/ Gentle Reformation

The Death of a Neighbor

I’m told that he ended his life by sitting in a running car in a closed garage.

My mind can’t help but picture the scene. I see him sitting there with a blank stare, a cigarette in hand, smoking one more time. The radio isn’t on. The space is dark.

A man who had been my neighbor for nearly six years recently committed suicide. A co-worker informed me of his death. At first, I didn’t know who he was talking about. He just described cop cars speeding to a particular house. But as he continued to describe various details surrounding the man’s life, I suddenly asked, “Was his name Joel?” “Yes. It was Joel,” came the reply. I sighed deeply and then said, “He used to be my neighbor.”

Joel and I would talk about life across my low picket fence, leaning and chatting about everything from the stock market to politics to Christ. He especially enjoyed talking religion, telling me about the latest spiritual fad that had captured his attention. Buddhism was the last thing that had intrigued him.

The terribly sad thing is that he had heard the gospel more than once. He viewed it as little more than one option among many, something meant only to be piecemealed together with other spiritualities. He liked Solomon, but not so much Christ. He liked certain proverbial nuggets of wisdom, but could scarcely stomach the foundational truths of Christianity.

I remember my son, who couldn’t have been more than four years old, calling out to Joel one day, “You need to love Jesus.” Joel just smiled. Now we think, “Out of the mouth of babes...”

It’s such a sad thing. Suicide is awful. And it’s horribly awful when the person doesn’t know Christ.

This incident reminds me of the fragility of life. People all around us are continually hovering on the edge of eternity.  The day of death may arrive through an accident, or disease, or through a willful decision.  We just don't know where people really are.

We are called to announce news of a King who died for us. To give us hope. Eternal life.  Forgiveness.  Repent and believe and you will be saved.

This incident has reminded me afresh of the need to not be fearful, but to share the gospel.

What about your neighbors? Have they heard?

I’m thinking of my new neighbors now and how I have been slack.  It is easy to create little bubbles of space, isn't it?  But that cannot be.  We must share.