10 Reasons to Go to the Funerals of Unbelievers
- Casey B. Hough TheRenewedChurch.com
- 2017 9 Oct
Funerals can be awkward. Funerals are often sad, but funerals for unbelievers are truly tragic. The loss of life is not merely temporal, but eternal. Naturally, a Christian might feel as those they should avoid the funerals of unbelievers, feeling that they have no consolation or hope to offer in light of the circumstance. This, however, is not true at all. Christians are the “light of the world” that shine into dark places and situations. If anyone needs to be at the funeral of an unbeliever, it is the Christian.
There are several reasons why a Christian should attend the funerals of unbelievers, but for the moment, I will offer the top ten reasons for your attendance:
1) To Reunite with Friends and Family Members from the Past
Proverbs 17:17 tells us that a "friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." When an unbeliever dies, others hurt as well, and sometimes our presence at a funeral can be just what our friends need to make it through the trial. Friendship and brotherhood exist for such times. Funerals often reunite friends from former days and allow for the renewal of relationships. Such reunions can serve to help one another in the grieving process.
2) To Demonstrate Respect for a Fellow Image-Bearer
James 3:9-10 teaches Christians that God expects them to speak with respect for those who are “made in the likeness of God.” Even though unbelievers are not being conformed to the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:29), they still bear the image of God and are worthy of respect from Christians. Attendance at the funeral of an unbeliever affirms the dignity of all human beings.
3) To Comfort Others as Christ has Comforted You
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul wrote, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (ESV) This passage teaches Christians that God comforts them to be a comfort to others. The funerals of unbelievers provide Christians with an opportunity to be the comfort that God has designed them to be for others.
4) To Show Love for the Unbeliever’s Family, especially their Children
In Matthew 22:37-29, we find Jesus saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ” Love for our neighbors is to be second only to our love for God. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has lost a loved one. Imagine how they must feel. Now, imagine someone showing you love in the midst of your loss. You would want that type of love, right? Then you should show such love to the family (especially children) of the unbeliever who has passed away. Love for God leads us into empathic love for others.
5) To Mourn with Those Who Mourn
Paul tells Christians that they should “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). There is hardly a better opportunity to fulfill this command than at a funeral of an unbeliever. Sometimes Christians fear such situations because they do not know what they should say to those at the funeral. Tears, however, speak a universal language that the hurting understand without a word. Sometimes we do not need to say anything at all. We just need to mourn with those who mourn.
6) To Offer Hope in Christ for those Who Are Hopeless
According to Acts 17:26-27, God has “determine allotted periods of time and boundaries for our dwelling, that people would seek Him, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him.” This means that our circumstances and encounters with others are not accidents. God knows the “number of days” (Job 14:5) and brings us into contact with people right when He wills it. In situations like the death of an unbeliever, God may have appointed for you to be the person that a hopeless person encounters in their sorrow. Funerals are an opportunity to offer hope to the hopeless. So, do not miss out on the opportunity!
7) To Remember Your Own Mortality
In Hebrews 9:27, Christians are reminded that they are “appointed to die once and after this comes the judgment.” Such reminders offer opportunities for sober reflection on life and death. Christians only have one life to live for Christ, and it is only the things that they do for Christ that will last forever. Funerals remind us that one day it will be us in the casket with loved ones gathered around in the parlor. Such reminders should cause us to evaluate the things that we are living for in this life. As Leonard Ravenhill’s tombstone asks, “Are the things that you are living for worth Christ dying for?”
8) To Contemplate the Reality of the Resurrection
The funeral of an unbeliever is not the last time that the person will be seen physically alive. A day of general resurrection is coming for all people prior to when they will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Western society has practiced physical burial because of the influence of the belief in the resurrection. One day, the dead in Christ will rise first, then the rest of the dead will come forth (Revelations 20:4-6). Christian do well to contemplate the reality of a resurrection at the funerals, especially those for an unbeliever.
9) To Be Like Jesus (Kind Of)
Jesus was no stranger to a funeral. He did not fear those who were dead nor those who mourned for the dead. In fact, Jesus wept alongside those who mourned the dead (John 11:35). In this regard, when you attend the funeral of an unbeliever, you are walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The major difference between you and Jesus is that Jesus had a knack for “ruining funeral plans” by raising the dead. Even still, while we do not raise the dead like Jesus, we can still be like Him in His example to be present among the hurting.
10) To Be Motivated to Share the Gospel with Unbelievers Who Are Still Alive
God takes no pleasure in the death of the unbeliever (Ezekiel 33:11). Furthermore, He waits to returnbecause he is "patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). It is tragic for an unbeliever to die without hope in Christ, but that does not mean that we should allow others to die in unbelief. As long as there is breath in the lungs of our unbelieving friends, there is hope that Christ will save them. Let the funerals of unbelievers motivate us to minimize such tragic events by sharing the gospel with the lost!
Casey Hough serves as the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Camden, Arkansas. In addition to his pastoral work, Casey also serves as an Associate Research Fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and blogs regularly at www.TheRenewedChurch.com.
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