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The Funeral Dilemma

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funeral-flowersAs I had mentionned in my opening post, this blog is meant to be a means of expression for some of my personal thoughts. There are perhaps some things that I say that are not necessarily statements that I have spent an enormous amount of time musing over hence approach with caution. I am going to state my thoughts regarding an issue that I’m certain a good deal of folks wouldn’t agree with however I will spend the time enunciating them regardless.

Yesterday a very close family member of mine passed away into eternity. I have had several close relatives pass on in the last few years and everytime has been tremendously trying. The strain on a person when facing the death of a loved one cannot be explained and has to be experienced in order to project just how exacting it really is. The truth is however that the most difficult part of these unfortunate situations is not the actual death of the individual but, in my case, it is the aftermath. What I’m speaking of is the funeral! Funerals are a time when people attempt to find closure in a ceremony given by generally by a religious figure. It is a time when people feel they must pay respect to the individual and say one final goodbye. I’m not writing this because I am opposed to funerals at all since I would agree with the philosophy behind it and even would argue that it is biblical. The issue isn’t the funeral itself but the type of funeral. My family, for the most part, are all Roman Catholics and, quite obviously, I am most assuredly not! I am not going to give a full outline as to why I am opposed to Roman Catholicism but I’m sure in the midst of this post I will give a couple of examples. I am of no importance to this situation but my testimony is! So here we have it, a person I loved dearly passes on and will be having a Roman Catholic funeral mass. So what’s the big deal? Well, in my view, it is a very big deal. I have always been very zealous in trying to preserve my Christian testimony and in this situation I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Let me explain:

  • If I don’t attend the funeral (as I haven’t in the past) then my family will perceive me as being disrespectful and uncaring towards them and my beautiful relative. They might think less of the gospel I preach and might less prone to listen to what I have to say.
  • If I do attend the funeral then I will be compromising my testimony in that I will be giving credibility to the ceremony itself. I will not be, in essence, abstaining from all appearance of evil (1 thess. 5:2). I will be giving, in some sense, acceptance in the words of the priest issuing the eucharist and ceremonial rights.

I have always had the attitude that my Christian testimony by opposing false gospels would always come first but there is a price to pay by doing such. I have explained by beliefs to my family members yet they continue to ask me to participate in the funeral as a pallbearer. I am continuously attempting to present to them the gospel and why I can’t participate or be in any part associated with the gospel of rome. Let’s face it…they don’t understand and, unless they are regenerated, they probably won’t. I have yet to have any good results yet I cannot be surprised since the gospel isn’t something that is going to make any sense to those who are, at this time, perishing. (1 Corinthians 2:14) What is also difficult to really make them understand is that they are expecting me to compromise my belief for their belief while they won’t do the same for me. If I asked them not to attend due to the fact that the gospel of Rome saves no one and their presence there could bring confusion to the real gospel there would be no way they would accept this. On the other hand, they desire for me to go to a mass because they believe it is the way we pay “final respect” to our loved one even though they have no basis for this except their own intuition.

One passage that I have often fallen back upon when this situation arises is in the text of Matthew 8:21-23 where we read:

Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.

These words have always been tremendouly comforting to me in the sense that I have always been thankful to the Lord for the plainess of the message. I believe it speaks to the heart of the matter in that the Lord demands our faithfulness to Him. I found John Calvin’s notes on this passage very enlightening:

By these words Christ does not condemn burial…He intended only to show, that whatever withdraws us from the right course, or retards us in it, deserve no other name than death. Those only live, he tells us, who devote all their thoughts, every part of their life, to obedience to God; while those who do not rise above the world, who devote themselves to pleasing men, and forget God, are like dead men, who are idly and uselessly employed in taking care of the dead. (Commentaries, J. Calvin, Vol. 16, Baker Books, P.390)

So this is my conviction in that I feel that my testimony and faithfulness to the Lord is better displayed by my absence from the funeral mass. I am not implying that anyone should have the same exact convictions as I do. I wouldn’t condemn someone for going to a loved one’s funeral but I am stating that one should perhaps reflect upon these things in order to see if they are aligned with scripture.

Written by shawnkjmcgrath

July 17, 2009 at 12:54 am

Posted in Death, Funeral