obsession with technique will triumph even within the churches.”

Death without faith “would nullify every human effort to achieve happiness and meaningful existence….” But we have faith. That our lives and our deaths have meaning because “Jesus Christ triumphed over death for our sakes through His own freely offered death on the cross.”

It’s that simple and profound.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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