On July 4th at about 8:15 a.m. our family received a call from my nephew that let us know that his father, and my brother, Mike, had passed away. Independence Day. In our American independence, we enjoy freedom bought for us by the sacrifices of others. On July 4th, 2012, my brother celebrated true Independence Day, a day made possible by the death of the One, Jesus Christ. On that day, Mike truly celebrated his independence from labor, hardship, struggle, sin and sorrow.
As we quickly began getting ready to join his family, I walked into my closet knowing exactly what I was going to wear—my Hawaiian shirt. Slipping it on, part of me felt a bit strange, as if it wasn’t an appropriate thing to wear at such an occasion, but with a sense of “defiant sorrow” I did so anyway. You see, my brother had requested that at his memorial service, that everyone should wear Hawaiian shirts (or Beaver gear, but I didn’t want to lose you Duck fans) because he knew what Jesus had provided for him beyond the grave. As I reflected on the emotions that I felt wearing the shirt, I realized how completely appropriate it was wear it. In 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 the Apostle Paul taught about death, and the expectation that we are to live under as we look for Jesus bringing the kingdom of God in its fullness. He writes this taunt to death. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is as if Paul is trash-talking death itself, knowing that while we may experience sorrow, we do it defiantly, having been set free from the tyranny of death. We do so anticipating the independence we will have from it forever at the return of Jesus Christ. The power that death had through sin and the law has been obliterated by the death and resurrection of Jesus. What better way to give testimony to the death blow that Jesus brought upon death itself by wearing a Hawaiian shirt on the day that you are faced with the death of a loved one?
So, for those of you who are wondering how my family is doing, we are doing well. We have sorrow, and grieve, but we do so defiantly and with hope. We do so knowing that we will see my brother again, not because of some wishful thinking, but because our independence from the power of sin is guaranteed. Thank you for your prayers. Please keep praying for Mike’s family and the rest of us.