Sharing your faith at a funeral?

28 Feb

This is appropriate, so is answering direct questions about faith/spirituality (as long as you’re sensitive). Save anything else until later on.

The other day a friend called with a random request: She and her husband were headed to a celebration of life and weren’t sure how to talk to people there. My first thought was some sort of pro-life rally – and I began formulating a few responses. Then she said specifically that she wasn’t sure how to respond when people said “at least he’s in a better place now…” So this was actually a funeral. That’s a different animal.

I can understand the celebration idea – I’m insisting on a traditional jazz funeral – but people are still grieving, even if there is upbeat music and Hors D’oeuvres. This isn’t really the atmosphere to challenge someone who is dealing with loss, but we’re still supposed to bear witness to the truth. I thought about it for a while and texted her back that “I hope so” is a decent approach to take when presented with the ‘better place’ assertion. This is an acknowledgment that we actually DON’T know any given person’s fate. We don’t know what may have transpired in the moments before death and we don’t know exactly how far God’s grace extends. We do know that Jesus says he is the only way to the father and Christian belief includes a real punishment for those who reject Christ’s offer of salvation. For this reason, affirming the ‘better place’ sentiment applied to a confessed unbeliever would be insincere. “I hope so” is charitable without being dishonest.

I also suggested that if anyone with whom she was in relationship with made the statement, a follow up conversation would be worthwhile in a few days or weeks. Then she could express curiosity about the statement and offer some of her own perspective without being insensitive at the actual funeral.


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