Reward and punishment
Whosoever has done even an atom's weight of good will behold it; and whosoever has done even an atom's weight of evil will behold that.
Our soul is so intimately connected to God that none of our actions can get lost. Just like they leave a trace within history – even when all humans forgot – they leave an imprint on our soul – even when our own minds and hearts try to ignore them. So whenever we are confronted with God, we are confronted with our own souls and hence the chain of actions that are linked to our soul can become visible. Seeing the bad can bring distress, witnessing the good can bring peace.
We all do and did both good and bad within our lives. Yet whatever our personal mistakes were, remembering them shouldn’t make us paralyzed by guilt, doubt or anxiety. Instead we should always refocus on doing more good. Not because of the reward it will bring, but because doing good is a reward in itself.
What Christians can learn
The Christianity that was thought to me at school and within the church was a Christianity that did not put much stress on the afterlife. It most certainly did not mention the option of ‘hell’ too often. To such an extent even that one could actually feel the underlying assumption that hell is some sort of ‘old fashioned concept’, that God is nothing but love and forgiveness and that therefore all souls will go to heaven.
It seems somewhat awkward, however, to disregard the fundamental aspect of ‘justice’ when it comes to the topic of life after death. Isn’t it a crucial aspect of our faith that God will also be just? Is it not essential to realise that our actions will in fact be weighed?
I don’t mean to say that we should or shouldn't act in certain ways in this life to receive something in the hereafter. But I do believe that it's the remembrance of divine justice that makes us aware of the fact that our actions very often aren’t neutral. When we do something wrong, its ‘wrongness’ does not disappear because nobody has seen or heard it.
In the same manner the word ‘sin’ has become an uneasy term that most Christians around me will never use. I admit it has a hard and guilt-inducing sound that can often be misplaced. But the fact of the matter is that sometimes our actions can simply be spiritually and morally wrong. And such actions in one way or another will have to be confronted.
Questions for Muslims
In the Muslim world, the outlook on the afterlife is much more widespread. It is encouraged to act properly in this life to secure the life to come. I most certainly agree that divine justice is a fact of faith and that God in some way or other will bestow what is deserved. The question is however whether this knowledge should be the reason behind our choices to act one way or another. Do we have to be good people to make sure we have a good life after we die? Or do we have to be good people because that is simply the more divine way of being?
In this regard I always remember the story of the man who was visited by an angel one night. The angel told him he would most surely go to hell. The next morning he got up, went to his wife and jubilantly told her about it. “Why are you so happy about that?” She asked. “Shouldn’t it make you depressed?” She wondered. “Most certainly not.” He replied. “Only now am I completely certain that when I will do something for God, I will do it for Him and Him alone and not because of some benefit I might expect.”