Eleven days ago Myles Munroe, a popular pastor and author, was killed, along with his wife and seven others, when their jet crashed in the Bahamas. That event was a a tragedy for the Munroe family, for the church they pastored, and for their many friends and admirers.
I have been troubled by two reactions among Christians on social media and the blogosphere.
Firstly, there have been the ‘heresy hunters’ who have taken the death of a Christian brother as an opportunity to attack his character and doctrinal teaching – mainly because of his involvement with what is popularly known as the Prosperity Gospel. It’s hard to think of anything less Christian, or more mean-spirited, than a believer who would exploit such a tragedy to score petty points and pull others down. May God protect us from the Pharisaical ‘orthodoxy’ of the heresy hunters!
But I want address a different set of reactions. A number of Christians have commented on the death of Dr Munroe with absolute disbelief and perplexity. This is not just the usual shock we feel when someone we know or admire dies suddenly, but more of a bewilderment at how God could possibly allow a man and woman of faith to die in such tragic circumstances. The assumption seems to be that great faith in God, and commitment to the service of the Gospel, should somehow prevent such things happening.
Have we Christians in the developed world really become so biblically and theologically illiterate that we think that being a follower of Christ somehow exempts us from the violence, tragedy and suffering that are part and parcel of life in a fallen and broken world? Do we imagine that we are somehow more faith-filled than Stephen, who died at the hands of a bloodthirsty mob in Acts Chapter 7? Or do we think we have discovered a secret to a charmed life that was denied to Paul, who knew what it was to be stoned, beaten and shipwrecked? Are we really arrogant enough to think that our understanding of faith principles makes us more entitled to live a pain-free life than our brothers and sisters that are laying down their lives for the Gospel in northern Nigeria or in Iraq?
Jesus said that those who wanted to be His disciples should deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). God forgive us if we have traded that divine call for a tawdry imitation of the Gospel that says, “If you trust in Jesus then all will go well with you and nothing bad will ever happen to you.”
Twenty years ago my wife and I suffered the unspeakable agony of laying the body of our beautiful 4-year old daughter, Grace Park, in an early grave. We were church planters, full of faith and sold out for God and His Kingdom. Our faith didn’t exempt us from experiencing the same grief that has descended on countless other parents in similar circumstances. But what our faith did do was enable us to continue serving God, and to know without a shadow of a doubt that our daughter had entered into the glorious presence of Jesus Christ. Myles Munroe and his wife have now entered into that same glorious presence. That may cause grief because of a temporal loss – but it should not cause us perplexity.