Q: Is there a way that Christians should handle a funeral? I mean when dealing with the death of a loved one, shouldn't there be an approach that is uniquely Christian? I've been to some funerals lately and don't really notice any difference between the funeral of a believer and the funeral of a non-believer. Is that right? Is that how it's supposed to be?
A: The thing about funerals is that they're for the living --- and not for the dead. Whatever ceremony or observance you have it is for the benefit of those who survive. It is not for the deceased. So in that regard, I think most people defer to whatever it is that would bring comfort and solace to the surviving family and friends.
Is that right? Is that how it's supposed to be? To be honest, I'm not really sure. I suppose we could look at some Biblical principles and try to use the funeral or other observance as a "call to action," where we would exhort the surviving family and loved ones to see the eternal and heavenly perspective on what's just happened.
The saddest funerals I've ever been to have been for non-believers who'd just died. For them, there is no hope of eternal life. And everyone knows it. It is difficult to put a positive spin on such a catastrophic losses that grieves even God Himself. But it seems to me that would be a good time to point that out and call the survivors to live differently.
Whether it's the funeral of a Christian or a non-believer, I think I would strive for the most God-honoring funeral I can imagine. How can we give God the glory in this service? How can we point people to God in this funeral? What promises of God need to be focused on most at this funeral? What Biblical principles are most relevant during this time of loss? How would Jesus want the surviving family and loved ones to response to this loss? If I'm going to preach a funeral, those are some questions I'm going to want to answer.
In conclusion, I don't think it's so much a matter of whether traditional funerals are right or wrong. Rather it is a matter of whether or not there are better, more God-honoring funerals to be had.
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