Thursday, July 09, 2009

Heaven and Michael Jackson

The other day, I was sitting in the residents' lounge in the building where I live, and the TV there was tuned in to the memorial service for singer Michael Jackson. Naturally, they brought in a Christian minister to lend legitimacy to the proceedings. I don't remember whether it was the minister or someone else, but someone said, "Michael, we know that you're in heaven now," or something to that effect.

When it comes to the question of who will and who won't go to heaven, I freely acknowledge that only God knows for sure. However, in cases where there's good reason to wonder whether the person will be there or not, I'm inclined to think that it's best to refrain from making definitive statements about that person's eternal destiny after the person has died. It's just as "judgmental" to declare that one is certain that the person is in heaven as it is to declare that one is certain that the person is in hell, is it not?

Scripturally, there is only one basis for salvation. Repentance from one's sins, accompanied by confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, is a nonnegotiable prerequisite for entrance into heaven. Is there any evidence that Michael Jackson ever did those things? Is there any evidence that he had any real faith whatsoever in Jesus Christ? Where is that evidence?

Michael Jackson had time to sing love songs to rats ("Ben") and to sing songs about zombies ("Thriller"), but he had no time left over in which to use his enormously visible public platform for the purpose of sharing the Christian gospel with others. Is it possible, in spite of that fact, that he loved the Lord anyway? Yes, but it seems very unlikely to me. At the very least, evangelism seems to have been very, very low on his list of priorities. The only time I can recall indirectly hearing anything at all about Jesus, from the lips of Michael Jackson, was when it was reported that he'd referred to wine as "Jesus juice" during one of his many "adventures" involving questionable relationships with very young boys with whom he was not biologically related. Admittedly, he was never convicted of sexual molestation in a court of law. However, if he had not been guilty, I doubt that he would have settled out of court with his accusers, as he did. I know that if anyone ever accused me publicly of such a shameful thing, I wouldn't rest until my name was cleared.

When questioned on national TV about the accusations of sexual molestation, Michael said that the most loving thing a person could do for another person was to share one's bed with that person. Jesus, by way of contrast, said that the most loving thing a person could do for one's friends was to die for one's friends. It seems to me that Michael's definition of love could have used some serious revision.

So again, I ask, what's the basis for the belief that Michael is in heaven? Is such a declaration based on a solid foundation of knowledge about Michael Jackson, or is it based on wishful thinking, motivated either by the naive and unscriptural belief that everyone will go to heaven after death, or on the ridiculous idea that anyone as undeniably talented and popular as Michael Jackson must surely be in heaven? Or maybe the person who made that statement didn't really believe it to be true, but said it anyway in order to comfort Michael's surviving friends and relatives.

God's values are not invariably aligned with the values of the pop culture in America. I believe that some of the people who are considered to be icons of our culture will be seen as nobodies in the kingdom of God. Conversely, I believe that some people who are popularly considered to be "nobodies" who will reap huge rewards in heaven, because they sought first the kingdom of God instead of focusing primarily on gratifying their own (sometimes perverted) lusts and exalting their own egos.

Again, none of this is to diminish Michael Jackson's talents, which were immense. Nor is it to deny that he occasionally did good things for other people. (I haven't forgotten "We Are The World.") But neither of those things is a sufficient basis for salvation. If Michael is in heaven (and I sincerely hope for his sake that he is), it isn't because of his talents or his good works. It's because he asked Jesus to come into his life and be his savior. In terms of one's eternal destiny, that's the only thing that really matters.

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