By Mike Perry
Not long ago I attended the funeral of a relative of a relative. The deceased was someone I had known most of my life, although we were never particularly close. It seems he had been diagnosed with cancer some months before. And though he fought gallantly, he eventually lost the battle. This man had never really been a churchgoer. In fact, as his health decayed, a preacher approached him several times trying to convince him to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior before it was too late. The man never did. Or perhaps he just didn’t accept Jesus in the way this preacher wanted him too.
In any case, as I sat at the funeral that day I listened as family members and friends, each in turn, spoke emotionally of their love for this man and how he’d impacted their lives. Until finally it was the preacher’s turn. The same preacher that had tried to convince him to accept Jesus. This preacher proceeded to explain to all in attendance that unless you have been saved according to his definition of what saved means, you were simply going to hell. In essence, the preacher told all family and friends of the deceased man that they had no hope of ever reuniting with their deceased loved one unless of course, they were to meet him in hell because that is where he was going.
Frankly, I was appalled. And if I had not been sitting in the middle of a row in a sanctuary packed with people, I would have walked out. I’ll tell you a little secret, I have always been skeptical of those who claim to know the mind of God. I believe God’s love is universal and unconditional. That despite our faults and mistakes, God’s loves us beyond measure and accepts us as his children just the way we are. That there is nothing we can do to cause God to love us less.
Now did this deceased man go to heaven or to hell? I have no idea. But I refuse to believe that a loving God would send one of his children to eternal damnation forever. I will tell you that my faith tells me that when we are born, we come from God when we die, we return to God. Your faith may be different. But whatever it is, it belongs to you. We invite you to share your faith with us this Sunday morning at 8:45 and 10:45 at Francis Street First Methodist Church, downtown St. Joseph as we seek to know God and follow Jesus Christ.