Everyone is human. And that means everyone is broken – we all struggle and fight in this life, whether it’s circumstances, others, or our own selves.
I never thought Kobe Bryant would be the one to move me out of my long writing hiatus, but it’s been a strange week, and I’ve been wrestling for a while with thinking that I have things to say, but there are so many words already out there, that it doesn’t really matter in the end. But it kind of does, and keeping thoughts in my brain don’t usually serve a good purpose for anything besides my own mental filing cabinets.
Some would call the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragic. I would agree to an extent – it seems so senseless, a helicopter crash that shouldn’t happened, an absolute star and his little girl and a group of friends taken way too soon before their assumed times. People are reminded of their mortality, of how inevitable death is. I was too. I was actually reminded, though, more than anything else, of the side comment Jesus makes in Luke 13:1-4 about the Tower of Siloam:
“At that time some of those present told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. To this He replied, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam collapsed on them: Do you think that they were more sinful than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’”
Jesus knows death more intimately than any of us. We may feel stalked by it, or haunted by it, or in fear of it. Death makes us mourn and ache and cry out more than anything that this world is not the way it should be. Jesus is the only person, though, who has a posteriori walked through it, created the universe before its existence (or, at least, its existence before the way it exists now), and has conquered it, breaking it for all time. Jesus is not afraid of death; death, rather, serves Him.
When confronted with some local tragedies though, Jesus, in the face of another account of death’s doing, actually uses the tragedy to exhort those listening to repent. He uses the bizarre, seemingly random, and sad incident of the tower collapse to point out the listeners’ need to turn from their sin and turn to God.
We tend to ask the wrong question when tragedy strikes. Why did this happen? is the most likely human response to the brokenness and awfulness of our world: lives snuffed out too young, too soon, too randomly. Should we not, though, circumvent the flesh’s response to try and make sense of it all, which lends us a sense of control that we can never have, to rather use tragedy as an opportunity to examine our own standing before God?
I am praying for Kobe’s family and the intense grief they are experiencing. I pray for God’s peace and comfort to wash over them, and most importantly, for the Spirit to open their eyes to their own need for a Savior and to seek repentance so that they don’t need to fear death. I pray the same for myself – I am tempted to fear death. I am tempted to forget the impact of what Christ has done and that my eternity is secure. It’s easy to walk through my days and forget and then fall into a fear I carry needlessly around my neck like a stuffed boa constrictor that someone is trying so very hard to tell me is already dead and can do me no harm anymore.
None of us know when we will pass away from this life. James says that we are like a little mist that vanished quickly after a brief while (4:14). What will we do in the meantime? Cling to our sin, and our brevity, or run to Christ in repentance? I want to run to Christ and hide in Him and let death take me kindly when it comes because I am confident and secure of what’s next.