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10 Things Not to Say at an Unbeliever's Funeral

10 Things Not to Say at an Unbeliever's Funeral

The end of this life is the beginning of an eternal one for all who believe in Christ (1 John 2:25). Our compassion should trump all else when consoling those who mourn an unbeliever. The Bible clearly tells us what will happen if unbelief is the fate we choose; however, we should not pretend to know everything about a God whose ways are beyond our understanding (Job 37:5).

The God of miracles, He has the final say over where a heart resides. In the quiet depths of every earthly heart, His voice calls. The answers may be audible to Him, alone. Romans 10:9-10 speaks of salvation beginning in the heart. The rest is in God’s hands, and timed perfectly.

When offering comfort in a crowd that doesn’t believe in its Author, here are ten strings of text to stay away from.

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  • 1. "How Incredibly Sad."

    1. "How Incredibly Sad."

    Toting extra sadness in the presence of a soul that might have slipped through the cracks of heaven is a normal sentiment for a Christian, but not an appropriate amount of compassion to apply in this situation. 

    John 14:27 assures us, “My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful.” A look of terror and tone of fear when speaking to loved ones will not extend the love of Christ to those mourning loss. 


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  • 2. "It's Too Late Now."

    2. "It's Too Late Now."

    Too much focus on the regret of a life lived without Christ is futile in this atmosphere, because we do not hold the final stamp on time. God has the authority to stretch minutes and expand moments, individually. Who are we to assume that time ran out on this soul? Discussion about why it’s too late for them to gain entrance into heaven is not appropriate at their funeral. 

    When Jesus told the people, and His disciples, the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4, He named conditions that were the farmer’s responsibility as well as those that were not. Though, as Christians, we are required to sow the seed of the gospel, we have no control over the ground it lands on or the conditions in which it will grow. It’s helpful to keep this in mind when paying respects to non-believers. 


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  • 3. "I Hope They Believed."

    3. "I Hope They Believed."

    The one lying there is someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, and/or friend. Audibly hoping for something that they were not in this life is insensitive. Life is a gift, and so is salvation. But that gift isn’t ours to give, or judge that it’s been opened. The privacy of one’s heart is secret. 

    Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us that “God will take care of the hidden things.” Any assumption that shifts our hearts towards a judgmental state should be shelved for a more compassionate overview. Hoping in the unknown can cause undue worry and unrest, to our hearts and that of a grieving family. Jesus commanded us not to worry, and not to judge. He also told us to love above all else, even in the hope that the deceased is with Him in heaven. 


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  • 4. "She's in God's Hands."

    4. "She's in God's Hands."

    The nervousness of the funeral atmosphere can cause us to spew out condolences we wish were true. But the Bible cautions us not to sin in our anger. When we feel pressure to start making promises to fragile hearts that may not be true, we’re better off turning our conversations towards things we know to be true. 

    1 Peter 4:11 reminds us that, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” God will always find a way to bring glory from any and all life, because everyone and everything is a part of His good creation. Even at a funeral of a lost soul, He is working in hearts. 


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  • 5. "He was a Good Person."

    5. "He was a Good Person."

    One of the basic principalities of Christianity is that entrance to heaven is not gained by works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2: 8-10).

    Instead of focusing on what that person did in their lifetime, applaud the good attributes of who they were. We are all made in the image of God, whether we choose to deny Him or not. “In advance” reminds us that God is not surprised by their good life. There’s an innate goodness planted in all of us, and when we look for the trail of evidence, we will see bits of it in every life. 


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  • 6. "It's Too Bad..."

    6. "It's Too Bad..."

    Jesus was the master of coming alongside those who were hurting, and we should aim to be, too. Genesis 1:27 states, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him.” God didn’t list specifications deserving of the redeeming quality of His likeness. That’s simply how we were created. 

    Our behavior on this earth does not negate the likeness we are created in. Sometimes, we tend to look upon “unbelievers” as if they are another creation all together. But we are all the same, created equal by the same loving God. Funerals are difficult times of separation, between this life and the next, but no life is ever deemed, “too bad.” Not by the God of miracles. All hope should never be lost based solely on what we see from the outside of someone’s life. 


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  • 7. Nothing.

    7. Nothing.

    Silence can be a good thing when we don’t know what to say, but the body language that accompanies it is important. A shrug, eye-roll, or condescending tone can leave the testimony of our lives and the One we follow looking like a mean-girl attempt to claim a status higher-than. 

    Christians are called to be compassionate. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Jesus Himself was moved with compassion before performing miracles (Luke 7:13; Mark 8:2), and speaks of the prodigal’s father running towards his returned son with compassion (Luke 15:20).


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  • 8. "I'm Sure She's in Heaven."

    8. "I'm Sure She's in Heaven."

    People search for assurance that it wasn’t too late for the one they cared about, and we have to be very careful about how we deliver our response. Spending time in the Word and in prayer will help us to be ready to convey true kindness in the name of Christ in moment like this. God has the ability to use all well-intended words for good, but we shouldn’t make promises that aren’t ours to deliver judgement upon. 

    God is good,” and “He gives everyone a chance beyond what we can understand,” are more comforting, and less misleading. 


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  • 9. Taking a Survey of Believers

    9. Taking a Survey of Believers

    We may think that our nonchalant way of finding other Christians in a crowd goes unnoticed, but unbelievers don’t lack the basic ability to pick up on our detective skills. Jesus loved all people for who they are, right where they were. We shouldn’t be worried about the status of all souls at a funeral, but living like we are loved for the way we are by Jesus. 

    We often worry about the status of the world, but we need to remind ourselves that Jesus has already overcome it: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The survey we should be internalizing isn’t that of saved souls, but of grieving hearts. 


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  • 10. "I'll Pray for the State of His Soul."

    10. "I'll Pray for the State of His Soul."

    Prayer is powerful, but we shouldn’t lob its purpose out there as if we know the guaranteed response, or as if our prayer has the power to trump God’s just and right judgement; rather, an assurance that they are in our prayers is more of a comfort and less of a promise that we have no control over. 

    Psalm 34:15 teaches that “He is always listening.” Convey that message to those who need His comfort to help them walk through days of fresh grief. Offer prayers for their loved one, for happy memories to remain and their sadness to fade in time. Those who have lost someone are rarely looking for one person to lift their depressive state. Humans, made in the image of God, seek His love. 


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    Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, “Mom” is the most important calling on her life, next to encouraging others to seek Him first … authentically. A writer, dance mom, substitute teacher, youth worship leader/teacher and Bible Study leader, she can often be found having some kind of an adventure in the small little lake town where she resides with her husband of ten years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle.