What makes the death of someone a true tragedy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Much of the evangelical world was surprised this weekend when it was announced that young writer Rachel Held Evans had died. Now I have never been fan of hers. I think much of her work was very damaging to Christianity and in some cases mocking. My first awareness of her came when she was clinging on to her faith because of Chick-Fil-A Day.
Yet in all fairness, there was an easy way I could have empathy when I heard that she had died. Regardless of what I think of her, she had a husband and two kids. Let’s always keep that in mind. As a husband, I find it horrid to think that I would never share a meal with my wife again, get a smile from her again, spend an evening watching Netflix with her, go on a drive holding hands, pray and worship together, go to sleep together, and of course, have sex with my wife ever again. When I heard a story a year or so ago about two criminals who escaped and killed some police officers, I found myself grieving for the family immediately.
Again, it doesn’t matter what you think of her as a person or of her theology. We can all realize her husband is going through a hard time. My wife and I did pray for her family that night.
Not only her husband but her children. They have to grow up without their biological mother now. That will always be hurtful. Many of us remember as children the first time we were really introduced to death. For me, it was a favorite Sunday School teacher who died suddenly while I was in 7th grade. It would be horrible to think your first experience of death was at a young age and was your own mother.
So you can view someone as an intellectual opponent and still see their death as a tragedy. Death for anyone should be to some extent. Whatever their position was at death with God, they are in some sense locked into that one. There is no repentance beyond the grave.
Years ago when Saddam Hussein was in power, someone told me in a chat that his sons had been found and killed. Wasn’t this good news? It was good news that their evil would no longer plague innocent people on Earth. It was sad because it meant two people passed into eternity without Jesus. That should always make us sad.
So was Evans a Christian or a heretic? I understand the positions of those who say she denied Christianity. I haven’t read all of her writings so I can’t say, but I understand the concern. The good news for me is that I don’t have to make that judgment. That’s God’s judgment. The thing I have to worry about is what about me and my household. Am I serving God as I should? Am I encouraging my wife to serve God as she should be my example?
Something else noteworthy is that Warren Wiersbe passed away this weekend as well. He was nearly 90 years old and wrote several commentaries to help people be living the Christian life. While I wasn’t a massive fan of his, I find it interesting that hardly anyone is saying anything about him whatsoever.
Some are saying it’s too soon to be speaking about if Evans was a heretic or not. I understand both sides. Some people are grieving a loss. Some people are really concerned about the health of the church. I would say if you think she is outside of Christianity, speak it but speak it with sorrow and sadness. Try to emphasize the teaching and not make it about the death of the person.
When someone who is definitely an unbeliever dies, we should take no joy of them being apart from God. None whatsoever. It should be seen as a tragedy. It is also a tragedy when a believer dies, but not for them, but for those of us who are left behind. At the funeral, we don’t really grieve for them as much as we grieve for ourselves.
So in conclusion, my final advice overall is first to pray for the family and realize there is a real husband with real kids left behind. Second, be diligent about your own faithfulness to Christ. Finally, take time to celebrate the loved ones you have in your life today.