Photo by Thomas Froese

Known by our love

…or by the things we stand against?

PARIS—Dead rock stars aren’t the only idols to worship out there. Houses and cars, retirement portfolios, relationships and sex—or, well, religion—can be equally distracting in a fallen world looking for things as nebulous as truth and meaning.

But come to the Père Lachaise Cemetery and see for yourself the cult of rock-star celebrity. In this gothic and tumbledown resting place of some of the world’s best-known artists—Chopin, Bizet, Proust, Oscar Wilde to name a few—Jim Morrison’s grave is by far the most visited.

Even on this day, a miserable and rainy day, a gaggle of visitors hover with cameras and giddy expressions to see the gravesite of Morrison, frontman of The Doors and dead of a drug overdose in Paris in 1971.

Père Lachaise sprawls more than 100 acres with arching chestnut trees, winding cobblestone roads and tightly-packed tombs, more than 70,000 of them, many of monstrous size and antiquated elegance, leaning and cracked and overgrown. It’s a wonder anyone can find anything here.

You’ll eventually find Morrison’s gravesite railed-off because of various nuisances from fans.

It interests me only because of the song “Jim Morrison’s Grave,” a wildly satirical piece on the finality of death. Written and performed by Steve Taylor, a bad-boy Christian poet-musician who enraged especially the self-righteous for his spirited and sharp-tongued wit, the song is one that I used to play so often, the tape eventually snapped.

Now we’re here at Père Lachaise travelling on our annual return to Canada from our African home, my wife and children and me, wandering through this sobering mood. There’s Chopin’s grave. The children know of Chopin. They smile awkwardly. Do you smile for graveside photos?

It’s a deliberate walk to remind anyone of the futility of worshipping anything, really, besides the Lord God. Because nothing else will last. Young and old, beautiful and plain, celebrity and unknown, we’ll all return to the cold, muddy earth.

We’re just a breath. A mist. Our time is that short.

So why do we, believers, so foolishly major on the minors?

About music, well, that beat is sinfully fast. No, it’s too slow. Whatever it is, don’t dance to it.

Once, years ago, I asked a group of college-aged Sunday School youth, “Is it okay to listen to, say, Amy Grant? What about while playing pool? What if you’re in a bar? Discuss.” One young lady stood in protest. No, God help us, not Amy Grant and her new secular style. She’s outside the camp now.

On the other side, the side of unexpected openness, in Sana’a, Yemen, Yemeni newsroom colleagues of mine—that is Muslims without easy access to a Bible—once asked if I could help explain to them the meaning of a rock song they had found on the internet: “Coloured People,” by DC Talk. I did.

More questions followed. “So what do Christians believe about women’s rights? What about divorce? Suicide?” Their list went on. As if Christians should somehow sing from the same book on any of this.

Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our stance on abortion. No, by our views on euthanasia. No, they’ll know we are Christians by our take on homosexuality. For sure, homosexuality. Now this is the one.

Or maybe they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

And maybe on that day, or night, when you pass-on like a leaf in the wind, so alone, and face your Maker, the only question of relevance will be, ‘Child. Do you know Me?’

Photo by Thomas Froese
Photo by Thomas Froese

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Thomas Froese writes on themes of culture and faith. He blogs on fatherhood at dailydad.net. Read his other work at thomasfroese.com

  • Dorene Meyer

    Excellent article, Thomas! Yes, I do pray most earnestly that we will be known by our love! I believe that one expression of that love is defending the lives of those babies yet unborn. And for some, that is their life’s focus and how they are “known.” Others like Ratanak International rescue young Cambodian girls from sexual exploitation. ALL of us are called to love our neighbour, those whom we encounter in our day to day lives.

  • Glenn Krobel

    I agree that there is a problem with some self-righteous Christians who would rather carry a protest placard than reach out to the sinner as Christ did. But it doesn’t describe the attitude of the majority of Christians I have met. Your last two articles on this topic (especially your references to evangelical Christians’ views of the GLBT lifestyle) seem to suggest otherwise. To be honest, you come across in a scolding, almost self-righteous tone.

    I disagree with the sentiment that I read in your article(s) that emphasize that calling out sin in the world is an unloving, unChristlike act. In fact the exact opposite is true. In the Gospels we read that the first part of Jesus’ ministry was a call the people to repentance. And not just generally, but of specific sins. Sins of self-righteous pride, adultery, theft, etc. Even the woman caught in adultery was told to “go and sin no more”. Jesus’ mercy never was at the expense of a call to holiness.

    I don’t believe that it is fair-minded to caricature Christians who are seeking to be biblically faithful to Christ’s teachings on immutable subjects such as sexual morality and caring for the life of innocent people. We are to be the salt and light of the world. This necessitates challenging the sinfulness of our world. Jesus never shied away from these topics. His teaching in Matthew 5 & 19 is pretty clear on the issues of sexuality, divorce and the exclusivity of one man and one woman in marriage. Christians who take the call to “renounce the hidden things of shame” (II Cor 4:2) are by definition not supposed to do this privately, but publicly. And while this might upset a world that wants licence to sin in darkness unchallenged (John 3:19), it is the age-old call of the gospel: “Come out of the darkness into the light of the Son!” This call to repentance should make the lost uncomfortable (Acts 17:30-31) That’s actual agape love. Enduring the scorn of the world for the hope of a better reward in glory. Not the tolerance for sinful lifestyles that either downplay their devastating effects or excuse them altogether–all for the sake of being “accepted” by the world. “Love” that leaves a person in their sin believing that “evil is good and good is evil”. (Isa 5:20) is selfish and even hateful because it leaves someone in eternal peril–all for the sake of their approval of us and our comfort.

    Christians should stand up for the rights of the unborn, lest we fall into the same judgment at Israel who tolerated infanticide (Jeremiah 15). We should stand for biblical marriage and the family and against sexual immorality, including the GLBT lifestyle, lest we too face the wrath of God’s judgment as a nation (Jude 7). There is nothing unloving about that. Perhaps too many Christians have gone about this in an unloving or self-righteous manner in the past, but that isn’t true of the majority I see in the church today–most whom I have spoken to in the church are very kind and loving toward the sinner–so loving that they want to see the person saved from this bondage. The call to repentance is true love. And the most faithful to the call of our Saviour.