The sudden death of Michael Jackson, one of the most talented, innovative, controversial, and eccentric artists in the history of modern music, has made headlines for the past several days. In the course of his own observations on the event, T. C. Robinson included this statement:
I have a problem reading R.I.P all over the internet in reference to the deceased.
As a believer I simply cannot with a biblically informed conscience utter R.I.P—in reference to someone who died without Christ.
I would be lying.
The diversity of opinions expressed in the comments to the original post illustrate the continued importance of the conjoined issues of judgment and salvation among all Christians, albeit in different ways. I never met Michael Jackson, nor did I attend any of his concerts or listen to the majority of his music. Moreover, I am unaware of his religious affiliation at the time of his death; some reports have surfaced indicating that he converted to Islam, while others state that he recently accepted Christianity. But anyone familiar with the basics of his biography is aware that, while he was certainly not without his faults, his life was marred by physical and mental abuse, numerous psychological issues, and the lonely isolation which so often accompanies genius and success and which can decimate even the most resilient spirit. As a child of God, I mourn that any of my brothers and sisters would ever suffer such trauma, and I pray that the peace which was so often denied him in life wash over him in death. I do this in recognition of my unfitness to condemn another human being (e.g., John 8:7-11; Jas. 4:12) and my ignorance of both the intricacies of this particular situation and the incredible complexities of the divine will. In light of all that I do not know, all that I can never know, I humbly strive to fulfill that which Jesus himself places at the very center of the scriptural witness: unequivocal, unconditional love of God and neighbor (Mark 12:28-34 and parr).
May the profound peace of the God who formed us all, and who watches over us still, be with Michael Jackson, his three young children, and the other members of his family during this difficult time.