Today I met with a couples small group from NewPointe. They asked me to come talk with them about an interesting topic that I had not thought much about. They asked me if cremation was OK for a Christian to do. I hadn’t given it much thought even though I have done several funerals in which the body was cremated. It is becoming much more common in the United States. Nearly 25% of Americans are cremated. Some do it because of the expense of burial, others because they are in an area that is difficult to bury people because of the sea level.
I began to do some research. I soon learned that there is much controversy over the practice of cremation. Some writers and teachers would say that Christians should absolutely not be cremated. Others would say it is fine. Well, I had to dig a little deeper.
The Bible actually does not give any specific teaching about cremation. It was practiced in Biblical times, but not by Hebrews or New Testament believers. The Bible does talk about burial as the common way to treat the body. In Biblical times they used tombs or caves to bury people. They did not bury them six feet under in a casket. I think that started much later in Europe.
Because the Bible does not come out and speak directly about cremation we need to understand why many Christians over the years have been opposed to cremation. Some believers would say that it does not recognize that one day God will resurrect our bodies and re-unite them with our soul and spirit (1 Corinthians 15:35-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). I find that argument hard to take because I think God is bigger than that. Nothing is too difficult for God, He can resurrect our bodies from dust or ashes or bones. What about the Christians that have been burned up in fires by accident or blown up in explosions? What about the people in the 9-11 tragedy?
Another objection is that pagan cultures and other religions practice this and by doing this we are agreeing with them or becoming like them. The Hindu religion practices this because they believe in reincarnation. I agree that we need to be careful that we are not endorsing pagan practices and worship, but if you have a Christian funeral, acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you are not endorsing other religions. A Christian funeral is a great place to witness to family and friends. The greatest gift you can give your family is that you have a persoanl relationship with Jesus Christ, so they don’t need to worry and have no hope.
Don’t miss the point here. We can debate this all day long, along with other doctrine issues. But the important thing for us to remember is this. Are we living our lives right now the way God wants us too? At our funeral will people know without a shadow of doubt where your heart was? Are you doing the things today that are glorifying God? Are you serving God with your time, treasure and talents. Are you loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving other people as much as you love yourself? Are you working on your relationships with other people?
You see we can get stuck in debates about this practice or that tradition and miss the whole relationship that God desires to have with us. Jesus came so that we wouldn’t have a bunch of rules and practices we had to do in order to be saved. He went after the religious people of his day because they were so focused on doing things and living by the rules that they missed the Messiah right in front of them. He died and was resurrected in three days so that we all could have the free gift of eternal life by simply believing in Him and asking for forgiveness.
So, is cremation OK for a Christian? For some it is and for others it may not be. The more important question should be are you ready? Is your heart right with God? If you died today would you go to heaven? I really don’t care what happens to my body after I die. I hope some of my organs can help someone else. I believe God will give me a new body some day, but until then I will try to live each day in right relationship with God.