I’ve said goodbye to people with whom I was closer. But the call that a family member had passed away unexpectedly hurt in a different way. I realized that I had lost any chance to make up for the unchristian way I had treated him.
For Christians, the accountability moment that is death brings hope and fear. But the accountability of death isn’t just about the deceased. It’s also about how the living treated the deceased. Another’s death means that we cannot “make up” with him or remove our sins against him.
I had wasted the last several years. Rather than take this person’s obvious quirks and flaws as an opportunity to help both of us come closer to Christ, I had chosen a door to Hell almost every time.
Our interactions were brief, infrequent, and non-intimate. There’s nothing wrong with that. God does not require we have a close relationship with everyone we know. What was wrong was my judging this person harshly, even dismissively. What was also wrong was recalling the person’s flaws instead of finding the good when speaking with my wife or others.
And now it’s too late. It’s too late to take back what I’ve done, to be more like Christ for this person, and also for those my sins of gossip, judgment, and dismissal affected.
No Longer a Beacon
I can no longer try to be a beacon of God’s Light for my deceased family member. I can no longer try to be the charitable voice when others criticized him. I can’t even claim the minimal moral success of treating him neutrally.
What I can do is mature. Many times, I’ve crossed the line between informing others of necessary facts and gossip. Now I can see that feeling in my gut as I gossiped and offered half-hearted (if misleadingly forthright) apologies was God urging me to use just a touch of discipline to be an intellectually honest and upright Christian.
Until our day of final accountability, we can ask God to forgive our sins. When others die, it may behoove us to search our souls for sins against that person. Were we a bright lamp to guide that person’s soul and others who knew him or her, or did we hide under the basket — avoiding the work God requires of us?
Dustin Siggins isa freelance journalist and political commentator. He has been an associate editor for The Stream andD.C. Correspondent for LifeSiteNews. He can be followed on Twitter @DustinSiggins. “Title” is a shorter version of The Accountability of Death, published by Catholic Exchange.