“Why did she have to die?” Many of us have heard that question asked from a heart filled with grief. Not a few of us have asked the question ourselves. None of us have had an adequate answer at the time that the question is asked. You still won’t when you get through reading this. When we are feeling less emotional and more contemplative – when our “issue is separate from the event” – thinking about some things written by Richard Swinburne in The Existence of God is valuable. Maybe even it will be helpful at those times in the future when we will be asking “Why did she have to die?”
Swinburne gives three reasons why he believes God made people mortal – made them so that they could die - whether by natural causes or at the agency of others. Let me tell you what they are, then I’ll offer a thought about them that I’ve been considering today. First, if people were immortal, if they did not die in this world, I could never hurt you enough that I would deprive you of existence; and God wants us to be able to be trusted with the power to take someone’s life, yet refuse to do it. Second, a world in which no one dies is a world in which the supreme sacrifice – a man laying down his life for his friends – cannot be done. Third, if I never died, I would not be as serious as I am about my contribution to the world. Since I know I only have a number of years to do the good I want to do and undo as many of the screw-ups as I can, I take my opportunities more seriously. I live like I am dying.
If you want to argue with Swinburne regarding the problem of evil especially as it relates to why God lets people die, you’ve got some room. But I was struck by these things as I read them today because though the subject is death, they all have their meaning in the importance of life.
You hold the lives of others in your hand. Are you trustworthy to respect that life so much that you won’t destroy it regardless of how you feel about that life today? Since you can die, you can die for others. Have you grown to be the greatest kind of hero and lover who would give up what is so important to you in order to protect another person or an important ideal? Finally, considering the limited time you have, what you do with today is incredibly important. You wouldn’t waste it, would you? Don’t waste it! We all have to die. That’s Life at Work!