On a recent Tuesday, I was on a plane for work. The flight was delayed, so I was concerned about being late to a conference.

And then I got the call: a family member had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Everyone began arranging travel and other plans.

This person isn’t the first deceased family member in my lifetime. I’ve said goodbye to people with whom I was closer. But as I received the news, I realized that I had lost any chance to make up for the unchristian way I had accidentally acted towards that person.

For the first time, I realized that the accountability of death isn’t just about the deceased. It’s also about how the living treated the deceased.

The Accountability of Death

For Christians, the accountability moment that is death brings hope and fear. Will God grant us pardon for our sins and the Grace of Heaven? Or will we be damned to an eternity without His Love?

But sin isn’t just about our Final Destination. Our own deaths stop us from any more chances at repentance, but the accountability of another’s death means that we cannot “make up” or remove sin against him or her.

Moments after I was informed about this family member’s passing, I realized that I had wasted the last several years. Rather than take this person’s obvious quirks and flaws as an opportunity to help both of us come closer to Christ, I had chosen a door towards Hell almost every time.

Our interactions were brief, infrequent, and non-intimate. There’s nothing wrong with that. God does not require that we have a close relationship with every person. What was wrong was judging this person harshly – even dismissively. What was also wrong was mentally and verbally recalling the person’s flaws instead of finding the good when speaking with my wife or others.

And now it’s too late to help this family member. It’s too late to take back what I’ve done, to be more like Christ for this person, myself, and to those whom my sins of gossip, judgment, and dismissal affected.