The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
Proverbs 10:7 (ESV)
Some memories of those in our past are best left not to be remembered. In fact, according to this proverb, it is expected. The name of the wicked will rot. This is not proverbial. This is literal but that is not to say it is easy for those living with painful memories who lived under tyranny or suffered under the wickedness of the wicked.
However, for the purposes of this reflection, I wish to focus on the first part of the this proverb: the memory of the righteous is a blessing. Who are the righteous? In short – all those in Christ are righteous (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 3:22). If you have a friend or a loved one who died in Christ, then this proverb is designed to speak to you. Your memory of the one you love and miss is a blessing.
You might wonder why such memories can sometimes produce pangs in the heart where we can be drawn to sadness and grief despite knowing so-and-so is with Jesus. If the memory is a blessing, why do our memories sometimes seem to be the very means of additional pain and heartache?
This apparent paradox cannot be understood apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from dead (2 Tim 2:8). Every time we partake of the Lord’s supper we proclaim the Lord’s death (1 Cor 11:26). We drink the wine and eat the bread in remembrance of him (1 Cor 11:24-25). The best memory we can have is to purposefully recall The Righteous One (Acts 7:52), and his death and resurrection. This is one of the greatest blessings we can have on this side of heaven.
And yet, we also retain memories of those other righteous ones in our lives, and who are now with Jesus. Their memory is a blessing to us. We are blessed because their death in Jesus also reminds of their life in Jesus. Even though Christ died, he rose from the dead (1 Cor 15:12). And even though those we love die, they too live and will have resurrected bodies (John 11:24). When we think of their death it is innately connected to Jesus’ death. And because we know Christ is risen, our loved one’s life is also innately connected to Jesus’ life (Col 3:3).
The memory of the righteous is a blessing because we know they live even though they died. It is a blessing because it reminds us that we too, though we will die someday, we too will rise. And because Christ lives, and all those who are righteous also live, even though they died, we will all live in eternity, together, forever at the resurrection of the dead (Matt 22:31).
When Jesus said to come to him all who are weary and he will give us rest (Matt 11:28), the death of our loved one is their fullest participation to this invitation. When they surrendered their spirit, willingly or not, they went to Jesus in the ultimate sense of that invitation and have received rest for their souls that only Jesus can and does graciously and eternally provide. The memory of the righteous is a blessing because we know it was in their death that they came to Jesus. Jesus is merciful to receive our loved ones, through death, that most profound moment of weakness on this side of heaven.
As our memory of them is beckoned, the blessing rests in knowing they have been received by Jesus and are right now participating in that most glorious promised of rest for their soul. When our memory is stirred of our loved one who died in Christ, it becomes bound up in remembering Christ himself, the very object of our hope. The memory of the righteous is a blessing because our memory of them points us to heaven and reminds us to worship.