August 13, 2014

RIP?

by Jordan Standridge

What did you think about when you heard of Robin Williams suicide? What was your first thought? For a friend of mine it was the following words:

Everyday they pass me by,

I can see it in their eyes.

Empty people filled with care,

Headed who knows where?

On they go through private pain,

Living fear to fear.

Laughter hides their silent cries,

Only Jesus hears.

Love or hate Steve Green–but there’s a whole lot of truth to this song.  

We live in a world full of empty people. No-one is exempt.

We live in a world full of hell-bound people. No-one is exempt.

We live in a world full of souls, who will spend eternity somewhere. No-one is exempt.

The moment someone’s life on earth ends it immediately continues. The moment someone’s life on earth ends they immediately stand before God. Like a runner sprinting for the finish line, the moment he crosses the line he immediately goes from being in a race to done with a race, but his life continues, his consciousness continues. So it is with death. It is a word we use for the ending of life on earth, but life does not end at death, it is just beginning.

For that reason, it is disappointing, frustrating, and excruciating to see Christians say things (or post things, tweet things, etc.) that minimize the monumental truth that any one of the billions of people who have lived are all somewhere right now…very much existing. It brings tears to my eyes to think about the implications of death apart from Christ.

Christian: You must understand that the words you say reveal what is in your heart. When well meaning Christians say things like:

“Thank you Steve Jobs for “thinking outside the box!” A true game changer if there ever was one. RIP.”

Or:

 “Robin thanks for all the laughs. Such a talented man! Thanks for providing me with indescribable joy. R.I.P.

I want to challenge you to think about the implications of writing something like this.

I am not claiming to know where each person is. Nor do I feel like guessing. The point I’m trying to make is did it even cross your mind that they are in eternity? When you think of death, and when you think about people, what is your first thought? Part of working towards being better evangelists is by changing our thinking.

Culture dictates the way we talk, and we are used to saying certain things when certain things happen. But I have to wonder, is the Gospel on the forefront of your mind, if you are writing statements like this?

When you see people walking around what do you see? Do you see a soul that will spend eternity somewhere?

You must understand that Robin Williams and Steve Jobs are not in a coffin somewhere sleeping right now, but they are actively conscious. As I type.

They are somewhere. No-one is exempt. The moment a human being is born he or she will never, ever stop being conscious.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.

At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.

When will we realize, people need the Lord?

My prayer today is that Believers will live lives understanding the implications of the Gospel. That we would live lives devoted to Christ. that we would go all in. That we would start making decisions based on evangelism. That we say, as Paul did in 2 Corinthians 5:16: “From now on, we purpose to not think of anyone in a purely human way.” That we would choose what house to live in, or what city to move to, or what grocery store line to pay for my groceries, based on a love of Jesus and a devotion to telling people about Him.

We are called to take His light

To a world where wrong seems right.

What could be too great a cost

For sharing Life with one who’s lost?

Through His love our hearts can feel

All the grief they bear.

They must hear the Words of Life

Only we can share.

Who else but you? God has sovereignly placed you uniquely somewhere where few other Christians can be–maybe none other than you. Whether its your neighborhood, job, college campus or family, chances are that you are one of the only Christians there. Who is going to let them know about Christ? Who is going to bring them the good news?

Only you can. And when you live with that kind of urgency, you will not be inclined to see hear of someone who died, and think, “rest in peace.”

People need the Lord, people need the Lord

At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.

When will we realize that we must give our lives,

For people need the Lord.

Give your life away! No christian should be exempt from this kind of urgency.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • derny

    Sorry, I didn’t get the point

    • Joyous

      i’m thinking the point is that we’re saying “rest” in peace when people die, and, really, they’re moving on elsewhere, whether it be heaven or hell. i think the point the writer’s trying to make is that we’re pretending as if there’s no eternity. maybe…at least that was my take on it.

    • moises

      Dont view death from a human aspect from what the person did in their life but where a person will spend their life. View death as the beginning of eternity and know that Christ is the only way to eternal life with our Creator and Father, our God. Don’t just view human souls with a human aspect but with an eternal aspect knowing the only important thing in one’s life is whether you believe in Christ or reject him hence the verse 2 Corinthians 5:16.

