My Friend Karl

Last week was a tough one for me. I had to say goodbye to a brother-in-Christ and a friend, Karl Robertson. I suppose death is a more common thing for a pastor, than it is for a lot of other people. Pastors are privileged to be a part of milestones in the lives of their parishioners. We get to celebrate births with baby dedications, marriages with weddings, and transitions from this world into eternity with funerals. Over the past twenty-five years, I have had the honor to officiate at literally hundreds of funeral services. Some of the people I knew. Some I did not know at all. Karl, I knew very well, which makes this one tough.

I have to say though. I was somewhat surprised how I felt as I sat with his wife Debbie at Hartford Hospital in the room where his body lay. You see, Karl’s last few years were really challenging. Diabetes had cost him all ten of his toes, as well as his left leg below the knee, and Karl never really rebounded from that. He was always such an active person. Softball, bowling, golf. When I first came here to South Church, Karl was the one challenging my teenage sons to a one-on-one basketball game. Now, he spent all day in his recliner. Mostly asleep. He had little strength or energy to do anything more. I knew Karl and this was not him.

Karl was, however, a man of deep faith. He was the Senior Deacon here for years and filled the pulpit a few times when I was on vacation. I know he loved Jesus and understood what the cross meant for him. He also knew that Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” (John 11:25-26). And that is why I felt like I felt. Was I sad? Sure, but only because I will miss Karl. Because I see Debbie and Lynn overwhelmed with grief. For Karl, I was truly relieved. At peace. Comforted in knowing that he is with Jesus at this very moment. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians, that to be absent from the body is to be home with the Lord. So, that meant the moment Karl’s soul left his body, he was in the presence of God. I knew that, because I knew he believed, and I was filled with peace. Comforted with knowing he would no longer struggle in this world, but was now completely restored, healed, and whole, standing before the Lord.

That knowledge is powerful, which is why the opposite is equally as significant. You see, if one dies without Christ, they will not be in heaven with the Lord. It is as simple as that. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the father except through me” (John 14:6). Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with your accumulation of good deeds here on earth. We are not here building up a resumé with hopes it will impress God so much that He will swing open the gates of heaven. “No one can come to the father except through me.” Without faith in Jesus and what He did on Calvary, there is no hope of heaven.

If there is someone you love who has not yet come to faith in Christ. Please share the good news with them. Tell them about Jesus who loved them so much that He died on the cross for their sins, so after they draw their last breath here on earth, they would know for certain where they were going next. If you cannot find the words, invite them to church or to watch online. Send them to to watch some videos in the privacy of their own home. Pray that they would be receptive to the message of salvation in Christ.

I cannot tell you the difference it makes when you are in a room with someone you love who has just passed. You know. I know what happened to Karl and all those whose funerals I did who believed. They are in that place “where [there] will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). They are safe and loved and whole and joyful. Knowing that helps. It really does.       


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