Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 29 July 2008 14:18
Family and friends recently bid farewell to Jonah Kliewer, professor emeritus of Tabor College. His passing, though anticipated by those closest to him, came too quickly for his family, numerous friends and acquaintances.
The memorial service, wonderfully prepared by family members, was a loving reflection of a life lived in service to God and others.
Sometime after the service ended, someone made an interesting comment. “Why must all the good ones go?”
The question remains appropriately unanswered, and yet, whenever I think about it, my response varies. At first, I quickly agree, “Yes. Why?”
It never is fair when someone lives a productive life, cares for his or her family in a loving and responsible manner and yet, must endure the pain and suffering of a fast-growing form of cancer or other disease, which ultimately ends that life. Neither is it fair when people treat others with kindness and respect, are mistreated, killed by a drunk driver or murdered by a merciless individual.
Upon further reflection of the question, my thoughts evolve. Perhaps we have forgotten one unbroken rule. In this life, mortality is inescapable. Perhaps our sadness and the depth of despair over the death of a great friend or loved one affects our perspective, and we temporarily forget the good ones who are still among the living.
Therefore, we ask the question, not to find the answer, but rather to express the true depth of our sense of loss.
There’s nothing wrong with that. We mourn those we love and are no longer with us. We continue to value those we love and remain.
The real struggle with the question lies within each individual suffering the negative consequences of another person’s improper behavior. The consequences need not be violent or even unlawful. It may merely be the result of one individual slandering another or defaming another person’s character.
In that sense, I doubt any person would stand in disagreement with the question’s rhetorical statement. However, I’m not sure we would really benefit with the consequences we would encounter upon arriving at that conclusion.
In my weaker moments, nothing stands in the way to justify the evidence in support of the question. The cause and effect of decisions made by others stands out and demands satisfaction, if I let it dominate my thoughts.
Arguments for justice and rightness of the cause, though once deemed worthy of consideration, now become the enemy’s choice weapons that can create a bitter and unforgiving spirit within the soul.
That’s where the problem lies. If there’s one less thing we need in this world, it’s bitter and unforgiving people.
Weaker moments must be defeated by something greater than we are and motivates us to move on. These moments must not be allowed to capture and control the mind.
Jonah Kliewer retained a stone that he could hold at any time during his final days. This was a reminder, “the Lord is my Rock and my Salvation.” In a similar way, I am reminded of God’s love and kindness whenever I reflect on the goodness of many friends.
Joe is one friend that brings me back to reality. Whether lobbying for farmers in Washington, D.C., working on his farm or actively attending a growing and increasingly urban church, his behavior is exemplary and reflects his true character and nature. His nature is to encourage people to look for the best in others.
I’m sure if I asked his wife if he were perfect, she would assure me Joe does not walk on water. That is not what’s important. His nature is good and he models God’s goodness in a humble and practical way.
In that sense, asking the question while mourning the loss of a cherished friend who lived a life that reflected the goodness of God, whether that life was cut short by illness or other circumstances, is not a bad thing.