    • Alex

      I think that the point is that, for the evangelical Christian, death should turn our focus less toward the celebration of a person’s earthly accomplishment and more toward the reminder that our short earthly lives are destined for eternal existence. (Not that it isn’t appropriate to reflect on a person’s life, but that reflection pales in comparison to the weight of eternity.)

      When a person with the stature of Robin Williams or Steve Jobs passes away, it can cause an entire world of people to pause and reflect on the transient nature of our time on earth. And as Christians, who know the truth regarding what awaits us on the other side of death, it should invoke a sense of urgency toward evangelism. Even the most secular of thinkers agrees with the maxim that “death waits for no man.” Let us use this common ground to initiate eternally significant conversations.

      Having said that, I believe I’m going to watch “Hook” tonight.

  • Slim

    So Jobs and Williams are not at peace based on their fruits? Did I read that “between the lines” up there?

    I don’t know the song.
    Guess I’m more familiar with Watts than with Green.

    • MMC

      He never said that….but I will. Steve Jobs was known to be a Buddhist and Robin Williams made statements about raising his kids atheist. That’s not really the point of the post though….

    • Jordan Standridge

      Hey Slim,

      Thanks for the question.

      Robin Williams’s death hit me like a ton of bricks the other night. I cry easily and this time was no exception. I loved every movie I ever watched with him in it. I found out he died right after I watched Hook with my kids. I typed the article and this reply on my mac. Jobs and Williams both made life more fun. For an Atheist or for a “your best life now” type Christian, they should be revered and held in high regard, because they accomplished what few people will, they actually made life a little more enjoyable. This post is not for the atheist, this post is for myself, and for any born-again evangelical Christian to remember that this life is but a vapor, we must live eternally minded lives.

      As far as where they are here’s my answer: “I am not claiming to know where each person is. Nor do I feel like guessing. The point I’m trying to make is did it even cross your mind that they are in eternity?”

    • Yes, based on the criteria that God gave us by which we would judge whether someone is a Christian, these men showed themselves to be non-Christian.

      So, to say RIP about them is to say “REST in PEACE.” This is effectively a declaration that they are Christian, because nonChristians will NOT rest in peace.

      The point of the post is for Christians to STOP saying this about people who are not Christian. Nowhere did the post say “MAKE IT CLEAR YOU THINK A DUDE IS NOW IN HELL.”

      But if you CARE AT ALL ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING AND STILL HAVE A CHANCE to receive Christ, you will clean up your language to lead people to Him, rather than potentially give them false assurance about someone everyone “knows” didn’t receive Christ or bear fruit of repentance.

  • MC

    Thanks for this convicting post. I live in a neighborhood of people who don’t care about Jesus. How seldom does it cross my mind how unhappy their “next” life will be! How seldom do I pray for them or make the slightest effort to tell them about Jesus. Lord, forgive me!

    • MC

      I’m not ashamed to say, “I like SG’s music!” When I started listening to Christian music in Spanish, he became a personal fav.

  • s

    “Who else but you? God has sovereignly placed you uniquely somewhere
    where few other Christians can be–maybe none other than you. Whether its
    your neighborhood, job, college campus or family, chances are that you
    are one of the only Christians there. Who is going to let them know
    about Christ? Who is going to bring them the good news?”

    Let me share a personal example of exactly this point: I teach classes at a major state-sponsored university. I’ve been at the university just over two years, and I mainly hang out in a computer lab that a bunch of students frequent. In that time, I’ve had more conversations about the gospel than anywhere else in my entire life. But get this: almost all of these conversations weren’t started by me; they were started when people came up and asked me point blank things about Christianity.

    For example, I spent an hour-and-a-half walking an avowed agnostic homosexual through the entire Bible explaining the good news of Jesus Christ. Another time, a few of us had gone to grab some lunch at a burger joint next to campus, and the soda cups had “John 3:16” printed on the bottom. The other folks asked me what that meant, so I got an opportunity to share.

