But for the Grace of God


Heath Ledger is dead. May God rest his soul--even if we will not allow him to rest. Was he a sinner? I am sure he was, as we "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But did his family deserve a quiet, peaceful funeral without being picketed by misguided religious fanatics? I believe they did.


What makes us think one sin is greater than another? Yes, homosexuality is a sin. And, no, I did not go see "Brokeback Mountain," in which Ledger played a homosexual character, nor will I rent it or even watch it when it comes on TV. I do not want to support the glamorization of homosexuality.


But why do some feel compelled to criticize, ridicule, vilify, and castigate Ledger for this one act in his life? Is it the only sin he ever committed? I doubt it. Is it worse than some of the other sins he might have committed? Can we even categorize sin? If so who gets to grade them?


Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Idolatry is what destroyed God's chosen people of Israel. How many of us watch "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" or "Deal or No Deal" and wish we could be there winning money? How many of us have houses that are bigger than we need or more cars than we can drive or boats that we rarely use--all while people around us go hungry?


Surely we think many actors and actresses (not just Heath Ledger) get paid too much, and we know that some of them spend their money frivolously instead of using it to help others. That is covetousness. Do we picket the funerals of all covetous people? Did Anna Nicole Smith live an exemplary life that we should all emulate? If not, why did no one picket when she was buried?


We tend to have our ideas about which sins are worse--usually the sins of others. But our thoughts are not always God's thoughts. Here is what God thinks:
Proverbs 6:16  These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17  A proud look, a lying tongue , and hands that shed innocent blood,
18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief ,
19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
We might pick one of these as the most heinous sin we can imagine. But surely we would not pick a proud look. However, it does not seem that God differentiates between, say, a proud look and hands that shed innocent blood. Look at this list of sins:


Romans 1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.


Can we take it upon ourselves to choose the sins out of this list that would cause us to deserve to have our funeral picketed? Boasters maybe? Backbiters? The unmerciful? Can any of us truly say we have never committed any of these sins or that we are not plagued with any of them as we struggle to live a life that is pleasing to God? Now maybe Heath Ledger committed sins he never repented of. But how many people die today doing the same thing? Should all sinners be buried to the sound of an angry mob of picketers?


We can stand and pray and thank God that we are not homosexuals and we have not had an abortion and we do not fornicate. Yes, we can do that. But if we do such a thing while we ourselves backbite or whisper or make harsh judgments, we may as well not think for one minute that we are better than those who have committed acts that we have determined are far more heinous than our own sinful acts. The all-seeing Eye is looking down on us. And when He sees this kind of behavior on our part, what He sees is a proud look, a boaster, a backbiter, an unmerciful creature.


Matthew 7:1  Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.


If we want mercy, we had better learn to show some. That does not mean that we should not speak out against sin. We can and should. But what we should not do is think we are not sinners ourselves or that we are superior to those who have fallen in some particular area in which we have not fallen. When we see someone taken in a fault, and we ourselves are spiritual, we need to try to restore that person in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves lest we also be tempted (Gal. 6:1).


As for the dead, our merciful God will judge righteously. He does not need, nor does He want, our help. Remember, "There, but for the grace of God, go we."


Tina Rae Dozier

January 25, 2008