In my last post, we looked at the joy death brings for the Christian who dies trusting in the promises of Christ. But for those who remain here on earth, after a loved one dies, death brings an altogether different emotion. While the passed-on saint, rejoices, the remaining Christian, weeps. And rightly so. It is a rather new phenomenon that Christian funerals bear a resemblance to a festive gathering, rather than a somber one. Should Christian funerals be a time of celebration or a time of mourning?

One thing is clear, death is never celebrated in the scriptures. In fact, it is often followed by periods of mourning, days of lamenting and weeping. This response to death is in accordance with what Bible communicates about it.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul refers to death as an enemy. It is a reminder that there is something terribly wrong with this world. Things are not right. Adam and Eve were meant to live forever and not experience the physical death that is part of our world today. But they forfeited that blissful state and plunged all of humanity into sin. And sin produced death.

Romans 5:12

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Death is a byproduct of this sinful world. So, when death happens, via any means – cancer, heart attack, murder, natural causes, Christians shouldn’t celebrate, we should mourn, because things are not the way they are supposed to be.

Jesus demonstrated this type of response. In John 11, He encounters Martha and Mary soon after their beloved brother has died. They are saddened and angry over what has transpired. A completely understandable response. If you have lost a loved one, you know how painful it can be. Jesus arrives and knows he is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, immediately changing the emotional narrative of the situation, doesn’t dismiss the pain of the moment. He gets to the tomb of his friend, and he weeps. Jesus is reacting to the brokenness of this world. He weeps because Martha and Mary were sorrowful, and he entered their pain.

Weeping, mourning and lament are proper responses to sin. Should you lose a loved one, do not let anyone discourage you from expressing sorrow. Weeping over death has you following the example of our Lord and our brothers and sisters who wept over the death of Stephen in Acts 8. Yes, mourning is appropriate. But for the Christian, lament and weeping over death should not lead to doubt and despair. It should lead to hope and to a solid assurance that our loved ones are with the Savior. That is the truth Paul comforted the grief-stricken saints at Thessalonica with.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Yes, we grieve because death reminds us of how awful sin is, but we do so knowing that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones. Death doesn’t call for celebration, it calls for a hope-filled sorrow that rests in the promise of Revelation 21, when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore….

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  • Avatar Louis Love says:

    Oh boy, Phil, you open Pandora’s box with this one. Almost every funeral I’ve attended in the last five years, there has been a call to celebrate. “This is not a funeral, this is a celebration”, is the adage. When my mom died back in 2003, the doctor attempted to medicate my dad because he was depressed. J and I flushed the meds down the toilet and helped Dad to understand that his response was appropriate, Gen. 23:1-2.

    Thanks Phil for this post. It adds a much needed word on the subject.

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