Think of that. Michael Jackson was a gifted, talented individual. He was also a famously and deeply troubled man, wounded and wounding. At worse, he was also a perpetrator of the worst sort. Now, we will likely never know the true sum of it.
There is no harm in appreciating a person's gifts and enjoying his art. But — again, I stress if the report is accurate — here are people so bound up with this broken shell of a man that their life loses meaning when he dies.
Contrast that will my brother and friend Phil Johnson's moving tribute to a dear friend and coworker. His title is "At Home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8)."
It is clear that Phil, and many others, are shocked and saddened at Mike Taylor's passing. Taylor didn't perform to sold-out arenas nor get his picture plastered over magazines and posters and billboards. He never had a video on MTV. He wasn't known for bizarre eccentricities. What he was known for was an infectious and hearty laugh, and for his love for Jesus Christ and for people.
The legacy Taylor leaves is lives touched for the Gospel, made better by encouragement and instruction in the Word, better-prepared for eternity. Jackson leaves people with nothing, except (in the case of the alleged twelve) a feeling that with him gone, they're empty, and life is too painful. (For some, it's even worse than that, if this isn't a pathetic joke.)
Taylor's parting saddens all who knew and loved them, but they have a hope that can't be shaken. Taylor's passing actually sweetens their appreciate of what he believed, taught, and lived for: which is to say the Gospel.
It all brings to mind this poignant passage from the apostle Paul:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)Christians do grieve. We are sad. We weep. We miss the sweet fellowship of our brothers and sisters, friends, spouses, children, who die in the Lord. But we do not mourn as having no hope.
Nor is it a wispy hope, as pagans have. I am constantly saddened to read unbelieving or superstitious conservatives over at FreeRepublic. When someone whom they like (i.e. Farrah Fawcett, recently) dies, they immediately proclaim the person as "in a better place." Why? On what basis?
On no basis whatever, with no authority and on no solid grounds.
Yet Christians have the objective historical fact of Jesus' bodily resurrection, and of the whole mass of His teachings which that resurrection confirms. Our hope is solid, and grounded.
If you don't have that hope for yourself, do not have reason to believe on God's own authority that you have a real involvement with Jesus Christ, then you must seek Him. Now is only opportunity you're sure of.
You have no greater priority.
ADDENDUM: Pastor Chris Anderson comments on a report that Jackson prayed with Andre Crouch shortly before his death. As is always the case with Chris, his thoughts are pointed and solid.