This week it’s all about Gorsuch. Will the Senate confirm him as the Republican replacement of Antonin Scalia?
Like the rest of America, I caught a bit of his confirmation hearing while driving in my car.
It was the normal grilling by some, including Senator Al Franken who reminded me at times of my favorite character he played on "Saturday Night Live," Stuart Smalley.
“I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!”
But things took an unusual turn when Neil Gorsuch was asked by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse about how Gorsuch will know when he retires whether or not he had been a good judge.
“What an amazing question,” I thought.
As a pastor, I’ve spent my life walking through life with people, and one of the things I’m most convinced of is competence is insufficient without character. Questions like the one asked by the Nebraska Senator get to the heart of the matter.
Gorsuch’s answer was even more surprising than Sen. Sasse’s question.
In addition to being an appellate judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Gorsuch also teaches ethics at the University of Colorado Law School, “Senator, that’s a question I ask my kids every semester.
As part of his course, Judge Gorsuch revealed how he asks his students to take five minutes to write their own obituary. He said that some of the students find this “corny,” but others actually are willing to read them aloud to the class.
It’s within this context that Gorsuch chose to speak about how he himself wanted to be remembered, and at one point he even choked up discussing it.
“What I try to point out is … it’s not how big your bank account balance is -- nobody ever puts that in their draft obituary -- or that they billed the most hours, or that they won the most cases. It’s how they treated other people along the way,” said Gorsuch to a committee room full of affluent, successful Senators. “For me, [I think of the] the words I read [just] yesterday from Increase Sumner’s tombstone. I’d like to be remembered as a good dad, a good husband, kind and mild in private life, dignified and firm in public life...I have no illusions that I’ll be remembered for very long.”
That answer was the biggest indication to me that Judge Gorsuch isn’t just a qualified jurist, but a good man. He has character and competence.
When people speak from their heart, as Judge Gorsuch seemed to do in that moment, we learn about the person behind the position. It’s also good advice the Judge gave those Senators, and the rest of us too. We ought to be thinking about our obituary.
How will we be remembered when we are gone?
We must not think only of the here and now for the person who is ready to die is really only ready to live. We always must have the end in mind or we will not know the next step to take.
By the way, I’m not speaking in theory either.
My son died unexpectedly at age 33, in a car accident. Here are the words on his tombstone: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return” (2 Timothy 4:7–8 NLT).
Ever since he left us, I find myself thinking a lot more of the afterlife. Because he put his faith in Jesus Christ, I know I will see him again . . . in Heaven. His death has also caused me to begin to think more frequently about the question Judge Gorsuch asked his students.
If I were a Senator, Democratic or Republican, I’d have to vote for him. Not just because the American Bar Association unanimously rated him as “qualified” but also because he has his priorities in the right place.
And you know what’s unfortunate?
Some people will read politics into my endorsement of Gorsuch. Yet, there’s nothing political about it. I’m a pastor and evangelist who is focused on people, not politics.
It’s a sad fact that our society has digressed to the point that one can’t comment on a public figure without being accused of partisanship.
It’s another indication of how objective truth lies in ruins on Capitol Hill.
Maybe it’s because we aren’t thinking enough about how people will remember us?