By Jonathan Petzold
1 Corinthians 4:15-16: “Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”
When I first heard of Byron, I HEARD Byron. Literally. Screaming. I was in 6th grade confirmation, he was screaming at the 8th graders, and I was scared. Little did I know, that was his default volume, because he was probably worked up about Jesus. In fact, that’s what I appreciate the most about Byron. He got worked up about Jesus – and it was scary. Before Byron, I thought Christianity was boring. I didn’t think Jesus made that big of a difference in my life.
And then, one night, I was walking by the kitchen in the west wing. I wasn’t hanging out with any of the other youth there – I was (and still am) kind of a dork. And then I heard screaming coming from the kitchen – Byron. “This guy is so cool!” Before I realized what was happening, I was being ushered to the crowded, legendary, blue kitchen counter. That began the immense impact that Byron had on my life. Being influenced by Byron, I went from thinking Christianity was boring to attending seminary.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is admonishing the Corinthian church to turn from their sinful behaviors and back to Christ. He implores them to listen to him because he claims to be their spiritual father, the one who brought them the gospel, who founded their church. Paul urges the church to imitate him, not because he’s perfect (Paul calls himself the chief of sinners!), but because the gospel is that revolutionary, that life-changing.
I think a multitude of people would consider Byron their spiritual father. Byron’s impact was extraordinary. He brought the gospel to many of us. Many of us were so impacted by his ministry in such a way that we find ourselves in vocations, in relationships, and in places we never thought we would be. Many would attribute their salvation to God’s work through Byron. Many of our lives would look completely different without Byron.
And many of our lives, the Porisch family’s especially, will look a lot different without Byron. Death is a terrible and wretched foe. He was the spiritual mentor that we wish could guide us forever. He is the husband, father, and grandfather that will be profoundly missed. He is classic example of someone taken too soon. Death is mean. Death doesn’t make sense. Death is not natural.
Byron knew this. Death is not natural; death is a plague on man. Death is a foreigner and enemy. Death was defeated. The Son of God came and died in our place, and in a final blow he defeated death by rising from his grave. Jesus has died in Byron’s place, and Byron’s death is overcome. Byron, too, will rise from his grave.
What a revolutionary hope we have in Christ! What a life-changing gospel! We don’t look forward to death and oblivion. We look forward to the bodily resurrection, the reunion with our Savior, and the eternal fellowship with the Body of Christ. We will see Byron again. We will live with him and our Lord for eternity in the new creation. Death has lost.
And yet, for now, death is painfully present. Byron will be missed. Byron will be loved. Byron will be remembered. And we remember him because he was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a mentor. We go on in memory of this spiritual father. In Christ Jesus he became our spiritual father through the gospel. Byron lived and lives on in Christ’s revolutionary, life-changing gospel. Imitate him.