Living in South Africa, we have all recently joined with the world in saying farewell to the great Nelson Mandela. Few people have ever impacted the South African nation like he has, and certainly it could be argued, none has made a greater contribution to peace. Every news board, blog and social media blog, post or tweet has a reference to “Madiba” as he has been known affectionately in South Africa. Most of these messages of condolence has also been accompanied by R.I.P.
A day or two before Nelson Mandela died, Paul Walker died (Fast and Furious fame). A day or two after Madiba passed away, a famous South African world champion boxer “Baby Jake”died. They too were sent many messages saying RIP. So what is this Rest in Peace all about? What does it really mean? And as believers in Christ how does this affect us?
Well all I can do is say how it affected me this last week. Now first of all let me make it clear that my piece below is about the principle of saying R.I.P. It is not a comment or a judgement on either Nelson Mandela, Paul Walker or Baby Jake. It is about what people mean by rest in peace and what the Bible teaches. I just know that as I read all these messages.
The Bible says clearly that “all who labour and are heavy laden”, should come to Jesus an he will give them peace. Resting in peace is a sentiment that people say when they want to send warm wishes to the dead, trusting that they will now be in a better place. Isaiah 48 v 22 says
There is no peace to the wicked
As I said this is nothing to do with Walker, Mandela or Baby Jake. This is about what we say very glibly. It is a b it like saying “I’m fine thank you” when you meet someone and they say “How are you?” Rest in Peace is just what we say when someone dies. But David is an interesting case:
In 1 Kings 22 David prays for the baby that he had with Bathesheba. The baby is critically ill, and David lies on the floor and will not rise or eat or be comforted. A day or two later, when David realises his baby has died, he gets up, washes, gets dressed and calls for food, after worshiping the Lord. David’s response when questioned is:
While my child was a live I prayed and asked God to save him. But now that he is dead, what can I do?
David understands that the time for calling on God is “in the living years” as Mike and the Mechanics would say. And that is our lesson too. If you want someone you love to “rest in peace”, make sure they know God before they die. Otherwise it may make you feel better, but the Bible points to a horrible reality for those who die without a saving knowledge of Jesus.