A Death No One Grieves

by Mary Stephen
Feb. 2017

Out of respect for this man's family, I decided to change the name and some details. The news article will doubtless disappear at some point anyway.
It has been reported that a man who lived in southern Texas died from cancer in January of 2017. According to the report, his family does not plan to have any funeral for him, and if the details given are accurate, this is not surprising. The obituary that was originally posted, apparently by a family member, on the web site of the funeral home was scalding to say the least. Due to the attention it was getting, it has been removed, but it was reported on before they got it down.

Here are some of the things claimed:

First of all, Mr. "L. Smith" was a veteran who had been a champion boxer while in the Navy. He also had a record of several arrests relating to violence against other people, including a former wife.

According to the writer of the obituary Smith's bad parenting was combined with "mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive."

The family member(?) goes on to imply that Mr. Smith appeared to enjoy being abusive to family members and cruel to animals (family pets). It continued, "Smith's life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities...With Smith's passing he will be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend.  No services will be held, there will be no prayers for eternal peace and no apologies to the family he tortured."  (Source)

It is pretty shocking, really. We are not used to hearing or reading such unapologetic honesty about the not-so-dearly departed.

Years ago, one of my brothers saw an obituary which was brief, but contained this telling verse: James 2:13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. He said it was rather disturbing to read that because of the implied meaning. The writers left a lot more to the imagination than Mr. Smith's family member or acquaintance, but it is still unsettling to think about.

I suppose some people would be offended that someone could and would write such an obituary for someone else. People, I think, tend to still be influenced by the old custom or superstition that it is dangerous or evil to speak ill of the dead. Frankly, I think some folks would be surprised at how many obituaries like this would be written if people were more honest after their own family monster passed on to his or her reward. I expect we've all run across people through the course of our lives who will not be grieved by those around them when they finally die and whose obituary should be something like these.

This is not a new thing. These two examples are only two small instances in the long history of the world. Not every evil person is universally despised by the people around him or her, because some of them are actually somewhat decent to a few people. Some are quite decent in the right circumstances.

We have at least one clearly stated example in the Bible of a man who died without anyone being sorry. It was Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat who earned this dishonor by his horrible life.

You can read the whole chapter here: 2 Chronicles 21

2 Chronicles 21:1 and 4 Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead...4 Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel.

Jehoshaphat was a good king of Judah. He did many right things in his life, but he also made some grave mistakes. It might be fair to say that making Jehoram king after him was one of them. The Bible says he did this because Jehoram was his oldest son. We know from David's example with Solomon that it was not necessary for him to make his oldest son his heir.

But, one of the first things that Jehoram did when he became king was to destroy all his brothers and also any others that might threaten his power. He established his kingdom by killing those around him. In short, he was violent and abusive to his own family.

Was someone perhaps offended by the open accusations made against the man in the obituary? These kind of people have existed for thousands of years. Abuse and violence against those closest to them is tragic, but it is not surprising. When we refuse to speak of it, when we hide it or make it "off limits" we only empower those like them who are still living and abusing. Think about that.

2 Chronicles 21:5-7 Jehoram was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD. Howbeit the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever.

One of the mistakes that Jehoshaphat made was in associating at all with the house of Ahab. He should have kept well enough away, and it is clear in scripture that this did not turn out well for Jehoshaphat. He lost his ships and he nearly lost his life by going to war with Ahab despite the prophecy of Micaiah. (You can read about both in 1 Kings 22).

Even worse, though, he allowed his son to marry the daughter of Ahab, perhaps even arranged it as would have been common in those days. It is hard to imagine that he would have thought this would end well considering what idolatry and evil the royal house of Israel was up to in those days. The scripture here clearly indicates that the reason Jehoram did so much evil was because of this marriage. Who one marries does have a large affect upon one's behavior and the outcome of one's life.

The only reason the Lord didn't destroy the house of David at this time was because He had made a covenant with David. That means things were pretty bad. There was only this one thing that kept God's hand from complete judgment on Jehoram.

2 Chronicles 21:11 Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto.

Considering the kind of family that Jehoram's wife came from, this is not surprising at all. And, please notice that kings are held responsible by God when they promote and push their subjects to do evil. The people could choose not to follow the king's lead in this, and some did not, but Jehoram was compelling Judah to do evil. This has an idea of force behind it as well as coercion. (definition) We might have seen abuse and violence in action here as well.

2 Chronicles 21:12-15 And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thyself: Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.

Well, that makes it pretty clear! No king with any sense would ever want to receive a letter like this from a prophet like Elijah! And, notice that the Lord clearly states here that Jehoram's brothers were better than him. God saw his abuse and violence against his own relatives and his punishment was going to be not only for the spiritual abominations he committed, but also for how he treated his own family.

