By Dr. Joshua M. Greever
Associate Professor of New Testament
College of Theology and Grand Canyon Theological Seminary
The GCU community is mourning the recent and tragic death of Jarod Lovekamp, a third-year senior at GCU. Even though I did not know Jarod personally, I have talked with many of my students who knew him, and they all unequivocally affirm the deeply positive impact Jarod had on their lives. So many of my students have testified that he was uplifting and encouraging to them, and, perhaps most importantly, he exuded the love of Christ to those around him. By all accounts, Jarod’s life was the life of a college student who was first and foremost a Christian who genuinely and firmly loved the Lord Jesus. Because of this testimony of others about Jarod’s life and faith, and because of the deep impact he had on the GCU community, in this letter I would like to address all those in the GCU community impacted by Jarod’s death. In an effort to encourage and console us, I want to remind us briefly of the hope we have in the gospel of Christ, which GCU wholeheartedly treasures and affirms.
The gospel, the good news of redemption as taught in the Bible and affirmed by the Christian worldview, is that despite humanity’s sin and rebellion against God our Creator, God in his love and mercy sent his Son to redeem us from our sins and to reconcile us to himself. No matter who we are or what any of us have done, we can be reconciled to God simply by repenting of our sins and trusting in God’s reconciling work for us in Christ. The Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, accomplished that reconciling work on our behalf: he lived a sinless and fully righteous life, died a substitutionary death on a cross, and was raised from the dead. For all who put their trust in him, his righteous life assures us of our righteousness before God. His substitutionary death took away our sin and guilt and established a new relationship with God based on the forgiveness of sins. And his resurrection guarantees eternal life as our final hope, which one day, when Jesus returns, will mean life in glorious, resurrected bodies in a new heaven and new earth.
This is the gospel that Jarod clung to and that Christians all over the world treasure and affirm. How does this gospel comfort and console us in our time of grief? Ultimately, this gospel assures us that sin and death do not have the final word. Although death is real and brings genuine sorrow, it has lost its sting for all who belong to Christ Jesus by faith. We grieve the absence of a true friend. We grieve the loss of the joy that Jarod brought into our lives. And yet, even in the midst of our pain and sorrow, we find genuine comfort and consolation because, for all like Jarod who belong to the Lord, death does not have the final word. We are sorrowful, yet we always rejoice. We are struck down, yet we are not destroyed. We grieve, but we grieve with hope. Indeed, our hope is not shaken in any way, for the glory of the gospel isn’t that it promises a life full of health and prosperity for 80 or 90 years. The glory of the gospel is that it promises abundant and eternal life with God, who is our unshakable and all-surpassing treasure and joy. And that kind of abundant and eternal life promised by the gospel will never come to an end; death cannot destroy or lessen it in any way.
And so as Christians, we continue to hope in the Lord, even in the midst of our genuine sorrow. We continue to pray for the return of King Jesus, and we pray in full assurance that one day, when Christ Jesus returns, the redemptive work that God has already begun in our hearts will be brought to completion. Our King will return and will finish making all things new. On that day he will turn our mourning into dancing, and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
And so, let’s commit as a Christian community to remember and treasure the gospel of the hope we have in Christ. Let’s commit to pray for one another and to console and comfort one another with these words. If any of you reading this letter has not repented of your sins and cast yourself on the redemptive mercy of God in Christ, I urge you to do that right now, and reach out to the Christian faculty, staff, and students all around you who can love you and point you in the right direction. I have been so encouraged to hear from my students of the ways in which they have comforted and encouraged one another during this difficult time. Let’s continue to do so by remembering the glorious gospel of our hope in Christ.