My friend Bryan McAnally posted that his adolescence is in mourning following the news that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson passed away. I related to that feeling about Michael, although Farrah was a bit before my time. Some neighbor friends introduced me to Michael Jackson in the early 80s and I remember watching his videos and dancing around with them. Outside of listening to Zeppelin while my mom worked out in the backyard and my brother and I played on our swingset – it was my earliest memory involving music.
Today, even before the news of these celebrity deaths, I was thinking about the shortness of life. I keep phone numbers in my phone of friends who I have lost (I just don’t have the heart to delete them). This morning I happened upon one of the numbers – so I was already in a thoughtful state of mind.
Life really is incredibly fragile, isn’t it?
We go through our days and we don’t often consider the brutal reality of death – but days like today are so jarring because we are confronted with that reality. I think the world outside of Christendom especially feels this way. Today as I watched people talk about these two icons, their fear and discomfort with the subject of death was apparent.
I think we, as Christians, have an opportunity to be sensitive to the questions that a day like today raises in the minds of the people around us. But I think that “sensitive” is the key word. Today I heard a DJ on a Christian radio be not only insensitive, but incredibly harsh towards both of these people. It really hurt my heart and then later, infuriated me.
The truth is that both of these people led very difficult lives. Michael, especially, was terribly abused and may have been an abuser himself. And that is why I am thankful that Christ is close to the brokenhearted. It is my sincere hope that both of these people had, even in their final moments, an encounter with the Christ who loved them and gave His life for them. And I am thankful that Jesus saw a man dying on a cross next to Him and upon his simple statement of belief told him “Today you will be with me in paradise.” How incredible of the Lord to put that in the Word of God for us to see. Because of that moment of astounding grace (truly based on no merit of the thief), we can offer hope on a day like today. And all of the people who are questioning, who are devastated by the death of childhood icons, have access to that same fantastic grace.
Sharing that love and grace with a confused and hurting world is the opportunity that today affords us who believe. What an incredible opportunity. We have this GREAT hope. This great assurance. We don’t have to fear death. We know our future. And we can share that hope! That is what today is about – sharing that lifechanging freedom from fear with a world that, today, felt that fear deeply.
We have a choice – we can sit on our self-righteous thrones and call him a child molester and say that he got what he deserved, or we can see that he was a tortured and abused little boy that grew into a tortured and confused man. And frankly – none of his actions exclude him from grace upon repentance and faith in Christ. So we can sit back and judge, or we can demonstrate the attitude Christ would demonstrate and also, amazingly, the choice that attracts the lost all around us.
I am OH SO THANKFUL that upon the day that I pass from this life to the next, my own sins will not be counted against me because of my relationship with Christ. And I am thankful that the same opportunity for forgiveness was available to my precious friends who have gone before me, and to the two very famous people who influenced so many of our lives who passed today.
So it is my prayer for all of us Christ Followers, especially you young ones who are around searching people everyday, that tomorrow we would all be sensitive. That the opportunities for spiritual conversations would be abundant and obvious. And that we would have boldness and grace to find the words to say to hurting people.
Days like today are awful and yet, amazing. Because death is a reality – and we all have to make a decision about how to face it. And we KNOW how to face it. We have the answer.