Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Grieving as those who have no hope

I watched some of the Michael Jackson memorial on TV today (and I will probably see the rest of it, as I had to record the entire service for my wife who could not be at home at the time). In general, I thought the memorial service was a very tasteful and fitting tribute to a man who was, by all measures, an enormous talent, an entertainment phenomenon.

Yet, as I watched and listened, I could not help but remember the words of the apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Yes, those who do not trust in the sinless life, sacrificial and substitutionary death, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ do, indeed, grieve in a different way from those whose trust is in the Lord.

Today, despite participants’ attempts at joy and celebration, it seemed to me a certain heavy sadness hung in the atmosphere of the memorial service. Those who spoke seemed to me to be reaching for any glimmer of hope, yet, despite their words, a heavy sadness remained.

This was the end. Jackson’s singing and dancing would be heard and seen live no more. There was no hope.

The implication in Paul’s words is that it is possible for Christians to also grieve as if they have no hope. Make no mistake about it, death is an enemy, and death is cruel. Grief, as a response to the death of a loved one, is appropriate and fully understandable. The grief that multiple millions around the world feel today for Michael Jackson is real grief—I don’t want to minimize it at all—but, when a true Christian dies, fellow believers need not grieve over him or her as if death is the end of the story. Jesus arose from the dead! We shall live with Him forever! This world cannot even begin to compare to the glory that awaits us in eternity! We have hope!

I pray that those sad people I saw on TV today at Michael Jackson’s memorial service would find true hope in Christ. I pray that surviving members of the Jackson family would find eternal hope in Christ. Death is a cruel enemy. Grief is real. But, those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus have hope that lasts. We don’t have to “grieve as others do who have no hope.”

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