Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What I said at the funeral of my cousin who was murdered

FUNERAL  SERVICE FOR Hans - Jörg Möller 
(b.15th  October  1965  ;  d.   18th JUne  2016) 
Sunday  3rd July   2016
Perspectives and Reflections 

Hans  and I on his catamaran, "Manatee"
My dear family  and friends,
Hans’ untimely  and  brutal  death has shaken our  family  and our  community  and it  has raised many questions in our minds. It  has also  brought  forth deep   grief  and a great sense of loss, for Hans was only 50 years  old  at the time of his untimely death.  

I speak to you as  Hans’s  cousin. He  was in many ways  a brother to me. We were always genuinely happy to see each other.

I also speak to you as a pastor, a shepherd of souls for  many years now, and so I speak  from a  family perspective,   and also   from  God’s perspective. 

A violent death has taken  a  family man  away in the midst of  his years.  Hans was murdered by unscrupulous men.  Why? This is perhaps the most fundamental question in our minds.  And  I suppose,  some related questions  would be,  Where is God in this?  What  shall we say about  this murder, and what about justice? What about the essential forgiveness that the Bible  speaks about? What about  Hans’s widow and  the children and his parents and his sister?

So then, as many people are angry, confused  and bewildered  and as many may be  asking  these ultimate questions at this time,   I come to you with the  perspective of God’s Word. Ultimate questions need ultimate answers, and  for this we need  the Bible,  the Word of God.

The ultimate  question is,  Why? I wish I could tell you why, but I can’t, and that does not mean  that I am now  confused  and that my faith in God is now destroyed. In fact when  asking  “why?” we are in very  good company.  Read the Psalms  of the Bible and  note how many times the Psalmist  asks that question of God, such as this one in Psalm  10:1,   Why oh Lord do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”[1].

The why of suffering is also  the great theme of the book of Job.  

The  cry of Jesus from the cross,  “My God , my God  why  have you forsaken  me?“,   is perhaps one of the ultimate  big why’s of the Bible. Even the Son of God, in His great hour of  anguish  asked, “Why?” [Matt  27:46] Aren’t you glad, that Jesus  never  made that anguished   “why” an excuse  to  escape the cross,   by which He would secure  the  salvation of all that would trust in Him   for this   work?  Aren’t you glad  that Jesus  persevered  through the agony of the “why”    to  finish the work that  God the Father  gave Him to do?   So, it’s not wrong to ask  “why”, provided that you are looking for a genuine answer from God.   

There is  however  also  the  angry  and defiant “why?”  that blames  God, turning  it  into a grudge against God and against others  by   allowing  it  to  settle in  your soul  in terms of  a  pathological  anger  and bitterness.  I warn you against  harbouring  such  ugly emotions which tend to make an ugly, bitter  person of you (Hebr. 12:15).

So, where does God  fit  into this? 

It is clear that  wicked men  killed Hans. As such  they  are  fully responsible  for this wicked act, and we will talk a little more about that in a minute.  But the  other fact we need to grapple with  is that God did nothing to prevent this  from happening.  This is true  whether we think of  the  people who recently died  at Brussels  airport or at Istanbul airport  this past week  at the hand of ISIS terrorists, or whether we think of our dear Hans. 

So, what is God up to  here?   In fact, what was God up to  when He  allowed wicked men to kill His Son on a  cruel cross?  I want to give  you a biblical and profound  answer to this question. In Acts  2, on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent, people  were confused and they needed clarity concerning  this  event. So the apostle Peter gets up and explains to  thousands of people  the purpose of the work of God on earth, and then in particular, he explains to them   the person of  Jesus  Christ and  the work He came to do on the cross. Listen to what he says in  Acts 2:22-24  :

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

There are two important statements made here :
(i)        Men  are fully responsible  for what they  did to Jesus and as such will suffer the consequences. 
(ii)             …and yet  we also learn that  God is positively  at work in the midst of  such chaos and calamity. Think of it. The cross was the cruellest form of death  that evil  men could think of at the time. It was slow and torturous.    But God  knowing that this would happen,  was able  to use this  terrible event by turning it into something so big and so spectacular  that it leaves us quite breathless. In  His horrible death on the cross God in Christ  did two great things  in securing   the salvation   for  all that would believe in Him.  Firstly, on the cross He  satisfied the just and righteous  wrath of God. Secondly,  he  fully justified sinners by  paying the penalties  accrued by  their sin in  His death on their behalf.  On the cross He fully paid  the penalty that was due to us.

