Thursday, December 9 2021 - 6:38 AM
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Respect for Life

Several years ago, I was privileged to be able to walk among the graves of American soldiers in Normandy, France. You have undoubtedly seen pictures of the thousands of bright white crosses contrasting with the green grass at the American cemetery in Normandy. This was where the D-Day invasion of WWII began. It is a sobering thing to walk in that place. I was also pleased that my children were able to see it. As we left, one of them suggested that the cemetery, so well taken care of, seemed to be an ongoing effort to honor the young men who died there.

I think my child was correct; honoring our dead is an essential part of respect for life. Respect for life is a fundamental principle of Christian ethics. It seems that for the most part, we Christians have focused our attention on this principle during the time a person is alive. After death, we haven’t worried so much about how to show respect.

Indeed, one reason is that Jesus himself says to “let the dead bury their dead” in Luke 9:60. What do we do with this text? Does Jesus really mean for us to pay little or no attention to taking care of our loved ones who have died? When I look at how He was taken care of, I am pushed in the opposite direction.

Respect for Jesus’ Body

Continuing to the end of Luke’s Gospel account, we read about what happened to Jesus’ body at His won death. Chapter 23, verse 50, shares the story of what happened when Joseph of Arimathea was moved by the Holy Spirit to take care of Jesus after His death. Joseph gathered his courage to seek special permission of Pilate to take control of Jesus’ body.

The Bible says Joseph and those who must have helped him, wrapped Jesus’ body in “linen cloth” and laid it in a tomb carved out of the rock in a hillside. This tomb had never been used for burial and was likely very valuable. It was not uncommon to place the bodies of loved ones in carved-out recesses in the walls of small caves in the hillsides in and around Jerusalem. Many of these caves held multiple bodies laid to rest.

Luke’s Testimony

In addition to the special care with which Joseph treated Jesus’ body, we have Luke’s testimony about how the women treated His body. Mark 16:1 identified these women as “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome,” and they had prepared special spices to prepare his body. It was no small matter that the women set out to take care of Jesus’ body. Recall the fact that Jesus was condemned as a criminal and killed at the hands of the Romans. For these women to go to the grave and show their respect for Jesus’ body was risky. But their love for Jesus pushed them toward this act of honor and respect.

How do we honor those who have died? What is the measure of respect that we show our loved ones who have passed away? If one of the most cherished principles of Christian ethics is respect for life, then how do we continue to show this respect after the life of our loved ones is over?

If you liked this, you might also like Funeral Planning | Respect for The Dead 

Mark F. Carr writes from Alaska.

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About Mark F. Carr, PhD

Mark F. Carr, PhD

writes from Alaska.

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