Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 67; 150, 2 Samuel 1:17-27, Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 25:31-46
“Don’t speak ill of the dead.”
– Ancient proverb.
“It’s easier to love someone who’s dead. They make so few mistakes.”
– Arnold, Torch Song Trilogy
After Saul and his son Jonathan died battling the Philistines, David wrote The Song of the Bow (today’s reading from 2 Samuel) as a memorial to them. He praised their might and bravery, their loyalty to each other, and the good they did for Israel. He didn’t mention Saul’s crazed and cowardly attempts to murder him, or the fierce division they had over his fate, or that his resulting exile weakened the nation.
Isn’t this the way of most memorial services? “Eulogy” literally means “good words” and we seldom hear anything else spoken at a funeral, regardless of the character of the deceased. At least for a time the bumps in the road of life are smoothed over as we attempt to comfort those left behind.
But not all our grief is for lost love.
Human relationships being complex, we often have unfinished business with the deceased. If this business pains us, we are left with options of denial or therapy since resolution is no longer possible. Relationships revolving around the person we’ve lost may become more complicated as well.
Then there’s a third option: forgiveness. Death forces us to face we can’t control other people – something we won’t always accept while they live. A hoped for apology or behavioral change – which always seem to remain a possibility when someone is alive – can be an obstacle to forgiveness, because it makes forgiveness dependent upon that person. Yet we can control them no more alive than dead. The relief of forgiveness comes only when we realize it means changing ourselves, but that frequently means hard and humble work on our part.
Fortunately, we can do the work to forgive someone while they still live. On the flip side, we can offer amends any time – regardless of whether we feel like it – and avoid being the source of irresolvable grief. Either way, love as if it’s your last chance. Once we stop waiting, we really start living.
Comfort: Forgiveness is something you can choose right now…
Challenge: … but it may take a while to really get there.
Prayer: May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him. (Psalm 67:7)
Discussion: What impact has unfinished business with a deceased friend, for, or family member had on your life?
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