Funeral Myths

I went to a friend’s funeral yesterday where I heard a number of things to add to my running mental list of “funeral myths .” With the ever-increasing degree of Bible Illiteracy, combined with the growing number of believers who are “cultural captives,” more conformed to the culture than to Christ (please see my earlier blog “Are You a Pickle?”), it’s not surprising that people would have unbiblical beliefs about death, heaven, and God.

Several songs were played at my friend’s funeral. One is called “Borrowed Angels,” which started like this:

They shine a little brighter, they feel a little more
They touch your life in ways no one has ever done before
They love a little stronger, they live to give their best
They make our lives so blest, so why do they go so soon?
The ones with souls so beautiful
I heard someone say—

There must be Borrowed Angels, here in this life
They come along, into this world, and make this world bright
But they can’t stay forever
Cause they’re heaven sent
And sometimes, heaven needs them back again.

No, people are not “borrowed angels.” God created the angels before He created mankind. We are very different from angels; they were created to serve God and serve us, and we are created to be drawn into and enjoy the love, fellowship, joy and delight of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They made us in Their image (Genesis 1:26), which elevates us above angels. People and angels are two different kinds of creation, and one does not become the other.

Which brings me to another myth I heard yesterday: that Valerie is now “our guardian angel.” While this may be a comforting thought to those gripped by loss, no she’s not.  She’s enjoying unhindered, face-to-face worship of Jesus and fellowship with those who now live in heaven.

Do we have guardian angels? The Bible doesn’t give a definitive answer on that, although the Lord Jesus did say, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) And Psalm 91:11 promises, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (From my article Angels: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly at Probe.org).

At yesterday’s funeral, people stood up to make comments about our friend. One distraught lady concluded her remarks with an angry, “God, You’d better take good care of her.” My heart went out to her, not just because of her grief but because she doesn’t know that God is good and doesn’t need to be cajoled, much less threatened, into caring for His beloved daughter. Sometimes people get angry with God for taking someone home earlier than they want, and the anger comes from a sense of betrayal—as if God doesn’t have the right to determine the length of a person’s life. Yet Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”  None of us lives a single day more, or less, than God had determined before He even created us. A loving God is in control—and that extends to the days of our birth and our death.

The man who conducted the funeral told a story about how they used to keep a little girl in their family in line by threatening that Valerie would get after her with her spanking switch. “Well now Valerie’s not here,” he told us, “so we tell the little girl, “Valerie’s got her spanking switch with her in heaven and when you get up there she’s gonna bust your butt.”

Uh, no.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Valerie’s not busting any butts in heaven, and part of the good news is that God isn’t either!

When my aunt died, someone tucked a deck of cards under her hands in her casket because Aunt Maggi loved to play cards and they were sure she was having a great time up in heaven playing pinochle with her brothers. When my mother died, several relatives comforted each other by laughing about how Mom had finally joined the great heavenly card party. This is another myth about heaven , that it’s a lot like our human activities on earth only better. People who believe this myth usually have no concept of the greatness and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, or they wouldn’t be willing to settle for images of unending card games and fishing and bowling tournaments.

What funeral myths have you come across?

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor. She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions. Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.

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