I’ve conducted a number of funerals as a Pastor. Occasionally I must bite my tongue (so to speak) when I hear people comfort themselves in saying the deceased has ‘gone to a better place’. Maybe. But why would they think that if the deceased didn’t believe in God or have any faith commitment?
Why now should there suddenly be a ‘better place’ and the deceased have rights to it?
In a sense, a funeral should give us a moment to confirm convictions with crystal clarity. We should know what we believe, why we believe and be confident in what happens next. But so often, people don’t want to put much thought into this. They want to skim over the ‘what happens next’ question and head straight to the comfort of ‘a better place’ for those who want it.
Some people ridicule Christians for their faith because they think it’s just ‘blind faith’. But it’s not. I’ve seen blind faith… That’s what I hear at the funerals of people without tested, considered faith: “At least he’s in a better place now”. Faith is being certain of something we cannot see or are still to experience because we have a clear reason (1 Peter 3:15). It seems so strange to me that people can attend funerals and yet, still not take time to make certain of what they believe. Eternity is something you really want to be sure about – even if you must make the decision by faith. Just don’t make a decision by lazy assumption: “I want my friend to be in a nice heavenly after life, so I’ll just assume he is”.
Seek, ask, explore, pray…then decide.
On the other hand, I’ve been at many Christian funerals, or often-called, ‘Celebrations of Life’. They’re awesome! If you know the person, you still have to grieve and feel the pain of loss. But because they’re a person who had a real, living faith in God’s Son Jesus and His saving grace, you enjoy a very special perspective: the deceased is not dead - the ‘tent’ of their body is. But they, their soul and spirit, have simply returned home to our eternal Father. You start wondering what it must be like for them, who a few days ago, only knew our broken, mixed up, painful world – and now they’re in heaven, seeing and experiencing unlimited joy, peace and fulfilment…
Stephen Covey , author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, commits a whole chapter to ‘Beginning with the end in mind’. He challenges the reader to shift their perspective; to consider their own funeral – what do you want people to say about you? What do you want your life to result in? It’s a principle of successful living to plan our life by thinking first about how we want it to end. But how many of us don’t take it the next step and consider our life now from the perspective of the life to come AFTER death?
Our perspective changes how we see things. Earth from a boat in the pacific looks different to earth from my backyard, or earth to the astronaut in space. Same earth, but different perspectives. Life also looks different when we are aged and facing death compared to when we first left school. But most important is when we consider our lives from heaven’s perspective or from eternity.
Without heaven’s eternal perspective, we’re left with valuing things according to how they make us feel in the moment. I.e. If it feels good now, we must have it or do it because there’s no eternal hope to live for. And if we lose something or someone, it pains us more because this short life is all we get. Life becomes desperate and fragile. But if we have an eternal perspective: death is not the end; material things have little value; hope grows; and grief is short. And an eternal perspective on life helps us identify what truly matters. Things like: God, people, love, character. These become the things that we invest our life into because they last eternally.
How much of our grief and disappointments are amplified by a perspective on life that is fixed only on the now and the temporary? When we discover the reality and heart of God the Father, we discover a whole new perspective on life and a whole new hope for the eternal rewards to come. Earth is not heaven; it is not our eternal home; it is not the limit of our hopes. It is merely the preparation ground for an eternal Kingdom that God the Father has prepared for us to inherit.
Perspective: it’s a view point we’ve either inherited or chosen. It’s a view worth reviewing from an eternal point of view. Same eyes with a new perspective, creates a new hope from the same life.
Jesus said it best with a question: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Make sure your funeral provides a clear answer.