What is one of the most thought-about topics and one of the least talked about? It is often referred to as one of the only two certain things in life. Here is a clue. The other one is taxes.

It is said it appears most folks see people all around them dying and act as though they think it will never happen to them. The ratio of people to death is one-to-one.

It certainly is not one of the cheeriest topics and totally unsuited for social conversation. You never see any greeting cards: “Merry Death — Happy Dying.”

The topic is not one to be addressed flippantly. There are too many people hurting because the Grim Reaper has recently visited a loved one they miss dearly.

Associated with the thought of death is consideration of the afterlife offering two options: heaven and hell. Only one group of people would not opt for heaven are those who do not believe in an afterlife. Everyone’s destiny is contingent on belief. Faith in an afterlife is based on faith. Rejection of the concept of an afterlife is based on faith. Everybody has a system of faith.

It was the genius philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal who codified what is known as Pascal’s Wager. He used decision theory to charter new territory in probable theory to conclude:

God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives.

A Game is being played ... where heads or tails will turn up.

You must wager (it is not optional).

Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.

Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. This is set out in section 233 of Pascal’s posthumously published Pensées (“Thoughts”).

A doctor told me that as he left my hospital room one year ago this week on three consecutive nights he thought, “He will see Jesus tonight for sure,” meaning he is about to die. I’ve been there, I have faced death. There is a lot I don’t remember about those five weeks in the hospital, but I do remember I was standing at death’s door anticipating stepping though it at any minute. I remember unemotionally talking with my wife about some things needing consideration. What I remember most distinctly while facing my imminent death I felt no dread or fear. All my life I had planned on that moment, knowing it would inevitably come. Experientially I know the peace that comes in that moment from wagering on God.

Every person would be wise in preparing immediately for their own death. Find a system of faith that prepares a person for it. I found it in Christianity and the concept of faith in Jesus Christ. I have made my wager.

My dear friend, Bobby Richardson, formerly of the New York Yankees, in relating to his close friend Mickey Mantle put it this way, “There is only one of two answers regarding faith in Christ and your eternal destiny. Those answers are ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ A ‘maybe’ or ‘later on’ is a ‘no’ because of the ‘X-factor, that unknown called death.’” In other words, any response other than “yes” is still a “no” until changed, regardless how noble the intent to act later.

I encourage people to do as Mickey finally did and wager “yes.”

The Rev. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.

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