I got your life application right here!
First off, Happy New Year! It's 2019 and there's a sense of optimism floating about in the air. Now, please allow me to continue that, and bring you more good feelings of gumdrops and cherry licorice.
How would you feel if someone you knew suddenly died?
How’s that for warm and fuzzy? I know, I know, you’re quite welcome really.
Seriously speaking, what if right now, someone you knew suddenly died? Unfortunately, it happens all the time. My beautiful, but occasionally morbid wife, posed a question recently. She wondered how and when she might die? I can’t lie and say I haven’t thought of it either. When I was forty pounds heavier, I often wondered about stray chest pains that would come and go, and even now while trying to correct all the damage done to this poorly cared for body, there may be some hidden blockage that takes me out. Wouldn’t it be prophetic if that happened before this article went live?
We all wonder about death sometimes. So, what if it happened? Even more, what if it happened after you had a fight, or broke up, or even had a mean thought. I know someone who it happened to, and it doesn’t leave you in a healthy place. Leaving off with frustration and anger, leaves a lot of unresolved issues on the table when someone either doesn't return home like they regularly do, or return your call like you expect them to. You find yourself wishing you had just a few minutes more with the now departed. You'd at least wrestle over how bad you feel for leaving off in such a horrible manner.
Now those instances can be with friends and family, people we love dearly, but what about enemies? What about the people in our lives, the co-workers and bosses, and others that cross our paths, that most days we couldn’t give two cents about? When we find out they’ve died, it’s amazing how we tend to do two things. We have regret for having such negative feelings, and if confronted by someone with this information, we strive to say the best thing we can about them. Oh, I've definitely seen it, and though I can't remember right at this moment, I'm sure I've done it.
My point is that when frustrated with friends, family, or enemies, there is a great deal of regret that comes out of being confronted with the finality of death in nearly anyone’s life. I’m not sure whether it’s because we are contemplating death in that moment, whether the current decedent or our own impending demise, or simply our recent behavior towards them. Most of us grasp something greater, something bigger happening at the end of a life, whoever it may be. It becomes that much more inflated in our hearts and minds when negative thoughts are at the forefront when that sudden death occurs.
Having that kind of negative mindset has a much more poignant effect on us when death occurs after our loved ones have borne the brunt of our careless words and deeds. Because in that moment of verbal attack and abuse, they are like enemies, even it's for just a moment. They take our worst attacks, which are sometimes, maybe most times, only regulated to our mind's eye, but they are real just the same. The words are formed and percolate around the heat of an angry moment, and though it may never burst forth from our lips, we have often slain with those silent words. How many times in the course of a lifetime? No one knows but you. The worst timing would be during an unexpected death, where we might even believe, however impossible, that our very negative and evil thoughts played some horrible hand in their tragedy.
So right now, at this moment, is there someone like that? Did you have the worst thought you could think of about a loved one because of a spat, or more serious fight? Did you feel that way about a co-worker or a boss? Did you have any feeling today, that would make you feel supremely guilty and overwhelmed if you found out suddenly, they were no longer with us on earth? Yeah, me too sometimes. I wish I had the perfect answer for this, but I don't. I know Christ is our sacrifice for all our guilt and pain. He is our Savior from all of it, and we trust in that, even if we don't "feel" it sometimes. The best we can do, as much as possible, is love.
But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35-36
Whether enemies for life, for work, or for just a moment, we have to let the gospel that rescued us from our own sin and death, rescue us from the sinful thoughts we have against others. We have to strive to remember how we fail and how God continues to rescue us daily. We have to allow that daily rescue to turn our thoughts towards loving others, even when it’s difficult, and maybe even unbearable. What if we didn’t wait to find the best “spin” on someone’s life in their death. What if we allowed regret to change our attitude before it became too late to show someone how it changed.
That’s my life application for you. Forgive because you are forgiven, love because you are loved, and then move. I don’t want to tell you to move before it’s too late. There’s too much guilt wrapped up in a statement like that. I’ve seen and heard too many people use it and leave heavy burdens on others by it. Just move. If you have a bad thought, spoke bad words, acted out in a wrong matter. Apologize, make amends, encourage, befriend. Wherever and whenever possible. This is an opportunity to love. That’s it. Scripture encourages reconciliation. Go reconcile! Over coffee, or a beer, or a milkshake!
Despite this imperative to move, please know, however you move or act. Whether it is "on time" or you feel it's too late, you are entirely and wholly forgiven by Christ's work on the cross. You have new life by Christ's resurrection. He calls us His, not by any action or inaction of yours, but by his actions and his actions alone. Please, don't allow how you move to determine your worth in Christ. It is his worth that is tattooed onto you, and it is perfect and never changes. I wanted to encourage you to move today, but free from any step to climb or level to reach. As you move, know that you do so from the top step that Christ climbed on your behalf.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?