The End? Or, the Beginning?
On Friday, President George H. W. Bush died. He was 94 years old; his lifespan exceeded that of every other man who has worn the title of President in the United States.
From Saturday’s account in the New York Times:
His longtime friend and former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him. Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open.
“Where are we going, Bake?” he asked. “We’re going to heaven,” Mr. Baker answered. “That’s where I want to go,” Mr. Bush said.
Barely 13 hours later, Mr. Bush was dead… As the end neared on Friday night, his son George W. Bush, the former president, who was at his home in Dallas, was put on the speakerphone to say goodbye. He told him that he had been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him. “I love you, too,” Mr. Bush told his son. Those were his last words…
Last words? Most Americans still believe in Heaven as a real place; surveys that describe Heaven as “a place where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded” find 70% in agreement. Clearly, President Bush was among that majority; it’s where he wanted to go.
Only a fool would want to go anywhere else, and Mr. Bush was no fool. In his life, he chose to believe what Jesus said about Heaven:
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:13-16)
George H.W. Bush believed that Jesus Christ was the One who came from Heaven; his belief in Jesus was all that God required for him to be accepted into that astounding eternal destination.
When he arrived there, he may have met another American whose death is in the news. John Allen Chau was only known to the world because of his death; his life had been – to modern thought – unremarkable.
Just 26 years old, Chau was driven by the instruction by Jesus to take the Gospel – the Good News that saved George Herbert Walker Bush – to a remote, isolated tribe of people living on an island off the coast of India. Insulated from contact with the outside world, the Sentinelese have never been presented with the opportunity to hear about God’s love for them, and that He had sent His Son to be their Savior.
Before Bush’s death, headlines were proclaiming: “Isolated Tribes Need Protection from Western Arrogance” (New York Post). India – whose territorial claim on North Sentinel Island has never been recognized by the tribe who are its only inhabitants – passed a law making contact with them illegal. Anthropologists decry any effort to bring western contact to the isolated group; fears of disease for which they have no immunity are offered as the foundation for their “do not contact” mandates.
News Flash: people on North Sentinel Island are dying from the same condition that inflicts people on Staten Island: God calls that terminal disease “sin,” and the only antidote is the Gospel. Chau died trying to save the Sentinelese; their “defenders” are ensuring their eternal damnation.
For the followers of Jesus, their end here is followed immediately by their beginning there, in Heaven. The Lord Jesus celebrated the transition of a former president and a faithful missionary into his presence, with equal embrace and commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant…”
Helping people toward great beginnings,