Everyone is talking, tweeting, blogging, and posting about the death of superstar comedian/actor Robin Williams. I don't often comment on these kinds of things, but I think I have to. This looks like a teaching moment.

     First of all, I am saddened by the death of this man. He was a favorite. I first saw him years ago when he was just starting out. He was a relatively unknown, young, and entertaining standup comedian with simple routines. But he made me laugh - or we are wont to say these days, he made me LOL. He was outstanding in Dead Poet's Society and I enjoyed him as Peter Pan in Hook. I could go on. Oh, people change as they move on and they get more famous, and I have to admit, that my interest and admiration waned. Then again, maybe I changed too. At any rate, his death is tragic.

     The circumstances of his death make it more so. Two big issues are part of this: depression and suicide. That's when the pastor part of me kicked in. A lot has been said and is being said about both of those tough topics - both good and not so good.

     Depression is a frightening and often misunderstood illness. And obviously, it can be fatal. The consequences of sin affect the mind as much as the body. Robin Williams is just a famous example of something that plagues all too many people today. It's serious. It's sad. It's scary. If a tragic death like this raises awareness and speeds further treatment and strategies for helping people, something good would have come of it. If it pushes people who suffer from depression higher up on our "to pray for" list, better yet.

     And suicide. I'm seeing and hearing the usual two extremes in the wake of this tragedy. In one ditch along the road is the idea that suicide automatically damns, it is the unforgivable sin, and that God closes the door to glory to those who take their own life. That's just not biblical and thus not true! Yes, life is God's gift. It belongs to him. He is the Lord of life and death. We are to respect life, protect it, and not play God and take it into our own hands.

     The ditch on the other side of that road is that suicide is a viable and sometimes preferable solution to life's ills. It's even been called heroic. That is also not biblical and thus, not true. Suicide is still sin, but not automatically an act of unbelief. It is unbelief that damns, not suicide or any other specific sin.

     Nothing has been said, and I don't know, about what Robin Williams believed and confessed about God, sin, Jesus, grace, heaven or hell. But we do what Scripture says. Again I have been hearing two extremes. It's easy to give someone like Robin Williams a "get into heaven free" card because he was famous or funny or died prematurely or tragically. Likewise, too many are too quick to make judgments about the man that could easily fall into the category of unloving judging.

     If Robin Williams is in heaven, it is because he believed in Jesus as his Savior. Period. If he is not saved, it is because he did not believe that. Period. That's what the Bible teaches. But who's in heaven and who's not, is God's business, not ours. Like we heard on Sunday, our business is to live like "wheat" and love the "weeds."

     So, two things. First of all let me quote something I saw from Time of Grace ministries, posted on Facebook. "This week, as you're out and about, look someone in the eyes and smile, call a friend, send a letter to a widow, invite a family to dinner. Use your life and your words to share the hope that you have. Talk about the God who loves you, who gives you a certain hope when situations seem bleak, who comforts you when you are lonely. Let others know that the same love, hope, and comfort are waiting for them too."

     Secondly, do as Peter says in his first letter near the end of the New Testament, and that continue to grow in grace and the knowledge of your Savior. Worship. Read and prayerfully study the Word. Pray. That doesn't stop all tragic deaths or keep them away from us, but it does prepare us for heaven. And it keeps us in grace until then.

(There is so much more that could be said. If you are troubled, confused, or unsure about these and other such matter, please ask.)