by: Lynn Passet
Should we rejoice or weep when a brother or sister in Christ dies? Is a Christian funeral service a celebration or time for mourning?
As some of you may know, I am going through the end of life battle alongside of my mom at this time. Hospice has been called in and they are doing a wonderful job of making sure that she is loved on, cared for and kept as comfortable as possible. However; when someone dies and their time on earth has come to an end, many Christians aren't really sure how to act?
It has become almost routine to hear the heartfelt sentiments of a dear dying Christian say, “Don’t weep when I die. Rejoice, for I shall be with Christ." With the same affection, it is normal to hear family members of a deceased Christian say, “He didn’t want us to grieve. We want to joyfully remember the life he had and remind ourselves that he is truly in a better place”?
These are endearing statements. We don’t want to disparage the affection that moved these sentiments. However, these responses just aren't sufficient. We should not merely rejoice when a Christian dies.
The book of Romans tells us that "the wages of sin are death." (Rom 6:23)
No matter the benefits after death, death itself is an abomination. Death is an unwelcomed guest. It had no place in God's orgininal creation. Rather, it stormed onto the scene as the thief of life upon the entrance of sin into this world. Therefore, death itself is not to be celebrated. We cannot merely rejoice when a Christian dies somehow forgetting that death is an enemy.
It is true that at that moment when a Christian dies, their soul immediately passes into the presence of Christ but their body is left to decay. The soul is naked before the Lord. And the body lies lifeless and void of the soul until the resurrection. Therefore, there is a sense in which we could say that our naked souls are longing for the day of resurrection. For on that day they will be reunited to our bodies never to experience that horrible separation again. We will forever dwell as we were created to be.
The Scriptures never ask Christians to deny the feeling of grief–it is a right and holy sadness. And we should never ask our loved ones to deny that emotion either. There is a sort of super-spirituality present with such a request or repression. It is an attitude that surpasses the teaching of the Bible and what our Creator has asked of us. Just look at how Mary, Martha and their friends grieved at the loss of Lazarus! (John 11:33)
However, we should not merely grieve. When a Christian dies we should also be filled with rejoicing. Truly, for the Christian, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). As a believer in Christ departs from this life they are immediately in a far better place (Philippians 1:23). They are with Christ! They have finished the race and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7); and that faith has become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). They no longer see in a mirror dimly, but see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). The object of their love, affection, and joy is before and with them forevermore.
When a brother or sister in the Lord passes away, there should be grief and rejoicing. They both have a place. We grieve for what is lost and rejoice at what is gained. That is a good Christian theology of Christian death.