Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“Grave Concerns”

My parents and I have a question about how to honor my deceased grandpas.  We would appreciate it if you could please help give us some guidance on this.


I was raised in a non-christian family in China.  One of my grandpa's ashes is kept in a Taoist temple where all the Taoist gods are worshiped.  My other grandpa has a picture at a Buddhist temple where the monks pray regularly.  My parents and I accepted Jesus Christ a few years ago, but our grandpas' ashes and picture are still at the temples.

We are unsure how to continue to show respect and honor my grandpas without violating God's commandments.  In America, it is typical that the deceased have a grave, and the loved ones go there to present flowers to honor the dead.  However, in my case, I cannot go to where my grandpa's ashes are to honor him without entering the Taoist temple full of idols and false gods.  What should I do?  Can I go, ignore the other gods, but just put flowers there for my grandpa?  Should I not go at all?

We cannot move his ashes elsewhere either because my grandma (who is still alive) and all my other relatives are still not christians.  In addition, the spot for his ashes at the temple cost a lot of money when they purchased it.  They are not going to agree to relocating my grandpa's ashes simply because of my belief and my mother's.  Both of my grandpas never heard the Gospel in their lives.  They died never knowing Jesus.  What shall we do now to honor them?  Thanks in advance for your guidance.

Temple Trouble

Dear Temple Trouble,

Every culture and country has unique issues that it presents christians with, but there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9).  Your problem is with appearances.  You know that the Buddhist and Tao gods are nothing at all (1 Cor 8:4).  You know this, but everyone else doesn’t, and therefore, for the sake of their consciences, you must be careful how you act (1 Cor 8:10).  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Do people assume if you go to a Taoist temple that you are going to worship their gods?  If so, you cannot go.  Leave flowers outside the temple or give them to relatives to deliver when they visit, but make it clear that you cannot be seen as an idolater.
  2. There are some religious sites that don’t give the impression that all visitors are of that religion.  For example, take the Sistine Chapel – millions of people visit the site every year, and many of them are not Catholic at all.  Visiting there does not give the impression you are Catholic; it merely gives the impression that you wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and its art.  If this is the case with visiting these temples, you may be able to go without giving the impression that you are worshipping their idols.  Only you can make this decision.  It is a cultural issue, and you must decide how people would view your visit.
  3. Can you in good conscience visit your grandfathers’ memorials?  If we cannot do something in good conscience, for us it is sin (Rom 14:23).  A bothered conscience is a sign that you believe you are doing the wrong thing, and even if that isn’t true – you have to abstain for conscience’s sake.
  4. There are many ways to honor our deceased relatives other than visiting their graves.  Putting their photos on our walls, writing memorials, re-telling stories of their lives, etc. are all viable ways of showing how much they meant to you.  When someone dies, they are no longer concerned with the affairs of this world; anything you do to honor them is for the benefit of the living, not them.

After considering both your conscience and the influence you have upon others, prayerfully make a decision and stick to your guns.  In the end, you serve God and not man (Acts 5:29).