One area that concerns me is the way in which a lot of believers blackmail fellow believers especially at funerals when their friends have had a genuine loss. They’ve lost a father, perhaps they’ve lost a spouse, perhaps they’ve lost a child. And the believers in sincerity say to them, “Don’t mourn. You’re supposed to be a Christian. Christians are not supposed to mourn”.
Mourn With Those Who Mourn
And I find that that is very unfair because the Bible does not say that Christians should not mourn. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Let us allow those who have lost a loved one to grieve. Indeed, let us grieve together with them.
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn”. This is an appeal to believers. And the understanding is that they will be mingling with individuals who’ve had a great achievement and they should rejoice with them. At the same time they’ll be mingling with individuals who’ve had a tragic loss. And they should also mourn with those.
So it’s not only those who’ve had a loss that should mourn, but it is also believers who should identify with them and mourn as well.
What About Celebrating The Life?
The language today is one of celebrating. We must be celebrating the life of someone who has died. And in a sense there’s nothing wrong with that. Because somebody who has had a great impact by their life, in the life that they have lived, surely we should be grateful to God for such a life. And therefore we should celebrate what that person has achieved.
The reason why people mourn, and grieve, and weep is because of the sense of loss.
But at the same time let’s realise, that the reason why people mourn, and grieve, and weep is because of the sense of loss. There’s a person who was in their life, that person is someone they loved and loved them back. And now death has torn that person away from them. Surely there should be a sense of loss. And it is that sense of loss that causes the grieving, the weeping and consequently the mourning.
Godly Men Mourned In The Bible
We see for instance in the Bible a number of individuals who actually mourned. And these individuals are ones we should emulate. And an example is that of Stephen in the book of Acts when he died. We are told in Acts 8:2 that, “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him”. Notice, they were ‘godly’ men. So this is not their worldliness. This is not compromise that is making them do this. These are men who were godly.
But also we are told that they mourned deeply for him. In other words, anybody could see the sense of loss that they were going through as they mourned, they wailed at the loss of Stephen who meant so much to them.
There is no sin in Jesus. There’s no worldliness, there’s no compromise. And yet we are told that he wept at the death of his friend.
And in case you think, “Well, they’re still sinners as godly as they might be”, let’s remember the example of our Lord Jesus Christ when Lazarus died.
The Bible gives us the shortest verse that is there. And it is simply the words in John 11:35, “Jesus wept”. There is no sin in Jesus. There’s no worldliness, there’s no compromise. And yet we are told that he wept at the death of his friend – and that despite the fact that he had the power to raise him from the dead, and he was in fact about to do so. He was still touched by the loss that took place in the death of Lazarus. And especially moved as Lazarus’ own sisters were weeping for him.
Jesus mourned with those who mourned. So, let’s be clear that there’s nothing wrong with Christians mourning.
What About 1 Thessalonians 4:13?
But before I end, I realise that individuals who normally speak like this tend to go to 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to justify this, “Let us celebrate the life of a Christian. Let’s not mourn.” What does the Bible say there? 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says: “Brothers we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope”.
We should not weep to the same extent as unbelievers do who have no hope.
People read that and they say, ‘Aha! You see, we are not supposed to grieve the way in which non-believers grieve”. Well, let’s be clear that that’s not what this passage is teaching. Because if that’s what it’s teaching then the godly men in Acts were wrong and Jesus was wrong. That can’t be true.
So then, what is this passage teaching? It is basically saying that we should not weep to the same extent as unbelievers do who have no hope.
Death Is Not The End
So, weeping – we should. Grieving – we should. But it should be tempered by the realisation that for us death is not the end. We will meet in heaven with the departed believer and we will rejoice together.
We will meet with the friend who has departed on the other side. All we have said is, “Goodnight. See you in the morning”.
Jesus Christ has died. He’s paid the full penalty for our sin. And therefore, we will never go to hell. We will be in heaven. In other words, the loss we have suffered is a temporal loss. We will meet with the friend who has departed on the other side. All we have said is, “Goodnight. See you in the morning.”
So, yes, there will be a sense of loss on this side and we will mourn, but not as the unbelievers mourn. Because for them it is a permanent loss. That’s what 1 Thessalonians 4:13 really means.
So, again in summary: yes let us allow those who have lost a loved one to grieve. Indeed, let us grieve together with them. It is only biblical. It is only right.