NBA star Kobe Bryant, along with his thirteen-year-old daughter, died yesterday in a horrific helicopter accident. That the life of a man who had so much temporal wealth and fame could be suddenly snatched away in an instant is shocking and speaks to the fragility of this world in its fallen state — no one is exempt from death. “For the wages of sin is death…”
I’ve seen many Christians express hope that somehow, Kobe Bryant and his family were believers. It’s natural for man to want to see the life of someone well-liked to continue. But we, as Christians, need to examine the life and fruits of Kobe Bryant from an objective, biblical standpoint rather than our emotion.
First, in the eyes of God, Kobe Bryant is no less important than the millions of babies being slaughtered at the hands of abortion clinics around the world. That we elevate the life of a celebrity over and above the life of these neglected and abused children is not only disheartening — it’s idolatrous. All life — from Kobe Bryant to the unborn child nobody has ever seen or heard of — is precious, created in the Image of God, and worthy of protection on Earth. God is the giver and taker of life and God is sovereign over all life and death.
And, for whatever reason, God chose to take the life of a worldwide celebrity yesterday, and in doing so, he chose to be glorified in it.
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Kobe Bryant was a Roman Catholic. Kobe Bryant’s family all practiced Roman Catholicism. If fact, Kobe Bryant was reported to be at a Catholic mass and praying just prior to the accident. After Kobe Bryant was accused (and acquitted — but admitted to extramarital sex) of rape in 2003, Kobe and his wife split up. The Catholic News Agency reports that after these events, Bryant, in 2015, “credited his Catholic faith with helping him move past a challenging period in his own life and the life of his family.”
Unfortunately, for Kobe and his family, Roman Catholicism is not Christianity — it’s an idolatrous false expression of Christianity that forbids its adherents from believing the true gospel. While it is possible that Bryant repented and believed the gospel as his helicopter was going down, unless we know this to be the case, we should not assume that Kobe is in Heaven with Jesus. In fact, we have no reason at all to believe that Kobe Bryant was a believer and we, as Christians, should not preach him into Heaven.
Now, cue the protests from the “Reformed” and other Christian community: this isn’t the time to speculate on Kobe’s eternal state. Why can’t we just let his family mourn?
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5 as Jesus was en route to Jerusalem from Galilee. People around him were discussing the gruesome deaths of many whom Pilate had ordered. Jesus did not back away from the reality of these deaths but used it as an opportunity to point others to the truth. He asks the rhetorical question, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” and “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” He emphatically answers both questions, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Now, brothers and sisters, I urge you to go think, feel, and speak like Jesus, and beware of foolish thinking, foolish feelings, foolish speaking, and Gospel compromise when famous celebrities die. Do we think Kobe Bryant was a worse sinner because he died this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you too will likewise perish!