If you are the kind of person who likes to abuse and hurt the people around you, your family and those closest to you, you need to think long and hard about that. God is watching and He will settle the scores. You are not going to get away with it, even if it looks and feels like it now. Those people who went off into eternity without repenting of the evil they did against others are in hell, and they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. That is not a place that you want to go. Excusing your behavior and saying that people are mean or rude to you so you have to retaliate, or any such other nonsense, isn't going to cut it with God. When you stand before the righteous judge of all the earth He will require the things that are past. Ecclesiastes 3:15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past. It doesn't matter if other people have done it too, if you don't repent, you will suffer the vengeance of God Almighty; and, friend, that is not a small thing nor something to take lightly! Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ before it is too late, as it has been with others. You don't have to continue on the one way road to destruction.

If you are the person who is dealing with the abusive and violent monster, please know that you do not have to stay and accept that. God will get vengeance on them eventually. Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. But, we need to also remember that there is a time to walk away from this kind of treatment if it is possible. There is a time to leave and a time to hide. It is not our Christian duty to accept this behavior just because we're involved.

Sometimes the Lord may lead believers to stay in a dangerous situation (national, persecution, etc.) so that they can minister to others there. Some Christians have left in the face of persecution, but others God has led to stay. He has His reasons. Neither one is "obviously" wrong.

In situations of domestic violence, there is a time to leave. When Christians tell someone in such a situation that "God hates divorce" they are ignoring all the things the Lord did against violent abusive people in the Bible. We don't have time to cover all that here and now.

2 Chronicles 21:16-18 Moreover the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were near the Ethiopians: And they came up into Judah, and brake into it, and carried away all the substance that was found in the king's house, and his sons also, and his wives; so that there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons. And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease.

Considering the type of home that Jehoram likely had, I have to wonder if his sons and wives that were taken captive might have had a somewhat better life where they went. We don't like to think that, humanly speaking, but when we consider how the little Hebrew maid respected Naaman the captain of army of Syria (2 Kings 5:1-4), there is some possibility that this was true. The captors may not have been as evil as Jehoram was!

Jehoram was left with only one son and then the disease the Lord promised set in and eventually he died.

2 Chronicles 21:19-20 And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers. Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.

Kings are usually buried with a good deal of pomp and circumstance. This was true even in those days. Some people claim that the "burnings" that were made in some of these situations was cremation, as we call it today. I'm not sure if this was true based on some scripture, but that would be getting too far off the subject.

The fact that remains is that they didn't honor him in this way that they had honored the kings before him. Whatever the burnings were (and it could have been on the order of the Old World signal fires), they did not do it because they did not care that he had died. No one missed him. No one wished he had lived longer, despite the fact that he was only forty when he died. They didn't even bury him in the sepulchers of the kings because they didn't consider him worthy.

What a terrible way to leave this world!

How will we end our lives on this earth? Will someone miss us when we're gone? Or will we die "not being desired"? How we chose to live our lives is largely what will answer these questions. Some may say, "But I'm not that kind of person. I would never treat others that way." May I just say that given the right circumstances and the wrong choices we can all become "that kind of person." There have been people who were basically decent folks for part or much of their lives and then through bad choices, bad friends, bad relationships they changed and became something that they would never have thought. People with mental illness have refused to get the real help they needed and have changed in ways that no one would have expected. I knew someone like that once. It was tragic. He knew what he needed to do, but he refused.

There are also people that become careless and abusive in their treatment of the Christians who they are responsible for in a human sense. Jesus spoke of this in Luke 12:45-46, But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. [We have talked about the problem of spiritual abuse before on this site.] Sadly, there has been more than one minister who started out as if to do right, but turned aside into violence and abuse toward the flock of God. Some have repented in the end, others have not. Only the Lord knows them that are His (2 Timothy 2:19).

Some of us get grumpy and careless as we age. This is something else I've seen, though in more limited ways. I've known a few people who were not particularly abusive, who, when they got older, decided that they were old enough to say whatever they wanted and they became quite offensive. One lady in particular was kindly and respectfully rebuked by a family member and, to her great credit, she saw the point and mended her ways. Why? Because she loved the Lord and she feared Him.

Ultimately, it comes down to this, doesn't it? When we love the Lord and fear Him in the right way that will lead us to make better choices and to respond to our own sin with repentance, humility, and wisdom. If we are striving to do this, we will not fall into abusive or violent behavior - either with our actions or our words.

Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

When we love one another in Christ, we will touch the lives of others in a way that will leave something lasting behind us - even for those of us who are in such a small place that they don't see how they could be "missed". We touch lives in ways we often don't realize.

John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

This should be our hope and aim - to bear good fruit in the name of Jesus Christ. I think I can speak for all of us who are believers when I say that we need to be attentive to this in how we relate to others. I know I do myself, and "all flesh is grass" (Isaiah 40:6), not just mine. :-)

For those reading this who may be violent or abusive: Are you living in a way that will actually make people relieved when you die? Today is a good day to turn to Christ and follow Him so that you can change that. Others have done so. Through the grace of God, you can too.

Romans 10:8-10 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

 Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly,
and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

graphics and background by Mary Stephens