"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

A Perspective on the Funeral of Whitney Houston: There Are No Great Christians, Only a Great Savior

I am watching the funeral of Whitney Houston from the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey and am captivated. I imagine there will be two responses to the funeral; either people (like me) will love it for the music and inspiring messages of hope, or there will be people who think the funeral is incredibly over-the-top in terms of the personal praise of Whitney Houston and view it with a heaping dose of cynicism. Though I am not part of the latter group, I do understand the basis for their feelings. I have spoken at hundreds of funerals, even at a few of persons who possessed a little celebrity (former governors, football players, etc...), and the tendency of all funeral speakers is to focus on the good qualities of the dead person, ignoring some of the more glaring weaknesses. With all the media coverage calling our attention to Whitney's years-long addiction to drugs and alcohol, as well as the struggles she had in terms of her personal relationships, some Christians might think that BeBe Winans, Tyler Perry, and Jessie Jackson, are placing too much emphasis on Whitney Houston the person. I don't think so. Why? Two reasons: First, a funeral is the time to remember all the good of the one who died, and second (and more importantly), everyone--I don't care who it is--has ugly issues in this life. If you get upset that people are making small of Whitney Houston's problems at her funeral, just thank God you aren't planning your own funeral. Your struggle with sin in this life, in terms of the internal heart motivation that leads you to commit sin, is no different than Whitney's.  Some peoples' struggles, like Whitney's, are more public than yours and mine because those people are more well-known than us. In addition, internal struggles bubble to the surface in different ways among us all, and we must be careful that we don't judge the sores of others without recognizing our common disease. Without doubt, Whitney Houston possessed an amazing voice and has been in the public eye for the last two decades because of it. Her rendition of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl and her all-time classic soundtrack for the movie Bodyguard has indelibly etched Whitney Houston on our collective consciousness. But we should celebrate that Whitney also possessed faith in the Person she called "my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ." For all the cavilling critics of Whitney's funeral service, I remind you that there are no great Christians, only great sinners with faith in a great Savior.

17 comments:

Rita Janzen said...

I totally agree with you Wade! I've been able to identify so much with the words spoken at the funeral especially Tyler Perry's words. No matter what rebellion or horrible things I've done or how much I've wanted to separate myself from God - nothing, nothing can separate me from the love of God. As you said last Sunday my focus should be on God's commitment to me, not on my commitment to Him. I want to thank you for your never ending ministry to me.

R Don Guy said...

Very well said Wade.

wadeburleson.org said...

You bet, Rita! I love the fact you are a true trophy of His grace!

wadeburleson.org said...

Thanks, Don!

Alan Paul said...

Not that I am famous, but as I just told my sister, I want those who speak at my funeral to speak of who I really was - good, bad, mundane. I do not want a caricature of myself that never really existed created to make people feel good. They'll already have something to feel good about anyways... They should feel great about the fact that I am no longer suffering the effects of sin and this fallen world and that I am celebrating God's grace with Him in person!

Aussie John said...

Wade,

In the midst of the political maneuvering, and lusting for positions, and public recognition, in evangelical churches, it thrills me to read such an article, especially the reminder,"....there are no great Christians, only great sinners with faith in a great Savior."

To that I can say a heartfelt"Amen!", and a loud "Hallelujah!"

Steve Mills said...

But for the grace of God, there go I!

Bob Cleveland said...

I don't recall the last 4-hour program on TV that I watched all the way through. But I did, this one.

Marvelous.

Randall Slack said...

"...there are no great Christians, only great sinners with faith in a great Savior."

Well put. Jesus put us out of the rock throwing business a long time ago.

Excellent post.

Dwight McKissic said...

Wade,

I've read your blog post regularly- almost daily-for 5 1/2 years. This will be the one post that I remember, appreciate, and treasure the most. Well said and fitly spoken.Thanks for the tribute, truth, and timely word regarding the home-going of Whitney Houston. You adequately and eloquently address and answer many questions and discussions triggered by the passing of Whitney and her reported addictions, in light of her professed Christian faith. I agree with everything you've stated in this post one hundred per cent.

Sooz said...

Amen.

Wade Burleson said...

Dwight,

Thanks, my friend! I admire you, your family and your ministry. You are always an encouragment to me!

Wade

Single and Sane said...

As Marvin Winans pointed out, Cissy Houston's choice to have the funeral in a church instead of an arena brought us all to church. The service was an opportunity to show the world that God's grace is big enough to cover all of our sins. As you point out, there will be cynics who missed that, but there will undoubtedly be others who find their faith renewed, and perhaps more who take a step of faith for the first time because of that service. My prayer is that those seeds of faith are able to take root and grow.

Margaret

Joey said...

I agree with Burleson. When a famous person dies the family and the fans grieve that loss. It's sad when a pop icon falls into addiction. It's spread all over the news and the constant push for a comeback can be catastrophic when that person has not overcome the addiction. Diva, Queen of Pop, the Voice...how can anyone live up to those titles or live with them and not go crazy? I don't know. So glad she knew that Jesus loves her and died for her. She was very vocal about Salvation through Him. What more can any human do? According to the gospel-"Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." I think about King David, King Solomon, Apostle Paul, and many many more...God NEVER gave up on them. He never gives up on his children. We are called to love and share God's love with others and not to take on the title of judge.

Sandra said...

Very eloquently said. We have truly been blessed by her gift of song from God. However, we forget that when we see the weaknesses of those that are in the public eye, we only see their weaknesses because they have chosen to share their gifts with us. Your post is a reminder that we are all plagued by sin, born into it. And, yes, the only one great is the Savior Jesus Christ.

Phil said...

I think these untimely deaths speak to the real forces and powers ACTIVELY engaging our society and infiltrating our culture: http://vigilantcitizen.com/

Chris McFadden said...

Very well written, Wade. As I was watching that funeral, and as the singers and speakers came up, I couldn't help but feel like someone was going to get saved because of the message that was conveyed. God did get the glory out of all this.