    The point of all this is not to pat myself on the back and say “Good job!” The point is that I never planned any of this, and yet it’s clear that God not only worked in my heart to prepare me to be able to respond in such a way, but also that He sovereignly orchestrated the circumstances in order to bring about such instances as well. There’s no other way to explain it.

    And the bigger point is, that can and should be all of us.

  • Richard

    Why would anyone hate Steve Green??

    • MC

      My high school friends don’t hate him, just too cool for him. 🙂

    • Gill

      I don’t think anyone hates him. But he is a major contemporary Christian music “artist” and many of us think that this type of “music” is not good. He is way too rocky.

      • aslannn

        Wait, what? Steve Green is too “rocky”? I was tempted to say, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means”, but I guess one person’s Rock is another person’s Easy Listening. lol

  • This post is very timely for me as the Lord has been putting this into my head and heart constantly lately! If I think the idea of eternal life is so incredibly amazing, why don’t I want to share it with everyone to whom I come in contact? I believe I will have to answer that very question when I go before Him. Thank you for bringing it to light!

  • Paul Reed

    The point is that it is very likely that Robin Williams is in hell, and we do Christ a huge disservice when we pretend otherwise by not talking about it.

  • Mandy

    You make a good point, but I guess I mean something different when I say “Rest in Peace” after a person’s passing. As a Christian, I very much believe in an afterlife and a judgment we all face. I am always hoping that even those who have stood against God all their lives seek Him in their final moments, and pray for the changing of their hearts up until the end. So when I say RIP it’s not because I believe they are just going to lie in the ground forever, it’s my hope that they have found “rest” and “peace” in The Lord. The idea that they are resting in peace, reunited with the Father is my prayer.
    I understand that not everyone makes that distinction, but I just wanted to let you know that I think some Christians share my interpretation when they use the phrase.

    • That’s definitely the right intention, Mandy. And I’ve interacted with well-meaning Christians such as yourself who have presented a similar answer.

      But here’s where my thinking keeps leading me back to: If the great majority of our unbelieving friends would never ever understand your specific intention behind saying, “Rest in peace,” especially because they (and billions of other people in the world) use that phrase with an entirely different intention behind it, then why not just say what you mean? Namely, why not say, “My heart grieves for the death of _____. I sincerely hope that perhaps even in his last moments he repented of his sin, put his trust in Jesus Christ for righteousness, and is reunited with his heavenly Father”?

      Appreciate your perspective.

    • GinaRD

      Amen, Mandy.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Mandy,

      I appreciate your comment, and that’s why I phrased it “well meaning Christians”. My intention is to remind myself about eternity, and to be biblical in anything I think, say or write. I’m sure that’s your intention as well, and I’m glad you are thinking through why you write what you write and how to communicate biblical truth more clearly. My hope is that anyone I come in contact with, will find their rest and peace in the Lord, but I must tell them about it while there is still time. John 9:4 says “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

  • Eric Davis

    Good word, thanks Jordan.

  • Ben

    Fortunately for us, all the responsibility for the salvation of others doesn’t fall on us.

    • jesuguru

      True, but the responsibility for evangelism does.

  • tovlogos

    Jordan, Amen. You are talking my language.

    “…based on a love of Jesus,” may we posses that Love whereby we would be capable of dying even for those who hate the ground on which we walk.

    Mark

  • Just a hunch: I think believers fall on the safe, vanilla RIP-style comments because you go to CNN and leave a comment like, “I’m praying that Robin repented and turned to Christ”, your comment will generally be followed by some of the most acidic, sneering, hate-fueled antagonism imaginable, sometimes followed by plenty of inane, context-ignoring copy-n-paste-atheism.

    • jesuguru

      That’s for sure… 🙁

    • Please Johnny, don’t go to the comments at CNN…stay here at the Cripplegate!

    • 4Commencefiring4

      Such a prayer would, of course, be completely ineffectual and without purpose. I read that Steve McQueen turned to the Lord just prior to his death, but whatever is true is set in stone now. Praying that he might have done so means nothing. Prayer is powerful, but it can’t change the past. If it could, I’d pray that I might have bought Apple stock in ’79. No more worries.

