What Kobe’s Death Reminds Us about God

Posted on January 27, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Tragic Event
Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest professional basketball players who ever lived, died tragically in a helicopter crash January 26, 2020. He was only 41.

Speaking of him in tribute shows on TV and radio, those who knew this NBA luminary rightly described him as “iconic”; “legendary”; “brilliant”; “masterful”; “amazingly gifted;” and “the greatest.” By human standards, these are apt descriptions of Kobe, and some of these may even be understated.

Yet, though rich, famous, powerful, and adored by millions, Kobe left this world in the same way as the most obscure of human beings, thus reminding us that “God is no respecter of persons.”

More Precisely …
This phrase is from Acts 10:34: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” This revelation by the great apostle was made following a vision he had of a sheet filled with food; “unkosher” (ceremonially unclean) food God ordered him to eat. God’s objective was to teach His strong-willed servant that under the New Covenant, Jews were no longer to despise Gentiles but that in Christ, all are equal.

But what of the word “respecter”? This verse makes it sound as if God has no regard for anyone. “Respecter” is not a bad word, and was no doubt ideal for the 1611 King James Bible, from where this version of the verse was taken. More modern versions render the phrase this way: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism” (NIV); and “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality” (NASB).

This gets more to the heart of the matter. Rather than being cold and unfeeling, this verse tells us that God is not swayed by human achievement. People may fawn, drool, and pant over movie, music, athletic, and political stars, but God has no such inclination. To Him all people are the same in that their physical matter is constructed of fragile, temporary, and very vulnerable “material.” Skin, bone, and muscle have a very short shelf life.

Equal in God’s Eyes
Because humans are finite beings, the infinite God shows no favoritism to one over the other, or is partial to the deeds and accomplishments of one over the other. Kobe’s vast talents merited nothing with God. He died at a young age and, as a the classic Kansas song “Dust in the Wind” profoundly states, “all [his] money won’t another minute buy.”   

God makes this clear in both the Old and New Testaments. Even the pagan Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar came to learn this. He said: “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He [God] does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.” Likewise, the prophet Isaiah tells us: “Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. … He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isaiah 40:17, 23).

On the other side of the coin, God’s impartiality means generosity for all men and women: Jesus teaches us: “… your Father in heaven … causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). The same rain that fell on Kobe, also fell on the homeless drunkard. The pleasant sun’s rays that warmed Kobe on a rare chilly L.A. day also brought comfort to the shivering beggar whose only pair of tattered garments was ravaged by holes. God gives life to the famous as well as the obscure.

The Bottom Line
But neither the famous nor the unknown escapes the fate of all human beings: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27); and “No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Death comes to all; it is inevitable. This was again illustrated by the passing of Kobe Bryant, and this despite his soaring talent, abundant wealth, and worldwide fame. There is no being “saved” from this world; we all must leave it. And when we do, we go to one of two places: eternal separation from God in Hell, or to live for eternity in Heaven with Christ (John 3:36; 1 John 5:11-12).

However, though there is no “saving” from death in this life, there is “saving” from Hell. Scripture tells us: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31) and “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

And because God is no respecter of men, salvation is offered to all who ask for it: the famous and obscure; the mighty and the weak; and the wealthy and the destitute.

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?