I work testing video games. The difference between movies and games is that in games you are in control, which is awesome. They’re also endlessly forgiving, even the hardest ones: when you make a mistake, there’s always the option of trying again. With save datas or by literally starting the game again, if you keep going you reach the goal and beat all challenges. In the end you’re the hero that never lost, because every time you did lose, you simply went back in time and tried again.
What’s attractive about it is that our actual lives are not like that. In real life, the mistakes we committed yesterday, the ways in which we are hurt or we hurt others, the words we say and decisions we make, have no “return to checkpoint” option. There is only consequence. Healing is painful and it leaves scars.
Then there is death, game over.
— Wait Lucas, you’re religious! You can’t believe it’s all over when we die, or that there are no second chances… that’s exactly why people want to believe in afterlife, isn’t it? —
There are different concepts of afterlife. Reincarnation, for example, literally gives you endless new lives until you finally transcend the cycle. Yet even then, concepts like Karma make sure that your actions’ consequences will follow you from one life to another, and there’s no resetting your score. Another one is in popular Christianity, and Islam (as far as I know), which affirm along with Greek philosophers that the soul is immortal. That from this life we all go to either Hell or Heaven, spiritual places beyond our physical reach. Not much of a second chance, if anything it’s kind of fatalist once you die.
The line of thought in the Jewish Tanakh (the Old Testament), however, is a lot more down-to-earth. Dead people are dead. No worship rises from the grave, only the living can do anything meaningful. The consequences of obeying God are right here and right now. Even so, you don’t obey because of the consequences, you obey because He is God and you are dust.
Jesus of Nazareth brought a new concept to afterlife, a paradox of new chance and consequence: Resurrection. The dead gain life again, and from there they may be judged for either a second death, or eternal life in a New Creation. But here, right now, there’s a second chance. We are sinners, rebels living in God’s universe, but Jesus, the innocent, died for us, gave up his Spirit, and came back from the dead before everyone, so now those who listen to His teaching and follow Him receive His Spirit as a new life. It is an unthinkable favor God did for Man. Legally, God the Judge sees them as having a clean slate because the penalty is paid: all sins are forgiven in the past, present, and future. Divine cosmic justice has nothing to ask of them anymore, and Eternal Life after the resurrection is guaranteed. — It’s a perfect second chance to live life a new way without cosmic consequence to your previous actions, it’s the beauty of divine mercy and justice put in display.
Yet, here’s the paradox: outside the divine legal realm, we still have the present consequences of our actions. If anything, we have our memories and regrets, and they are real and not to be pushed aside. Aside from God, people we offended are still offended, hurt, broken. It is our duty as repentant sinners to communicate redemption to them, and restitute whatever we can.
But what about our own hurts? I am always stunned when I read that when Jesus came back from the dead, He proved his identity by showing his scars from his crucifixion. He still carries the marks of the pain of sacrifice and forgiveness, as to never forget it. In the same way, we are to forgive those who pierced us, and carry our own scars as a testimony to our redemption. Our scars make our history, our identity, who we are. They tell that we are still alive. They can be redeemed, and they are beautiful.