The death of Robin Williams is certainly the topic of conversation for the moment. I was attending a baseball game with my daughter when my iPhone flashed the news of his death. My first thought upon reading the news was thinking how ironic it was that I was also attending a baseball game a few years ago when my iPhone gave me the story about Michael Jackson’s death. Since that moment, the Internet has been ablaze with people giving their thoughts about the comedian’s passing. Yesterday, I saw countless “R.I.P., Robin Williams” and “Make God laugh in heaven, Robin!” posts on Facebook. I also saw several Christians talk about whether it is appropriate to talk of Robin Williams spending eternity in heaven, considering that he committed suicide and especially since he spent all of his adult life saying and doing many things which God says are sinful in his Word. By the end of the day, I also saw several instances of people scathingly rebuking anyone who would dare to even suggest that Robin Williams would not go to heaven. There were lots of “Who made you the judge?” and “How unchristian of you!” accusations thrown around.
Here are my thoughts. God is the judge, not us. That said, he has given us the standard by which he will judge us, which is his Word (John 12:48). As Christians, we are to preach that Word at every opportunity as God has told us to do (2 Tim. 4:2). We are to do so because God will judge us all, and will condemn those who do not obey his Word (2 Cor. 5:10-11). The only way anyone will know more about the Word of God is if we tell them, and we are to take every opportunity available to tell them (Gal. 6:10).
Like it or not, Robin William’s death by suicide is what people are thinking about and talking about right now. From what I’ve read about him, the man made a lot of people laugh and brought a lot of smiles to a lot of faces, which is a good thing…except for the many times when he did so by using comedy which was vulgar in nature, according to what God says (Eph. 5:4). The interviews I’ve seen in which he espoused his religious and spiritual views show me, when I compare them to God’s Word, that he was not a Christian as God defines it. IF (and I stress IF) that is true, then according to what the Bible says about the standards which God will use to judge us all he died in a lost state. Therefore, according to several passages all throughout the Bible, he in fact would not be resting in peace.
Now, do I know that for a fact? No, because I don’t know everything that was in his heart; God does. For all I know, the man obeyed the gospel a month ago and was biblically saved, and was out of his mind due to clinical depression on Sunday night when he chose to take his life. That said, for all I know the man never obeyed the gospel and thus died outside of Christ when his depression led him to take his own life. I don’t know either way, and neither does anyone else. God does, and he will make the call, not us.
Here’s what I do know. Christians are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). No one should basically judge this man into hell because we don’t know for sure the condition of his soul and heart at the time of his death. However, the opposite of that is equally true. No one should preach him into heaven either. Like it or not, that’s exactly what is happening when Christians and non-Christians go around telling this man whose public life all the way up to the time of his death in many ways was the exact opposite of how God tells Christians to behave to “rest in peace” and “Can’t wait to see you in heaven.” If we want to speak the truth, nothing more needs to be said other than this: Robin Williams is in the hands of a just God who will render to him according to his works, as he will do with us all (Rom. 2:6-11).
His death and the conversations it has sparked present an opportunity, in my view a great opportunity, for Christians to teach what the Bible actually says about these matters and encourage people to get ready for the day death comes for them and they enter into eternity. So I’m glad some Christians are respectfully speaking out and asking questions about the usage of “R.I.P.” for just anyone who passes away. Doing so will get some people to think. Now, will people be offended? Sure, but some will be offended no matter what you do. Some will be offended if you question the appropriateness of saying “R.I.P” to a man who committed suicide and whose public spiritual views did not coincide with Scripture…but guess what? If you stand on the opposite side of the fence and shout about how wrong one is to “judge” Robin Williams by even suggesting that he is not in heaven, you also will offend some people. (Ever think about that?)
Nonetheless, God wants us all to, to the best of our ability, use every opportunity we have to bring people closer to him if we can. So I’m glad the discussions about suicide, the appropriateness of the usage of “R.I.P.”, and other matters surrounding his death are being discussed by Christians who bring what the Bible says into the conversation. Some will be offended, but other will start to think. Some will even start to think about their own soul’s situation. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.
God said through Solomon a long time ago, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Eccl. 7:2). In other words, the death of someone you love – whether it be a loved one, a good friend, or a beloved celebrity like Robin Williams – is a reminder of how we all have an appointment with death and judgment (Heb. 9:27). It holds the potential to motivate those of us who are still living to get ready for the day we meet death ourselves and get prepared to meet our God. So I’m glad Christians are taking this opportunity to use Mr. William’s death as a means to bring up what the Bible says one must do in order to truly “rest in peace.” If even one soul responds by honestly examining themselves and obeying the gospel, it will be worth the countless others who are offended.