So then,  Hans’ killers  are  fully responsible  for what  they did. They will have to answer to our  Namibian  system of justice for this  wicked deed, and  they must  bear the consequences  to the fullest extent that our courts will allow. But even more so,   they will have to give an account to God  for this deed.  I assure you from the Bible,  that  God’s wrath on defiant  sinners is  infinitely more  terrible than the Namibian justice system. It is much more terrible than our feeble sense of justice and the anger that  we  may  feel in our heart. Jesus  confirms this  for us in Matthew  12:4,5:

“I tell you my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you who to fear: fear him who after he has killed , has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”  

So with this in mind  then,  I must counsel you further. You must now learn to think in a very different way about this sad  happening. You must learn   to  apply Christian logic and  not conventional logic.  Jesus  is giving you a  job to do right now, knowing   what awaits  these murderers before  God, should they continue in the hardness of their hearts. 

Jesus  wants you to forgive   your enemies, these murderers. He says,  “I say to you, love your enemies and pray  for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matt. 5:44,45). And just in case you tell me that  this  is easier to say than to do, I remind you  that Jesus  as a man himself forgave His murderers  on the cross, when He said: 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…” [Lk. 23:34].    

I tell you as I would  tell myself,… and  as one who is a close member of this family: pray for the murderers, and  do not  bear hatred in your hearts against them, whilst upholding the terms of earthly  justice that must be  done in our courts of law. In Romans 13 we learn that  God has given such  responsibility to the governing authorities.  But as for you,  I must remind you  that your heavenly Father will not forgive you, if you do not forgive your enemies (Matt. 6:14,15).

The apostle Paul  also  reminds us in this regard: 

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay , says the Lord…. Do not overcome  by evil, but overcome evil with good…”  (Rom. 12:19-21). 

Jesus says : “Pray for your enemies”.  

Pray that they may repent of this great sin which they have committed and pray  that they may live to tell others,  and warn  others  of the great  judgement of God  that is soon coming on the face of the earth (Matt 25:31-46).  

So the  big  question is this: “Can God bring good out of  this unspeakable evil done by men?” The answer is “Yes!”  Much more than you think. In the Bible and in the history of the Christian church, by this uncommon logic, supremely demonstrated in the cross of Christ,  God has  shown Himself to  be mighty  and awesome in this world.  Let us trust God to   show us  great and wonderful things  as a result  of this death, as we trust  Him for the outcome. May glory  come to  God  and may joy come to us!

One more word  concerning the  care of widows and orphans – our duty to  Carol Ann, Heidi and  Riana.  God’s heart  is with these vulnerable  people (James 1:27). It is our duty under God  to love them and protect them and not to exploit them. And to  you I say: the best gift that God has given you on earth for your protection, apart from  having a godly family  is  being  a member  of a  godly and  biblical church. Make sure that you are part of one.  

And  to  Heidi and Wilfried, the parents of Hans- Jörg, my aunt and uncle,  and to  Mischka  his sister and my cousin  we say: “May the Lord Himself comfort you and counsel you  in this dark hour.”  May He  direct you into  Christ  Himself, so that you  too will  know Christ  both now and in eternity.

May the peace of God the Father  and the grace of our  Lord Jesus  Christ,  and the  fellowship of the Holy Spirit  surround  you  all.
Amen !




[1] See also 2:1 ; 22:1’ 42:5,6,11;43:5;44:23 ; 52:1; 74 :1

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