    • Why would someone even pray for some past event? Are there prayers in the Bible where saints pray for an historic event to be different from what it was?

      It seems that people are just so afraid of the doctrine of Hell and judgement that they can’t just say, repent and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

  • 4Commencefiring4

    I understand the point (I think): that where we spend eternity is the issue that should never be forgotten–whether it’s a celebrity or not. But when they’re already dead, it serves no purpose not to write (or say) something positive or thankful or appreciative about them. The fact that they may be in (or eventually heading for) an eternity apart from Christ can’t be changed now (as it might have been while they lived), so the only loving thing to do is to acknowledge their contribution to the world or how they touched many lives, etc.

    Conducting a funeral for someone who had never claimed any relationship Christ in their life has to be, for a christian, a difficult assignment. But it certainly would alienate the family to say anything about where the deceased may be now, if it is believed he’s not in God’s presence.

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  • zach

    ” The moment a human being is born he or she will never, ever stop being conscious.”
    This statement is false. Working in an emergency dept. for almost ten years i have personally witnessed multitudes of unconcious people, not to speak of the many who have altered, and various levels of conciousness. From my perspective in Christ, and the majority of my life lived outside of him i can attest to the fact that unbelievers lack TRUE conciousness. It is not a mistake that our LORD is the great I AM. After all the revelation that one exists is the cornerstone of conciousness. Let us use physical death as an opportunity and reminder to share The Gospel with the spiritually dead in hopes that they be awakened and become truly alive. Ephesians 5:14!!!

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  • Rachel

    “Culture dictates the way we talk, and we are used to saying certain things when certain things happen. But I have to wonder, is the Gospel on the forefront of your mind, if you are writing statements like this?”

    I love your missionary zeal, and this quote nails it. I tend to parrot the culture. But there are ways I *should* stand out, and like you say I may be some person’s only chance to know God. I need to ponder that more so I’ll remember it when it matters.

  • Paul Reed

    “The point I’m trying to make is did it even cross your mind that they are in eternity?”

    I have a question. Does your advice here also apply to abortion? If dead babies automatically go to an eternity in heaven, that’s one heck of a silver lining to abortion.

    • By that logic, is killing Christians ok? Should you be able to murder people that believe in heaven? That sounds perioulously close to the jihadists logic when he takes his own life. I suppose I agree that heaven after life is a “silver lining” to the evils of this world. I just hope that your comment isn’t meant to minimize the murder of untold millions of people because…hey, a soul is forever after all, so how bad could murder possible be?

      • Paul Reed

        I don’t know …If I got an instant, automatic ticket to heaven after my mom aborted me, I’d have a hard time feeling pretty sore about it.

        • If you loved the God of the Bible, Paul, you would HATE the sin that He hates (abortion) and you would LOVE his amazing sovereign working through evil (Hab 1:13, Rom 8:28) which makes abortion one of the most Heaven populating sinful acts ever.

          Christ’s murder achieved atonement for me. I still don’t hate that it happened or the circumstances of it. But I rejoice in God’s working through evil for Good.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Not sure what you mean by advice… Psalm 139 shows that God is the one who forms a baby in the womb and seems to point to the fact that at the moment of conception we are given a soul. So I believe that all humans at the moment of conception will be eternal. As far as where babies go I am in full agreement with an article Jesse wrote about infants who die and I recommend that. http://thecripplegate.com/what-happens-to-infants-who-die-the-need-for-an-answer/

  • Bryan Hann

    rest on peace -> may he rest on peace
    It is a plea to god phrased in terms of pious hope.

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  • Andrea Elliott

    I was just thinking about this the other day and thought, a. people use this phrase (acronym) too flippantly without ANY thought, b. they think everyone is in heaven or c. they think the dead really are asleep. Great post to make born-again Christians aware of what we say and the message it gives to unbelievers and other Christians. And to be aware of those souls here still on earth and their destination.