“Who wants to write the obituary?” In my mind, this is a question that should accompany a bleak winter scene at the top of the newsletter and not, as I expect will be the case, a beautiful summer themed design. But, as we know, obituaries have to be written in all seasons of the year. Unfortunately, it is a question that my husband and his siblings asked in a family group text last week. It comes at difficult times and I don’t suppose too many people jump to accept the task.
I typically don’t spend a lot of time thinking about obituaries, but since it has been part of our family conversation of late, they have been on my mind. It struck me that obituaries are similar to social media. One of the criticisms of social media I have heard is the way that people can portray their lives in a certain light. Pictures can be altered and struggles in life can be omitted. We can choose to show the celebrations, vacations and other beautiful times in our life while ignoring the parts that aren’t so pretty. Obituaries can do the same thing. We can pick and choose what we want to share with the world and what we would rather leave out.
Obituaries come in all sizes. We have all seen ones that are very short and then there are those that are many paragraphs, or maybe even columns. They list organizations, boards, jobs, hobbies and trips along with the pertinent information including a list of family members, locations and dates of events. I am not saying any of this is wrong. It provides the reader with important logistical information and we can also get a glimpse into the life of the person by seeing where they spent their time. One of the things that we often don’t see are the motives behind the persons involvement. There are a lot of reasons that people get involved in an organization or do any sort of task that may be deemed a good thing by the world. It may be guilt, pressure from a family member or friend, professional or personal gain, a way to fill empty hours, relationship building, a misguided attempt to earn favor with God, a sincere desire to help people or hopefully, what the Bible teaches is the right reason for works.
I have heard it said that good works are the basis of every religion in the world except for Christianity. Other religions teach that we have to appease an angry god through offerings or works, but thankfully Christianity rightfully teaches that the only work that means anything for our eternal destiny is that which Jesus did on the cross on our behalf. 1 Peter 2:24 says,
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
We have been healed from the penalty of sin by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, not by anything we have done in the past or can do in the future.
The Bible does have something to say about the role of good works in the Christian’s life. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God doesn’t need anything from us, but He does value these works because it says we are created in Christ for them. These good works are a joyful response to what Christ has done for us and not something done out of compulsion because it is going to get us something we desire. I like what Martin Luther says; “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” God may use our good works to impact those around us for His kingdom.
At the end of our life our family may choose to write a long or a short obituary, but it really won’t matter to us. The only thing of true importance is if we have by grace, through faith, trusted in the saving work He did for us on the cross.
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