Dr Chase Kuhn teaches theology and ethics at Moore College (which includes consideration of the end times, death and judgment) and observes that, generally, people don’t know how to respond to death, so often say or do things to trivialise it.
While it’s hard to speak generally about a Christian response to death, Chase Kuhn believes there is a real opportunity for witness in the way that we grieve.
It is important not to trivialise death
“One author that I’ve read talks about how we can cheapen the work of Jesus when we trivialise death, so we say, ‘Oh, this is a portal to a better life’, or ‘Everything’s that much better now’,” he says. “That cheapens the real sting of death – that Jesus had to die for us so we could be rid of this thing. This is very painful, very real and very costly.
We can find peace
“But what Thessalonians 4 shows us is that we can grieve differently. It doesn’t take away the bite of death but we can have a certain peace through death that is appropriately Christian, especially when the loved one we’ve lost knows Christ. The truth of how awful death is still remains but the hope that sees us through that time is very real. That affords an opportunity for gratitude and expectation, which is good.”
The Rev Simon Manchester from St Thomas’, North Sydney agrees, adding that in some cases the hope held out in the Bible becomes separated from the very real grief a loved one’s death brings.
Adds Manchester: “One of the things I say at a funeral is that we need an expert – someone who will go through the grave and come back. There’s only one person who’s done that, and if I’m taking a funeral I would like, if possible, to overwhelm the thinking of the people in the pews with the logic of the resurrection and the good news of the resurrection.”
Because, after all, the best response is one that, by word or action, points to Christ.
David Clarke, rector of Hoxton Park“Last week we had the funeral of one of our church members who died suddenly… and we had a big crowd of her extended family and friends. We said in the service that she had a certain hope in Jesus and we knew we could speak confidently about her faith, the assurance we have and the certainty that she was going to heaven.
“That really struck many people there who were Catholic and Orthodox and Muslim and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This lady had been doing a wonderful job quietly witnessing to friends and neighbours… and there were lots of conversations afterwards about the sure hope we had in Jesus and that, in the midst of grief, we could have peace and joy knowing that she’d gone home.
“And that was not just a trite saying. We meant it. We don’t grieve without hope. That’s a fantastic verse. We do so knowing the certainty of the resurrection.”