by Pastor Reginald W. Sharpe Jr.
Last night at House of Hope Macon, we did Bible study a bit differently. Since I’m always looking for relevant ways to illustrate the principles of God’s word, I decided — after much prayer — to tackle a topic that has provoked a wide range of responses: Bishop Eddie Long’s unexpected and untimely passing.
It sent shock waves through the church community, and has also been fodder in the headlines since the news was first shared. I’ve personally seen and heard a variety of controversial and visceral reactions, and if you do a quick social media search, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.
Some of the responses I saw were:
- “May he rot in hell. Good riddance. Rest in piss.”
- “I will mourn [Eddie Long’s] passing the same way I would mourn the execution of Dylan Roof.”
- “You can make all the negative comments you want regarding Bishop Long. It does not change the fact WE his members love and we are heartbroken over losing this Man of God (yes, I said, ‘Man of God’).”
- “We all have to face our final day. We all have done things we aren’t proud of. Dragging a man after he has died is never cool.”
As I read many of the comments, my heart was deeply saddened and concerned that some people feel the way they do. So, the question I raised at last night’s Bible study is this: How should the church respond to the passing of Bishop Eddie Long?
I wanted to raise that question because I believe part of the responsibility of pastors and leaders is to address what is in the hearts of people in the world right now. So, though the topic is an edgy one, I thought it appropriate to use this occasion as a teachable moment and as a way to help us look at this moment in time the way God would look at it.
For those who weren’t able to be there physically, I wanted to summarize and share my thoughts from last night’s bible study. You can watch the entire clip from Bible Study here: Facebook Live video. Here are 9 ways the church should respond to the passing of Bishop Eddie Long:
- First, we must have Christ-like compassion and concern for those who are mourning. [Romans 12:10–19 (Message Bible)]
What’s interesting about many of the responses surrounding Bishop Long’s death is that it further illustrates how social media has transformed the way we dialogue.
For all its benefits, one of the drawbacks of social media is that it has made people feel comfortable in operating as “keyboard gangstas”…or people who say things that they would not otherwise say to someone’s face.
I saw responses like this:
“The wages of sin is death…RIP Bishop Eddie Long.”
This troubled me because it’s easy to say something like this when the person who has passed on is not someone you love. And it’s easier to say it when it’s not you.
I wonder: how would these same people feel if their mother, father, sibling or spouse passed and the first responses they are met with are similar to the one mentioned above?
As Christians, we have a responsibility to watch what we say during times like these. Even if you aren’t a fan of Bishop Eddie Long’s ministry and even if you don’t agree with anything he may have done, our response should mirror Romans 12:10–19 — especially verses 15–16 and 19:
“Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.
Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.
Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t insist on getting even. That’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’”
If there’s something in Bishop Long’s life that was wrong, God can handle it far better than we humans can. And if we were completely honest, if everyone could pull back the curtains of the secret places in all of our lives, who could stand flawless?
As believers, the very LEAST we should be able to do is ask God to touch his family, his congregation and those who were involved in the details of whatever scandal he was attached to.
Now, as someone who believes it important to stand in the middle and decipher the very divided reactions to Bishop long’s passing, the next thing we should do is…