How do you deal with the death of an unsaved loved one?
I was on the phone with one of our brothers on Monday, and his 93-year-old dad had just died. And whenever the word comes to me I'm just so hesitant to ask, "Was he a believer?" I want them to volunteer it.
And he did. He brought it up. He said, "I don't have much confidence that he was." And then he said, "But I'm going to have to just leave that to the Lord."
I'm sure he didn't even think of it this way, but that is kind of a biblical paraphrase of the text that I use most often in this context: "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).
I've only done a few funerals for unbelievers that I know were unbelievers. They are way worse than anything. I would rather do a suicide of a believer than a funeral for a blatant unbeliever.
I remember one time just standing around the coffin—there were only about 12 people there, including the older woman who knew her brother was just a pagan. He just hated everything about the church and Christianity. And I couldn't hide this. Everybody there knew and thought, "What's he going to say? What's the pastor going to say?" There was no hiding this.
And I said, "We all know"—and I can't remember his name now. He wasn't part of our church. I never knew him—"We all know that he was not a believer, and we know that he deserved the wrath of God and will experience it. But what we must keep our focus on is that God is just, God is good, and God does not do anything that we will not ultimately approve someday." And then I read that text from Genesis 18:25: "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
"And right now," I confessed, "right now the right thing feels very painful to us. Horribly painful. Maybe immobilizingly, paralyzingly painful with grief. We need to move to the point where, by grace, we realize that one day God will give us the emotional wherewithal to see the justice in all of his actions." And that seemed to help.