I attended a funeral of a non-Christian recently. It was a very moving and special and sad and wonderful experience.
A whole bunch of thoughts and feelings buzzed around:
- This was not a religious funeral at all, but it was also not full of sloppy, thoughtless and sentimental platitudes. Both the funeral director and the family members and friends who spoke expressed genuine, tangible, true words of comfort, grief and wisdom. We do wrong if we totally dismiss the capacity of unbelievers to have anything good to say. While this is not the glorious hope and wisdom of the gospel… this kind of considered wisdom of the world still has a true wisdom to it.
- There was a range of religious views expressed from a theistic view: ‘God made the miracle of the world and made us out of stardust 15 billion years old… And we will miss this miracle , who has now dies’; to more spiritualist: ‘he lives on in his children and in his influence upon us’; to the more atheistic ‘he valued his friends and family’. Speaking about religion is not dead in at least this Australia cultural context.
- As best as I could see, the deceased was indeed a ‘good man’, from the perspective of this world. From a family and friendship circle of ‘good men’, who were raised by a ‘good man’. Many spoke of him as a ‘family man’ and a ‘dear friend’. It nice experience such a celebration of good male strength, ingenuity, tender care, commitment, passion, martial faithfulness, male friendship, emotional openness and fatherhood.
- There is a kind of good deed and love which comes from simple presence. Being there. Laughing. Smiling. Chit chatting because what else can you say?
- How more wonderful is it when all of these things can be scooped together along with a clear and confident proclamation of the gospel of Christ. The gospel doesn’t diminish and obscure most of this stuff — it elevates it and dignifies it even more.