Ask Your Preacher
My grandmother died this year; she was ninety-four years old. She had two daughters. In her will, she left the major portion of her estate to her younger daughter. When my grandfather was alive, they had a living trust; their estate was divided equally between the two daughters. My grandmother always favored her younger daughter and her family, and it was very noticeable to an outsider. When the reading of the will was done, it hurt my mother, making her feel even more unloved. My mother never did anything to deserve this. My mother is a God-fearing Christian and has always done the right thing. My aunt won't have a thing to do with my mother, which was another blow to my mother. What does God think of a woman who would cause so much pain?
Your question is a loaded one. Realistically, we all cause others pain, and every story has two sides to it. We won’t even begin to talk about the eternal fate of someone we’ve never even known. After hearing your perspective, we can’t imagine why anyone would behave like that, but that is always the way you feel when you only hear one side of a story (Pr 18:17).
Jesus was once asked by two men to settle a family dispute about money, and His answer was, “Who made Me a judge or divider over you?” (Lk 12:13-14). We would have to take the same tact – it isn’t our place to try and unravel family financial squabbles.
We are very sorry for your pain, and we are so sorry that your mother is hurting. The best advice we can give is to not focus on what others think of us and remember that if we serve the Lord, He will cause all to work together for good (Rom 8:28).
My wife’s grandmother passed away a few months ago. They were very close. My wife came from a Baptist family. When we met, I was able to show her the truth, and now she is a member of the Church; my heart was broken when she looked at me and asked me, "Is it wrong for me (my wife) to think my grandmother is in heaven?” I didn't know what to say. We both know what the Bible says, and we know that no matter what, what we would like to believe is irrelevant. The Bible still says we must be baptized. How can I answer a question my wife already knows the answer to? Does that make any sense? What would you recommend the best way to word this answer? It's much harder than I thought.
Dear Compassionate Husband,
Mourning is such a difficult process because grief isn’t logical; it is emotional. The fact is that you don’t have to give your wife an answer at this time; sometimes the best comfort is what Job’s friends provided him with – quiet companionship (Job 2:13). Sometimes all you need to say is, “I can’t imagine how much you are hurting at this time” and leave it at that.
However, if your wife looks for a more in-depth answer, God says that He finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 33:11). That tells you that God will not send anyone to hell by accident, from spite, or out of malicious intent. Anyone who ends up in hell really, truly belongs there, and all those who are meant to be in heaven will be there. When your wife’s grandmother faces God on the Day of Judgment, God will make the right decision concerning her fate. There is some comfort in knowing that God will not make any mistakes.
When family members have passed, can they hear us or see us from heaven? Do they remember us?
Dear Still Here,
Within Hades, there are two areas where people wait for the final judgment. All of the faithful who die wait in the good part of Hades called ‘Paradise’ (2 Cor 12:4, Lk 23:43). All of the wicked who die wait in a part of Hades known only as ‘torments’ (Lk 16:23). We cannot say with entire certainty whether people can look down on the affairs of Earth while in Hades, but the story of the rich man and Lazarus implies that they can’t. When the rich man died, he was in the ‘torments’ of Hades. He then began to inquire about his brothers in a way that leads us to believe he couldn’t see what was going on in their lives (Lk 16:27-31). However, the rich man remembered remembered his brothers, even though he couldn’t see what they were doing.
(This post is in reference to “A Parent’s Sorrow”)
Just reading the Q and A about the woman's daughter that has chosen a homosexual life… when do we as a church or member disfellowship ourselves from someone, and how do we do this with a family member or loved one? Out of love, we are not to even eat or associate with them, but how can we do this effectively with an adult child or straying parent?
Dear Cutting Ties,
The Bible doesn’t tell us to withdraw from all people who are living actively sinful lifestyles; we are only told to withdraw from christians who live actively sinful lives. Paul even said that the church isn’t in the business of judging all mankind (that’s God’s job); we are only responsible to exhort and, if needed, discipline our own (1 Cor 5:9-13). In the question you are referring to, it doesn’t sound like the daughter is a christian and the member of the church.
Secondly, even if the person is a christian, when the church withdraws from someone, family relationships aren’t as clear-cut as the rest of the brethren. The church is given strict orders to withdraw and not associate with a wayward brother or sister (1 Cor 5:13). However, the immediate family doesn’t have the same “black and white” guidelines. In fact, we see that they sometimes are commanded to do the opposite – as in the case of an unbelieving spouse (1 Cor 7:13). Close relatives and loved ones falling away can be torturous on the rest of the family, and immediate family oftentimes has to make the tougher decisions of when to draw back and when to keep the family door open. Family ties in the case of a wayward christian becomes a gray area that requires wisdom and should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Jesus says in Matt 23:9 not to call anyone “father”. A buddy tells me that since Catholics call their priests “father”, they’re disregarding this verse (not that I care about this because, for me, they can call their clergy any name they want). But I hate to be the one to ask this because this may seem idiotic, but does this also mean that we cannot call our dads “father”?
Honoring My Father
Dear Honoring My Father,
Calling a priest ‘father’ is wrong because it is referring to ‘father’ in a spiritual sense. That is what Christ is condemning in Matt 23:8-10. Christ is rebuking people who elevate themselves above others within the church. Catholic priests place themselves in a position of spiritual superiority and authority above others. That is wrong and exactly what Christ told His disciples never to do.
On the other hand, the term ‘father’ is perfectly fine when used to refer to a physical parent. The Bible itself uses the word ‘father’ almost 1,000 times, and the vast majority of those times refer to fleshly parents. Gen 2:24, Gen 9:22, Lev 20:9, Pr 17:25, Mk 10:29, Lk 11:11 are just a few examples. Our fathers are a blessing from God given to us for a time to guide and discipline us (Heb 12:9-10). They are worthy of honor and the title ‘father’ (Eph 6:2).