Wednesday, March 07, 2007

“Honor your father and your mother…”

Dr. John Piper’s father, Rev. William Solomon Hottle Piper, died yesterday morning, Tuesday, March 6, at about midnight. John Piper was at his father’s hospital bedside when he died. On the Desiring God Blog today, John Piper has posted his journal entry narrating his father’s death. I recommend you read it; it is a tremendously touching tribute to a godly, faithful father by his loving son. For that reason alone, it is worth the read.

But, I have two other personal reasons to recommend you read Piper’s account of his father’s death. As I read it today I thought, “I hope my sons can say these things about me when I die”, if the Lord wills that I precede them in death. Let your mind ponder the questions that have been on my mind today: What will those who know me best say about me when I’m gone? What kind of father, husband, Christian have I been?
Secondly, for those of you whose parents are living, may Piper’s account be an encouragement to love and honor your parents while you have the chance. If your parents don’t know the Lord, pray and seek opportunities to talk with them about their souls and share the gospel. If they are believers, take the time to let them know how the Lord has used them to influence your life toward God.

Actually, reading Piper’s account was painful for me. Although my biological parents are living, I’ve never lived with either one. They were unwed teenagers when I came into the world, and never parented me. My “parents”—the ones who actually parented me—were my great grandparents. They died in 1986 and 1989. My pain relates to my great grandfather’s death. He died at home. For various reasons, my great grandfather and I had a lot of interpersonal struggles, especially from my adolescence onward. Less than two days before he died, in an angry rage, I said some very hateful and hurtful things to him. I won’t bother with the details of what would be a very long and complicated story, except to say I acted immaturely, dishonorably, shamefully and sinfully. The venom I spewed forth out of my mouth that day still hung in the air the night he died. I have long since confessed my sin to the Lord, but to my dying day, I will regret every vile syllable I uttered in anger.

Reading John Piper’s tender account of his final moments with his father brought back to my mind my shame as my great grandfather was dying (although, truth be told, it’s never that far from my mind). This is why I encourage those of you whose parents are living: Please, love and honor your parents, and let them know how much you appreciate them while you have the opportunity. Although he was far from perfect, I can now say, as a 40-something-year-old man, I love and appreciate my great grandfather. Unfortunately, I don’t think he ever knew that. My opportunity is long gone. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

However, if you find yourself with similar regrets, I encourage you to turn to the word of God. If the one you’ve sinned against is in heaven, he or she is not troubled with memories of the pain you inflicted. The Bible says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). “They will see his face…” (Revelation 22:4), and the sight of our Lord will be more than enough to banish the memory of any pain or grief you caused. On the other hand, if the one you sinned against is in hell, (and this is not meant to be flippant) they have far worse things to worry about! Your sin infinitely pales in comparison to the eternal, just torments of hell. If the person you sinned against is deceased and your opportunity to apologize to them is gone, what you need to do is confess your sin to God. Seek the forgiveness that Christ purchased with His blood for everyone who savingly trusts in Him.

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