Two nights ago world renowned scientist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. In addition to being a theoretical physicist, Mr. Hawking was also atheist, a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of many Christians on social media.
Among the numerous “Thank you Mr. Hawking” and “Rest in Peace Stephen” were posts like these from fellow Christian friends of mine:
“I guarantee he is a believer now.”
“Stephen Hawking is bowing before God now.”
“Another atheist has died and, as a result, has become a believer.”
To be fair to those who wrote comments like these, I do not know your heart and won't suggest that you are celebrating the death of a lost soul (though some certainly do). That being said these comments do nothing to communicate our sadness that another soul has passed into eternal destruction.
If we truly believe that there is a place of eternal torment reserved for those who do not know God and those who do not obey His gospel (2 Thess. 1:8), then it should destroy us to know another soul will spend eternity away from God. Comments like the ones above do not communicate our sorrow, in fact I’d argue that they do much the opposite.
When a nonbeliever sees these comments what do you think they see? I’ll tell you what they see. They see Christians being hateful towards those that don’t believe. They see Christians making light of the death of another human being. They see self-righteous people who are concerned with being right more than anything else.
These perceptions of others may not be accurate, but we can’t blame those outside of Christianity for having these views about us when we sit back and talk about how another atheist just became a believer in God because they just died and came before Him unprepared to meet their Maker.
It should sadden us when another soul departs this earth having never known God, but it won’t so long as we continue to place our love of being right over our love of others.
Instead of using someone’s death as an opportunity to prove a point, use it as a time to reflect on the many lives that are currently apart from God but haven’t left this world yet, and pray for them. Pray that they would come to know God, that we would be able to reach them, and that they would see Christians who care more about souls than they do their own knowledge and understanding.