How Should Christians Respond to the Death of the Wicked?
This morning the news of the death of Charles Manson might have caught some by surprise. In the late 1960's Manson and his followers gained national notoriety after several murders, most notably the actress Sharon Tate. Manson believed in something he called "Helter Skelter," and was attempting to start an apocalyptic race war. His beliefs were cobbled together from all over, places as different as Beatles Songs and the biblical book of Revelation. Manson was convicted of several first degree murders, among other things, and was sentenced to death. After California ended the death penalty his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Over the years Manson gave several wild interviews on television, sometimes appearing with a swastika carved in his forehead. He never expressed remorse for his actions, and was caught several times with drugs or contraband in prison. Suffice it to say, he was not a good man.
How are Christians supposed to think about the death of a man who committed evil and wicked deeds and never showed any remorse? Manson is not the only one we have to think about. A few years ago when Osama Bin Laden was found and killed in raid by US Navy Seals, some people openly rejoiced at his death. It's tempting to say good riddance to someone like this. Most of us want to to shake our heads and walk away and forget about men like this. As christians we are not to do only what seems good to us, though. Scripture is clear about how God feels about the death of the wicked.
"Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord GOD, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” Ezekiel 18:23
It is God’s desire that all men and women should turn to him and live. This is not just a passing fancy, either. God desires the salvation of all mankind so much that he was willing to send His son to die in our place. History is full of men and women who by the grace of God gave their lives to him, and spend their lives in his service. We rightly grieve over death of people like Jim Elliot, who was martyred at a young age, or his wife Elizabeth who died at an old age. History is also full of men and women who rejected God, who chose not to love him, not to obey him, and to not give their life to him. As Christians who believe the eternal state of the soul, and hell for those who die separated from God, how should Christians respond to the death of the wicked?
1. We should grieve.
Those who do not know God in this life die eternally separated from God. If God does not rejoice in this death, then neither should we. Rather, we should mourn over a soul that was created in the image of God that will now spend eternity apart from Him. This was not God’s plan for mankind, but one that we have chosen for ourselves. Charles Manson got what he wanted out of life, and chose to live the way he did. Not only is his death a tragedy, his life is a tragedy. Mankind is capable of so much goodness and grace, but we too often turn and use the gifts God has given only on ourselves.
2. We should remember that by God's grace we would be the same
It's easy to look down on people like Charles Manson, to think that we are definitely a better person than he was. We’ve never been cult leaders or murderers. But we must remember that we carry the same propensity for sin that Charles Manson did. It is only the grace of God that has kept us from that life. That grace might have been believing parents who took you to church, or a friend who shared the gospel with you. "There but for the grace of God I go" is not just an old saying but a reality that helps reminds us of the hardness our hearts. God's grace comes to us in ways that are too numerous to count, each of them pulling and tugging at our heart to return to the heart of God. It is only God's grace that has kept us from a life of sin and heartache that ends in death and eternal separation from God
3. We should do the work of evangelism
Not only does God pull us out of the miry pit, but he sets our feet on the rock and puts a new song in our hearts. (Psalms 40) This song that God gives us is meant to draw other people to God, so that they too can gain eternal life. It is not our job to cluck and heads and merely say "that could be me," but to tell everyone of the good news of Jesus Christ. News of the death of men like Charles Manson should make us work harder at our task of evangelism. It's not only our duty but our privilege to share of the love of Christ.
There is nothing pleasing to God about the death of Charles Manson. We shouldn't just grieve over his death, but we should work harder to bring the message of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection to all who need it. The reality of evil is something that we will always have to deal with in this world. Rather than adopting a holier than thou attitude, let the death of men like Manson drive you closer to the heart of Christ. When our hearts align with Christ’s heart, we will learn to grieve over what grieves Christ, and we will celebrate what Christ celebrates.