"If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."
As the mother of two daughters both in their twenties, I was heartbroken when I heard that Matthew Warren, the youngest son of Rick and Kate Warren, had taken his own life. Nothing can be more devastating to a parent than losing a child, particularly under these circumstances.
When I heard the heart-wrenching news, I immediately thought of that tragic scene in the movie Luther where a young lad commits suicide. The Church forbade his body to be buried within its premises, and Martin Luther passionately disagreed. Here is a brief transcript of the scene:
Monk (who refuses to bury the child): “Brother Martin, the boy’s damned. I’m not allowed to do this. The others won’t rest with him in here. This is holy ground, he’s a suicide.”
Luther: “Tell Otto to bring his son. Tell him: Some people say that according to God’s justice, this boy is damned because he took his life. I say it was overcome by the devil. Is this child any more to blame for the despair that overtook him than an innocent man who is murdered by a robber in the woods? God must be mercy. God IS mercy.“
Luther then personally buries the child in front of the child’s parents, and prays:
“He is yours. Save him.”
For those who have lost a loved one to suicide, I hope they will take comfort in what Martin Luther had to say about the taking of one's own life. Luther proclaimed:
"I don’t share the opinion that suicides are certainly to be damned. My reason is that they do not wish to kill themselves but are overcome by the power of the devil…"
Martin Luther, Table Talk #222 [April 7, 1532], Luther’s Works, Vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967). p. 29 Link
One would think that the entire Christian community would be reaching out to the Warren family with love and compassion; however, there have been some detractors who appear to elevate their theology over their love. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the following in The Christian Post:
Well-known Pastor Rick Warren's personal tragedy of losing his son Matthew as the result of suicide last Friday has not only garnered sympathy and condolences from around the world, but also online vitriol from his detractors. Perhaps most disturbing to Warren and many in the Christian community is that some of the attacks have come from people professing to be Christians, as well.
Warren posted through Facebook and Twitter: "Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest…"
Frank Viola wrote a hard-hitting piece directed at those who would dare to post callous remarks about Rick Warren and his family members. Here is an excerpt:
If you are a Christian and your heart doesn’t go out to this brother and his family, something is wrong with you spiritually.
I don’t care what you think about Warren’s theology, his books, or how he combs his hair. The fact is, he lost a child. Few things can be more painful and nightmarish in this life.
To add insult to injury, just take a look at some of the comments by fellow “Christians” (professing ones at least) to the news. These are comments that were left on various Christian news websites under the Warren article:
Train up your children in the way, live a godly example with right priorities, care enough to home-school despite the great sacrifice involved, don’t let them date unchaperoned, have daily family devotions, turn off the 1-eyed idiot, TRULY HAVE A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, and your children WILL NOT COMMIT SUICIDE, nor will they be involved in homosexuality, nor fornication.
He killed himself, it’s much worse than fornication or homosexuality or Onanism or eating pork. He denied himself a chance to get better. If your kids need a chaperone to date, why do you let them date? They shouldn’t be dating if they are not mature enough to control themselves.
Suicide happens soon after your stupid enough to read “The Purpose Driven Life”.
Poor Matthew denies God’s Love with suicide.
He could not save his own because Mr. Warren does not truly understand how his own heart works, how it is broken and the mechanism by which Jesus laid out the example of how to fix it. Matthew killed himself because he did not understand either. He was a victim of his own ignorance and the ignorance of his family, friends, society and Christians around him — presently!
When tragedy strikes, that is NOT the time to critique someone's theological beliefs. A discerning Christian should know when to argue about theology and when to let just it go. When someone is down, it is dishonoring to God to make callous comments such as those cited above. Shame on them! That is not how we show a watching world our Christian love! What would compel a brother or sister in Christ to write such horrendous comments? Are they genuine Christians? May God have mercy on their souls!
Back in 2009 Wade Burleson delivered a thought-provoking message that addresses this issue. It was entitled "Love Beyond Your Theology". Here is the portion of his talk that applies to these circumstances:
I now believe deep in my heart that Jesus is more concerned with how we … treat each other than He is with what we … teach each other. The people loved by Christ — particularly those who differ with me — are to be far more precious to me than any finer point of theology believed by me. Jesus did not tell me that it would be by my “truth” that all people would know that I am one of His followers, but by my “love.” The only description ever given of our Lord was that He was a person “full of grace and truth.” Word order is important in Scripture. Grace should not just precede truth, it should permeate it. Or as our host Jimmy Allen so brilliantly puts it: “Our love should reach beyond our theology.”
There is so much more that could be said about this serious matter; however, we will leave you with some wonderful Bible verses about love (all are from the New American Standard Bible):
"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." Galatians 5:13
"with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love" Ephesians 4:2
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Please join Dee and me in praying for the Warren family as well as for those who have revealed their hearts of stone.
Lydia's Corner: Ruth 2:1-4:22 John 4:43-54 Psalm 105:16-36 Proverbs 14:26-27