There is only one sort of funeral I would want to be involved in – either as a spectator or an actual participant – and that is a Christian funeral. That is because for the Christian, death is not the end, but only the beginning. Death is a graduation to a far better life, and as such it can be a cause of celebration.
Sure, it will always be a bittersweet affair, since it is always tough to lose a loved one. But if the person who died is a Christian, and you are a Christian, then both will be aware of the great homecoming with Christ that takes place. The final union with God through Christ is the aim of all believers, and they will recognise that this life has just been a stepping stone to real life – for eternity.
Thus a Christian funeral can be a time of great joy and rejoicing. The blessed hope of joining Christ in the resurrection and of reuniting with other Christian loved ones is a cause of celebration. And it is an assurance based solely on God’s grace, not our own efforts or abilities.
Thus we can have a sure hope of what comes next, and not live in fear that perhaps we have not been good enough to please a holy God. Knowing that we are assured of eternal life through the finished work of Christ contrasts markedly with so many other religious systems. It is because of what Christ has done for us, not what we do for him, that we become “accepted in the beloved”.
These truths were part of what I briefly shared yesterday at my own father’s funeral. I said my dad was now in a far better place, along with my mom, so for the believer this is a time of joy. ‘‘Today is a good day” I said yesterday. And it was. Sure, sadness and tears aplenty, but great joy as well.
I also mentioned Steve Jobs, and how he too passed away at age 56, and would have a funeral soon. The crowd at his funeral will be far greater than the crowd at my dad’s. I even mentioned how many people in the audience would have in their pockets products which came from the creative genius of Jobs. (I did remind them to turn the iPhones off, or at least turn the volume down.)
I also mentioned that for all the wonderful computing products he created or was involved in creating, at the end of the day it really does not mean a hill of beans. The only thing that ultimately matters is what relationship he was in with God through Christ.
I do not know of his spiritual state, although he was evidently a Buddhist. But Buddha of course is still in the grave. Only Jesus rose again from the grave, and he promises the same for those who put their faith and trust in him. So while I do not know about Jobs’ eternal situation, I know fully about my dad’s.
That is why yesterday was a good day. He is at home with his Lord, and has that eternal rest to now enjoy. Is Jobs in that same place? I don’t know. But I know he will not have an iPad or an iPod with him now. Indeed, he won’t have anything, and will stand naked before God as we all will.
Death does help give perspective then. It reminds us that we are all equal, and it is the great leveller. Getting right with God and our eternal destiny is far more vital than all the things we can accumulate in this life. I know that all too well at the moment.
For the past few nights I have slept in my family home – alone. Mom and Dad are in glory, and my siblings live elsewhere, so I was there all by myself. Given that it was the family home for the past 35 years or so, there is a heap of memories that come flooding in.
And there is a heap of stuff as well; an entire house-full. My parents experienced the Great Depression, so they took thrift and saving seriously – real seriously. I don’t think they threw away anything. So now we have a whole lot of work to do to empty the place out and get it ready for sale.
So while there is a place for stuff and things, it stays right here when we pass on to the next life. So we need to get a bit of perspective here, and not be so clingy about our material goods. But as I said, despite all their hoarding, my parents both knew Christ and are both in a far better place now.
So as stated, their funeral was all in all a joyous occasion. It was a reminder to us all that this world is not our own, and that we all have an eternal destiny that we are preparing for. As the old saying goes, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.”
One day my children will experience what I have had to experience. I hope it is for them a joyous time, all things considered. Their grief should be outweighed by the joy of knowing where I have gone. May that be true of all children.