I got word a few hours ago that a friend of mine is dead.
I don’t know much more than that. He was an internet buddy, a connection made through a mutual friend. I’ve known him for years. We weren’t close, but we spoke pretty often. He was always an encouragement to me when we did connect. I spoke to him last about a week and a half ago. I was in a pretty dark place. Evidently, so was he. He obliquely mentioned a cancer diagnosis, but when I tried to follow up on it, he deliberately changed the subject and asked how I was doing. I made a mental note to ask about it next time we talked, and proceeded to talk about me. (Those of you who know me won’t find that shocking.)
He struggled with addiction, chronic illness, and depression. He was a broken man who was deeply in love with Jesus. He realized that his only hope, in this life as well as the one to come, lay in God’s ridiculous, senseless love for him. The last time I spoke to him, he laid aside his suffering to try and hold mine for a few minutes. I let him.
I don’t know if he died of cancer, of an overdose, or because he took his own life. I have no idea. I’m not going to try to tell you his story. I’m not qualified. I didn’t know him that well. I’m going to try to tell you why I’m so disgusted with myself right now.
I am growing increasingly repulsed and furious at the idea that you can hold to a belief about God solely in the theoretical abstract, while never really allowing it to make any practical difference in your behavior. I am getting weary of holding up under the weight of a reality characterized by half-measures of commitment to truths about our faith that never seem to create lasting change in the functional outworking of day-to-day life.
I’m weary of people whose compassion for those struggling with habitual sin is not mitigated by the reality that God has forever forgiven their own cosmic treason and made relationship with Him possible through the death of His perfect Son. I’m tired of those who have been at the Prodigal’s welcome home party long enough that they’ve genuinely begun to believe that God looks more favorably on their struggles with pride, dishonesty, and selfishness than He does on more pigpen-smelling struggles like sex, addiction, and alcohol abuse. I’m repulsed by the mentality that greedily sucks in grace and mercy and forgiveness and unwarranted favor and unconditional love and never looks for ways to be a selfless conduit of the same in the lives of people God has so clearly placed in their lives. I’m disgusted by the kind of person who could know deeply the importance of sitting on the ash-heap with someone, yet use the last earthly conversation with a suffering friend talking about their own mess and putting off dealing with someone else’s to a more convenient time.
There’s a phrase for the kind of beliefs that don’t translate into action … they’re called “things I don’t really believe.”