I’ve been thinking about Whitney Houston, whom I first met nearly 20 years ago. It saddened me to hear the news yesterday that the 48-year-old songstress died yesterday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
I’m not especially curious to learn the exact cause of her premature death.
Perhaps she overdosed on Lorazepam, Valium, Xanax or some other prescription medication, as TMZ suggests on its web site. Maybe she fell back into smoking crack or abusing other illegal drugs.
It really doesn’t matter now. Whitney is no more. And the only question that concerns me, not as a one-time acquaintance, but as a Christian, is where she will spend eternity.
It may be a comfort to her friends, family and fans to believe that Whitney has gone to a better place. That she is now a featured singer in that great heavenly choir in the sky. But I am not so sure.
Indeed, the one widely accepted doctrine of my Protestant faith that I have the most difficulty embracing is the notion of “once saved always saved.”
In other words, if at some point in a person’s life, she or he or gave her or his life to the Lord, there is nothing that person can do to lose her or his salvation.
Well, I’m pretty sure that, as a young girl, Whitney asked Jesus to be the Lord of her life. She was baptized. She sang in her church choir. She was a committed Christian.
But, as Whitney was blessed with fame and fortune, it seems obvious she stopped living for the Lord. She succumbed to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. She fell prey to the demons of substance abuse.
If, as many (if not most) of my Christian friends believe, Whitney’s commitment to Christ at a tender age forever secured her salvation, then her friends, family and fans have nothing to grieve about.
But I am not persuaded that the scripture guarantees that once saved, always saved. It seems to me that more is expected of those who truly are born again. They must not only give their lives to Christ. They must also abide in Christ.
What that means is, just because a person commits her- or himself to Jesus as a teen-ager or young adult, she or he doesn’t get a free pass for the rest of her or his life. They can’t unabashedly break God’s commandments and expect to spend eternity inParadise.
They can’t be an unrepentant idolater or adulterer or murderer or even drug abuser and expect that a commitment they once made to Christ, but subsequently reneged upon, will ensure their salvation.
I have absolutely no way of knowing if Whitney repented her sins against God; if, in the final years, months, weeks or days of her life, she truly was abiding in Christ.
If she was, she went to be with the Lord yesterday. If not, may God have mercy on her soul.