So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
I did a funeral a while back for an older woman, and during the service people stood up to talk about how amazing she was how she always cared for everyone in her midst and how she was the paragon of virtue. We heard from grandchildren, co-workers, neighbors, it went on and on.
When the funeral was over, I mingled among the gathered people, offering condolences and so on until I met the recently dead woman’s caretaker. She was wearing scrubs, having already moved on to a new client and was only able to get away for the funeral. We chatted briefly exchanging pleasantries until she said, “You know what’s strange Preacher? Having to sit there and to listen to all these people talk about how perfect she was. Because she was the meanest woman I’ve ever met in my life. She treated me worse than dirt.”
I stood there silently stunned unsure of how to respond.
And then she said, “It’s a good thing we worship a God of forgiveness, right Preacher?”
I have a great sign in my office that says, “Live your life so that the Preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.”
I used to love how it would hang over the heads of those who came to confess yet another one of their sins. I hoped that it would convince them to shape up and start behaving accordingly without me having to say it.
But the longer I’ve been a pastor, the more I’ve realized how strange of a theology the sign portrays. For, it implies that there are some people who have lived such good, and true, and virtuous lives that preachers don’t have to lie at their funerals.
But, that denies the real truth: Not a one of us is righteous, no, not one. We all fail to love God and neighbor with our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. We avoid doing things we know we should, and we do plenty of things we know we shouldn’t.
And yet, how often have we gone to a funeral to listen to someone like me, a preacher, wax lyrical about the now dead’s holy life when we all know that all of our lives are more complicated than that?
For, the real truth is that all of us are the ungodly, we are the ones for whom Christ died. And that’s good news, because it means not a one of us is outside the realm of God’s forgiveness.
Which is just another way of saying that the only way any of us make it to the Kingdom of Heaven is because we worship a King of forgiveness.
Thanks be to God.