Monday, January 12, 2015

Can Christians Wish RIP (Rest in peace)?

            This is a very sensitive theme. I mean no disrespect to the dead or the relatives or friends of the dead. But this is the fact; each of us live within the precincts of our worldviews. Therefore our thoughts, words and deeds are either profoundly predicated upon our worldviews or will reflect our position concerning our worldview. Please bear this in mind as you navigate through this short essay.

            RIP (Latin: Requiescat in pace) refers to “rest in peace,” which is customarily expressed to wish peace upon the souls of the departed. Although RIP is wished upon the departed, it is conveyed to the relatives and friends of the dead to comfort them.

            It is mandatory to comfort the relatives and friends of the dead. But why is RIP also used as a means of comforting?

            RIP implies soul’s survival after death. If the dead do not exist (post-death), peace or peacelessness of the soul is meaningless. Since it is believed that soul exists post-death, peace is wished upon the soul of the departed. Positing wellness upon the departed soul soothes the grieving person. Therefore, RIP that posits soul’s existence is a wellness phrase solely intended to comfort the living.

            Although RIP could comfort the grieving living associate of the dead, it does not impact the state of the departed. The state of the departed is determined by God and not man.

            Therefore, wishing peace upon the departed soul need not bring forth peace upon the departed soul. The departed soul is at the mercy of God and not man. Peace or peacelessness of the departed soul is a consequence of God’s judgment and is beyond man’s scope. Man cannot wish or offer peace to the departed soul.

            Historic Christianity believes in the existential reality of heaven and hell. Heaven offers peace to the departed soul, whereas hell offers peacelessness. Therefore, when a believer of Christ passes away, he/she would be in an eternal state of peace. Consequently, an unbeliever who passes away is believed to be in an eternal state of peacelessness.

            Because a departed believer of Christ would be in heaven, wishing RIP upon the believer would be factual. However, wishing RIP upon an unbeliever of Christ would not be factual, since that soul would not be in a state of eternal peace.

            Christians espousing historic Christianity (by this I exclude Christians professing to liberal, universalistic and postmodern theology) should not wish RIP. Wishing RIP in spite of believing in heaven and hell contradicts the core tenets of historic Christianity.

            A Christian who wishes RIP upon an unbeliever judges the unbeliever to be in heaven (a state of peace). But only God can judge mankind.

RIP-Wishing-Christian Is In Conflict With God

            When a Christian judges an unbeliever by wishing RIP, he strives to unseat God from the throne of judgment. In this context, the Christian commits himself to a conflict with God. Hence he who wishes RIP upon an unbeliever sins against God because of his conflict with God. This is the first problem.

RIP-Wishing-Christian Disobeys God

            The second problem for a Christian wishing RIP upon an unbeliever is his disobedience to God. If God deems an unbeliever to hell, then by virtue of wishing RIP, the Christian pronounces heaven upon the unbeliever. It is by disobeying God the Christian wishes RIP that implies heaven for an unbeliever.

RIP-Wishing-Christian Offers False Hope

            The Christian who wishes RIP upon an unbeliever deceives the recipients of the RIP wish with false hope. Pronouncing heaven upon the unbeliever is to comfort the associates of the unbeliever with false hope when in reality the unbeliever would exist in a peaceless hell. This is the third problem for the Christian.

            Significantly, offering false hope negates or diminishes the possibility of the living associates of the departed unbeliever seeking to believe and follow Christ. Why seek Christ while you are living when you would be in peace after death?

RIP-Wishing-Christian Denies Christ

            The fourth significant problem for the Christian who wishes RIP upon an unbeliever is his implied denial of Christ. According to the erring Christian (RIP wishing), the unbeliever is to go to heaven. This then denies the gospel of Christ – HIS virgin birth, sinless life, perfect sacrifice, crucifixion and ascension.

            Alternately, if an unbeliever is to go to heaven, then Christ and HIS sacrifice is totally unnecessary and absurd. Thus the RIP wishing Christian clandestinely denies Christ by pronouncing eternal peace upon the unbeliever.

State Of RIP-Wishing-Christian

            How much of a Christian is the RIP pronouncing Christian? Does he not know his own faith or would he possibly be a liberal or a postmodern Christian?

            The RIP pronouncing Christian may not have thought about his faith or the implication of his RIP pronouncement from the vantage point of Christianity or the Historic Christian stand on RIP. This probably is the state of most Christians who wish RIP. This short essay is intended to help them.

            Then there are the deviant Christians. I am referring to the liberal, universalistic and postmodern Christians. These Christians misinterpret the Bible to posit hell’s non-existence to espouse either universal salvation (heaven for all – the believers and the unbelievers of Jesus Christ) or annihilationism (annihilation / non-existence of the unbelievers after death).

            When these deviant Christians wish RIP, they do so for belief permits them to do so, even though the Bible univocally affirms the existence of hell as the eternal state of the unbelievers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Appropriate Comfort

            Having said these, we ought to know that our pronouncement of RIP does not or cannot impact the eternal state of the departed soul. But a motive behind the utterance of RIP is to comfort the associates of the departed, and most surely it is our bounden responsibility to comfort those in grief.

            When a loved one departs from this world, the friends and relatives would indeed grieve and grieve rather irreparably. This is undeniable.

            During such grief, man could comfort his fellow man, although such a comfort can only be partial. Despite receiving comfort from fellow man, the grieving person would continue to yearn and grieve over a period of time. The only source of perfect comfort is God, who alone has the power to perfectly comfort the grieving.

            Instead of saying RIP, we could effectually state, “may the comfort of God be upon you and your family” or something similar.  We should also earnestly pray for the grieving that God would comfort them. This is valid.

            To conclude, we need to think through our statements especially if we are serious about our faith in God. Our yes should be yes and no should be no. We should diligently not commit to anything that conflict with God. May God help us to live a life that glorifies HIM and not conflict with HIM. Amen.

"Is it biblical to say ‘rest in peace’ (RIP) in regards to someone who has died?"
Read more:

No comments: