When I heard the story, my heart broke immediately. A pastor had just taken his life because of a horrible fall into sin. He was obviously already far away from God. He had gone to a conference and on his way, had taken a detour to a place where he thought no one would know him. He entered a bar and ordered a drink. A woman was nearby. They talked and things began to happen. Soon, they left together and went to a hotel. At the hotel they began to be intimate but somewhere along the way she said stop, but he did not stop. She left and called the police. He was arrested and charged with rape. Later it would be discovered that it had happened once before and that charges were already pending against him for the same thing in another city.
He was placed in jail awaiting his hearing. What went through his mind is merely speculation but I believe this is probably fairly accurate. He thought of what he now faced. He knew life as he had known it, was over. He could not think of any good way this could end. His mind could not think of his wife who loved him or of his three young children. All he could think of was the hell ahead. To him, all seemed lost. He saw no hope. He took off his belt and made it into a noose. Somehow, he did the only thing that made any sense to him and he took his life. They found him hanging in the cell already. He was dead; his life was over.
It made the news across the country. The bloggers had a heyday using it as fuel for the fires of their hellish hatred. A wife and three young children were left in the wake, not only of the loss of a husband and father but the tragic circumstances surrounding it. A church was left with questions, confusions, and the need to somehow move forward. Eventually, life went on for all, not easily but still it went on. It always does.
As always when I hear such stories, my mind goes to the life that was lost or destroyed. As much as I grieve for all those who were hurt by his foolish and inexcusable sins, I likewise hurt for that man as well. I wish he had thought there was someone he could call. I wish he knew that God’s grace was still available to him. I wish he had known that there was still something left for which to live. I wish he had been able to find my phone number and had called me. I wish I could have had just one conversation with him. Maybe it would not have changed the outcome, but then again, maybe it would have. Let me tell you what I think I would have told him.
1. God still loves you! My friend why is it so hard for us to believe that? No matter what you do, God will always love you. If you are the biggest mass murderer in history, God still loves you. I know we feel anger at the horrible things people do to hurt others. I understand that. It is part of being human to feel that way. God is so much greater than we give Him credit for. Our minds always go to the victims and others who are adversely affected by someone’s sins. God’s does too, but He is also able to love that one who created all of the mayhem. That is almost impossible for us to do, but it is perfectly natural for God to do because He loves us unconditionally. Yes, I think I would have told him, “Dear brother, please do not forget that God loves you as much as He always has.”
2. God will forgive you and cleanse you. That does not mean that God will make it all go away and erase the consequences of your actions. It does mean, however, that you can be clean with Him and live in His perfect forgiveness. All he had to do was confess it to God. God does not make us jump through hoops to get forgiveness. All he requires is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I would have said, “Brother, you are already broken, so just turn that into a brokenness for the sins you committed and with a contrite spirit confess your sins to your loving Father.”
3. God still has a purpose for you. As impossible as that may seem, I believe God has a purpose for every life that still walks on this earth, no matter what they have done or where they are. That purpose may include a time locked up in prison and that has to be expected and accepted. However, there is still a purpose. It is a life you cannot envision now, but God has already planned it out. He was not surprised by what you did. The life you know is over, but what God knows, is just beginning. Yes, the road will be difficult, but God will pave it with His grace and that will be sufficient.
4. The final thing I would like to have told him is, I love you. When you are at the bottom and you cannot look anywhere but up, there are few things more important to know then that someone still loves you. How could I not love my fellow sinner? Who am I not to love my neighbor, my brother, just as Christ commanded me to do? Those words were salve to my soul during my lowest and darkest hours of sins dungeon. How could I not place the tourniquet of my love around the bleeding heart of my brother? How could I refuse him a friend when others would condemn him? Would I protect him from the justice of man? Not at all, nor would I deny him the mercy and grace of God.
Yes, those are the simple things I wish I could have told him that day. Somehow, I wish he could have thought of the muck and mire through which I have waded and thought maybe I could help him. I wish somewhere he had put my number in his wallet and that he could have requested it from one of the guards. I wish he could have made it to a phone and placed one call to me and said, “Sir, I believe my life is over. I could not think of anyone else to call so I am calling you.” Yes, that is what I wish. I said it when I first heard he had taken his life, and I have been saying it ever since. Maybe nothing would have been different, but again, maybe it would.
Perhaps the message I would have given him was not in vain. Maybe it is a message for another who reads or will read these words. Maybe it is for you.