Most of you know by now that TV “Mom” Barbara Billingsley died this past Saturday. I don’t know much about Miss Billingsley other than what I garnered as a small child by watching the re-runs of “Leave it to Beaver.”
Tributes, biographies, and memorials have been produced extoling her life and her many accomplishments. She seems to have been loved and appreciated by many people as a result of that early situation comedy.
I have heard all of my life that, “They go in threes.” Each time an actor, singer, or highly profiled individual dies I find myself scanning the news to see who else might have died within a few days of the report. I certainly don’t wish nor take joy in the deaths of one, or two, or even three famous people. I am simply curious.
One of the things said about anyone who passes is, “May they rest in peace.” We have quite possibly unintentionally immortalized that short but sentimental phrase. It is said when speaking of a past loved one and when we hear of the death of an individual whether we actually knew them or not. We have even abbreviated this phrase to RIP. It is almost universally recognized even in this form.
You have seen it I know. Whether it was on a tombstone, in a newspaper clipping, in a cartoon, or even in an editorial, we express this sentiment. I think this phrase, rest in peace, becomes even more verbalized when a particularly troubled, or “haunted” individual dies. This sentiment is offered as if it is a reward for the suffering, hardship, or heart-ache one experienced in while living.
What troubles me the most is to hear so many Christians use this phrase. I hear it spoken over or about so many individuals and situations that it troubles me. It is offered or at least expressed over some of the least likely candidates whom will actually experience or enjoy eternal peace.
Now, I know the cards and letters (email) will pour in wondering if at best I have lost my mind or at worst, am I a horrible monster waiting to be slain. I can assure you that I am neither. I have not lost my mind nor am I a horrible monster.
First, let me assure you that I don’t know anything about the spiritual life and eternal residence of anyone including Miss Barbara Billingsley. This post is not in reference to her nor is in reference to anyone specifically.
Second, let me assure you that I don’t know the hearts of any individual nor do I know who is written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)
Third, I am like many of you when it comes to the spiritual condition of some folks. I will be as surprised as you by some whom we meet in heaven and if it is possible, we may be shocked by those whom we don’t find. (I am the most surprised that I was granted eternal life.)
So, you say, what is your point? Well, I am glad you asked. I think we need to be careful what we say, even at the most vulnerable times such as the loss of an individual. Even while comforting those who are grieving we need to think and keep watch on our words Yes, even when we are using words such as, “rest in peace.”
Why? Truth is still truth. We need to be very cognizant of biblical truth. What does the scripture say?
“…the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace says my God, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:20-21, ESV)
It might make us feel good to say those words. It might make the bereaved feel somewhat comforted. The truth of the matter is that there is no peace, no resting in peace for those who die apart from the grace and salvation of the living God.
We, especially as believers need to be reminded constantly that there is no peace and no hope for those outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded so that we faithfully, fervently, and frequently share the gospel with every individual that we possibly can.
Granted, there is nothing we can do for those who have passed on, particularly those who did not know Christ. I don’t think we need to be setting up opinion polls and surveys as who made heaven and who did not. I don’t think we need to needlessly and cruelly afflict those who are grieving. I just want us to think about what we say, even in moments of tender and compassionate comforting of those who lost loved ones.
The reality of heaven and hell of salvation and damnation needs to be constantly before us. If it isn’t we become complacent.
No big deal here, just something I thought of as I read and hear a proliferation of RIP.