When it comes time to go to a funeral, as we all must – life isn’t just weddings you know, what do you say? Do you say, “She’s in a better place now”? I’ve said that before, and today has me wondering if it’s true.
I like asking people what they think we are, how (if) they compartmentalize being. Some people go crazy, they claim, “We’re body, soul, mind, heart, and spirit.” That’s never made any sense to me. The most I’ll consent to is two parts of being, body and soul. But I wouldn’t argue with you if you claimed we’re holistic, that we can’t be broken into parts. Maybe you’ve never cared or thought about it – but I think it matters when you go to a funeral.
If you think we are beings with parts (body, soul…), then you probably hold the Greek inspired view that when we die, we’re ripped apart. The body goes down into the grave, and the soul goes up to heaven (or down to hell). But if you think that we’re not beings who can be broken into parts, then maybe you aren’t so sure about “going to a better place.” I haven’t come to much conclusion, and here is why.
If we are two parts (or more), then why is it necessary for Christ to raise us up on the last day? If our soul, apart from our physical body, goes to the good place when we die, then what are we waiting for? Why do we need to be made new? Paul tells us, “the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
But if we are one part, then maybe when we die, we don’t “fly high” – maybe heaven does not “gain another angel.” Maybe our being, our whole self descends into the grave inside a casket. And maybe our loved ones console each other not with, “She’s in a better place” but with “Christ will raise her up again.” Just as Jesus laid in a tomb, heart unbeating, breath unbreathing, and then was raised up to new life and glorification, maybe we go down into the earth, dying in faith that he will not leave us there forever. Maybe Christ is called the firstborn from among the dead because we too will be born up out of the earth.
I haven’t decided, but I think I like that second view better – that he will raise me up. It helps me believe that my present darkness is not forever, that if from this earth I go down into hell, into darkness, even into death, I go down in hope that Christ will raise me up again. The one who himself laid lifeless in the dark will shine on me, breathe in me, raise me up, and pull me out.
“Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light…He will bring me out into the light.” (Micah 7).