Church funeral
(iStock photos)

At the funeral, as at every other place where you rise to serve the Lord, preacher, tell the truth—the gospel truth.

You have an obligation to comfort the bereaved, true. But you have an even greater duty to obey your Lord by declaring the whole counsel of God. The Holy Spirit can guide you on how to do both; the flesh doesn't have a clue and will lean to one extreme or the other.

My pastor friend R.J. did something rather bold the other day. At the funeral of a young man who died of an overdose, he called out some in the audience who enabled him in his addiction.

Not that he called names. That would have been unnecessarily hurtful and counterproductive.

He said, "If some of you in this room had a part in bringing this young man to this point, I want to tell you, we don't hate you. We hate the devil and we hate what he has done."

Later, I asked him about that. I said, "Looking around, I didn't see anyone other than your son who looked like a druggie." We both laughed. His son is one of the finest people we know, although he does wear his hair in a ponytail that reaches to his belt and keeps his facial hair looking scruffy.

He said, "Several of the pallbearers were buddies who bought him weed and beer." That started the young man on the road that led to using heroin and a premature death.

Granted, R.J. wasn't brutally combative to these guys, but perhaps they got the message. Most pastors would not have attempted even that much.

The more funerals I hold, the more I find myself wanting to toughen up my approach.

Like many preachers, I have silenced my uncertainties concerning the spiritual status of the deceased—what does it matter now?—and tried to comfort the mourners with words that were softer than may have been necessary.

Sometimes people need it straight.

Here are several ways in which some of us pastors may want to "get tough" in our funeralizing ...

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