I attended a memorial service for an atheist friend last night. And I want to share my heart with you after experiencing that service.
He Was Made In The Image Of God
My friend was made in the image of God. That’s what I remember about him. I say that because of the way he loved his granddaughter with all his heart. And in his awkward way, he also loved other people too, even people who had a worldview opposite of his own. I know from talking with his family members that he was funny and anxious to cheer people up when they were down. I remember him bringing his granddaughter to family gatherings when her grandmother was too sick to come. The last time I saw him he was bringing his granddaughter to the local YMCA to swim, something he did often. He was a fixture in her world. He was consistently present for a little girl who didn’t have much stability in her life.
The Secret Things And The Revealed Things
There’s a Bible verse that says,
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us…” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
The way I described my friend is the way my friend was revealed to me. But the secret things belong to the Lord. And death is one of those secret things.
Death is a hard thing to accept. When we lose someone we love there’s a tearing that happens to our soul. Life has its rhythms but death can come to anyone, at anytime, in any place, in any way. We just don’t know what each day might bring.
I just saw my friend one Saturday, an everyday average Saturday where everything was as normal as could be, and then two days later he’s gone.
So our hearts are heavy with grief, sadness, and anguish. And our minds are full of questions. Why do these things happen? There are so many unexplainable sorrows in life, so many things we can’t know. And it has always been that way. And it will always be that way this side of heaven. There’s nothing we can do but to leave these things with the One who knows all things.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God,
“but the things revealed belong to us…”
So we know there are things we can’t know. But what are the things we can know? What has God revealed to us?
God’s True Nature
Jesus was surrounded by dishes and leftover food from the last supper, even as my friends and family were last night after the memorial service meal. And in an amazing display of humility, Jesus, the Son of God Himself, had just washed his disciples feet. So there he was with his twelve disciples, minus one, because one disciple, Judas, had already left to betray him. And Jesus was waiting for him to come back with the temple guards who would arrest him on charges of inciting a rebellion against the Israeli government. They would come and take him away to those who would torture him, and murder him.
This was the setting when Philip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
And Jesus said, “Have I been with you this long, and you still don’t know Me? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John chapter 14:8-9)
We don’t know for sure what death will bring to my friend. He died alone so we don’t know for sure what final words may have been whispered to God in the final moments of my friend’s life. We don’t know because those are secret things that belong to the Lord our God.
But what has been revealed to us is the true nature of the Father. As Jesus told Philip, He’s revealed to us in Jesus Christ. We can learn what He’s like by learning about the life of Jesus, in the gospels.
He’s alive there, in the scriptures.
Maybe you think of God as a stern faced bad-humored old man who loves to make rules and is just waiting to catch you doing something wrong. That’s not at all who God is. God is for you. He wants you to do well. He is on your side. As much as my friend loved his granddaughter, God loves you infinitely more. God loves you so much He allowed His only Son to die for you, so you could be with Him, with God, in heaven.
I know what I am. I’m a wretched soul. And I don’t understand why God would bother with me and give up His Son to die, for me, wretch that I am. I don’t understand it. That’s one of the great secrets that belongs to the Lord our God.
But what has been revealed is God’s true nature in Jesus’ life. So if you really want to know what God is really like, learn about Jesus. Read the book of John, it will be the shortest book you’ll read all year. It’s only 32 pages long.
Read it and you’ll be surprised at the true nature of God.
You know, in Jesus’ time it was considered undignified for an adult man to run. Jewish men walked everywhere and never ran anywhere. But Jesus said that when the prodigal son decided to return to his father, when his father saw him coming, but still a long way off, his father ran to him. And he embraced him, and kissed him, and welcomed him back.
That’s what God is like. That’s what Jesus is like. Because of the wretch that I am, God’s mercy and love are my only hope. And it’s the same for you, even if you’re still a long way off, if you change direction, if you move toward Him, He will come running to you. And He’ll embrace you and welcome you back.
If you’re inclined to, please pray with me:
“Oh Lord, we are wretches, everyone of us. But we know your mercy and your love because you reveal them to us in the life of Jesus. Lord we know we need the work Your Son did on the cross, the work He did for us. The payment He made for our sins.
“Please help us.
“Please give us rest inside Jesus Christ. Please fill us with His Spirit.
“Lord we put our trust in Him. Have mercy on us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
If you have questions drop me an email at email@example.com .
[The image at the top of this post is from the Creative Commons by Sean Dustman and is not from the service I attended last night.]
Kurt, Thanks for sharing such intimate thoughts with us as you grieve the loss of your friend. Our prayers are with you.
I appreciate your prayers Suzy. Thank you for stopping by and please tell Keith I said hello.