This is a picture of my cat Cagney. She died some time ago and I still miss her smiling face. She was a very gentle little soul and was as tiny as a kitten. She was about 15 when she died and yet for her entire life, she never weighed more than five pounds. Not because she was sick, but because she was small. We rescued her from Animal control and she was a welcome addition to our family.
I was thinking about her (and a few of the other pets I've had over the years) today, when I came across something interesting in Genesis. Here is the verse I found in the 1917 JPS (Jewish Publication Society) edition:
...all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, whatsoever was in the dry land, died. - Genesis 7:22, JPS
The last two months have been horrible ones for me and my family. In August our cat died (I know some may think that's not a big deal, but we loved her as we would a member of our family). We also lost a beloved aunt and on the day of her funeral, my mother (her sister) had a stroke from which she never recovered. We said our final goodbye to my mom this past Tuesday. Her funeral was beautiful and at times it had my mind racing.
There was a deacon (a woman) from the Anglican church, who has known my mom for 20 years or so. She officiated the service. She quoted all the right Scriptures and everything she said was lovely. And then she said, and I'm paraphrasing here because I can't remember it clearly, but it went something like - “Jean never talked about her faith, nor did she wear her faith on her sleeve. I would like to believe she had a deep faith in God.” And there it was . . . and I was torn. Was my mom in heaven or in hell? I can't remember her ever going to church, although I do remember her telling me she often prayed. In Evangelical circles some would probably say she was either a nominal Christian or not a Christian at all because she never made a public confession of her faith. To be honest I struggled with that interpretation since the moment she died. Do I choose to believe John 3:16 which reminds us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” or do I take the evangelical approach that if someone hasn’t verbally confessed their sin, repented of it and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, then they are not saved? One belief says my Mom, although quiet about her belief in God still believed in Him, and resided with Him even now. The other says she is in a place of eternal torment because she never spoke about her faith. So I asked myself – who was it that taught me to pray? My mother. Who made me go to church on Sunday mornings and Vacation Bible School every summer as a child? My mother. Who taught me to be kind to strangers? My mother. Who taught me to help those less fortunate? My mother. Who was my greatest encourager during my singing ministry years and often brought her relatives and friends to my concerts when she knew I would be singing about God? My mother.
My mother left me a great heritage (my salvation) without really saying anything at all. Her actions, her giving and loving spirit, her generosity and hospitality towards strangers set a great example for me on how a Christian should live. She made me want to be a better person. Her life inspired me to pursue God. I only wish I was half the person she was because when I look back at my life I see my many faults, failures and sins and wish I had been as gracious and loving as my mother was towards others. I can be impatient, headstrong and at times too blunt with my words. So, yes I am thankful for the gift of forgiveness that Jesus offered me through His death and resurrection. I am thankful He offers His love and forgiveness to someone like me. Someone who doesn't deserve it. And I may speak openly about my faith, but that doesn't make me more of a Christian than someone who does not. So to all those out there who have lost family members or friends and you have wondered, "Were they saved? Did they really know the Lord?" You are asking the wrong questions and are stuck in an evangelical mindset that says only "certain" kinds of people will enter heaven. Did your loved one believe in God and in His Son? Were they generous with their time? Did they visit the sick, feed the poor or entertain strangers? Rest assured they are with the Lord and enjoying their reward even now. Just look at these assurances of their salvation from the Lord's own lips - John 6:47; John 14:6; John 5:24; John 3:16: John 3:36.
At her funeral yesterday we listened to one of Mom's favourite songs which was The Prayer, by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. It was a fitting tribute to a woman whose faith in God, while not exhibited verbally, was lived out in her daily life.
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:37-40, NKJV).