Plastic. Stone. Plastic that looks like stone.
All week you’ve been driving by tombstones in nearly every yard that have R.I.P. engraved on them. Even your local costume shop is advertising R.eally I.nsane P.rices.
It shows up during Halloween because it’s grounded in plenty of historical grave plots. And lest you think it’s merely a cheesy decoration that just so happens to be cut into a few age-worn headstones, please recall that just a few months ago it was all over the internet – everyone wanted their moment to wish Robin Williams, “Rest in peace.”
But is it appropriate for a Christian to use the phrase (or corresponding acronym) when not decorating their house with some hallowed-macabre?
It’s really not.
“Rest in peace” is one of the most noble, well-intentioned lies we can offer (regardless of who you’re talking about). Everyone wants something nice to say at a funeral, and despite the fact that graveyard publishing has the fewest readers of any written medium, people still want their loved one’s stones to be memorable. But Christians who are serious about Christ-honoring communication must exchange such notions for more honest platitudes.
If you use the phrase “rest in peace” to describe a Christian, your view of the eternal state needs some revamping. That wonderful lady who just slipped into eternity after her battle with breast cancer isn’t napping or kicking back on a fluffy cloud of ease. She’s caught up in enraptured bliss in the presence of the eternal God Himself! She’s singing and praising and talking and loving and living!
And if you’re implying that the body in state should rest peacefully, why even spend a moment dwelling on it when you know your loved one is presently enjoying the glories of eternal life in worshipful bliss patiently awaiting their glorified body (which will far outshine the sin-cursed mortal coil they were finally able to shuffle off)? Let’s not give the wrong impression of what awaits the Christian who passes through the river of death. And let’s not waste time on the weary flesh; thankful to finally return to dust.
When referring to someone who was likely not born-again, I understand the desire to be soothing and consoling to the family and friends who are grieving. It’s very difficult. And though I do not believe the funeral is a place for anybody to flaunt the fact that the deceased is likely in hell, we shouldn’t swing to the opposite extreme and lie to make grieving feel better. Funerals are amazing places to share Christ’s Good News, but if you’re not going to talk about the Good, don’t lie to cover up the bad.
“Let every man speak truth with his neighbor.” Ephesians 4:25
The world doesn’t need more trite – especially when it comes to God. Be solid. Provide an honest, biblical answer. If the deceased is a Christian, praise God for his home-going and seize the opportunity to remind people of what awaits us in the Father’s holy light. And if you have the weighty responsibility to eulogizing the life of someone who denied Christ as their Savior, speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It won’t be easy. It can’t. But if you default to a Halloweenesque, syrupy-sweet sidestep by wishing them “rest in peace,” you’re lying to everyone in your hearing, for the soul without God is doing anything but.
Instead, use the tragic truth in love to point those who are alive and remain to the promise of an eternity with God.
Or just keep your mouth shut. It’s not the best option, but it’s better than lying to someone about the reality of life and death.
After I’ve breathed my final draft of earth-air, please don’t riddle social media with “R.I.P.’s.” Use the opportunity to glorify God by sharing His Truth with the world. We all need more Truth.