Question:

What should a Christian say to a child when a loved one dies, who died without being a believer in Christ or just was not a good person? Is it best to give the child the idea that the person is in heaven anyway, or to just tell them we don't know what God will decide for that person? 

I know it's a touchy subject but it's hard to know how to comfort a child during these times or how to know how to answer them if they ask where they are, especially if everyone else gives them a false idea that everyone goes to heaven when they die. As a Christian, I don't want to lie, or deceive anyone, especially a child, but I want to also be able to give comfort to those grieving. But I find it hard to give anyone any kind of comforting words when they lose a loved one now that I am a Christian and know most people unfortunately will not go to heaven. I want to be able to tell them to put their trust in God, and to turn to Him, but then when they start asking questions about God and heaven and if I think their loved one is there, I don't know what to say without having to try not to upset them even more because I know if I tell them I think they're in heaven it would be a lie, if I know the person who died wasn't a Christian. But I want to be able to lead them the right way to know Christ and be able to explain how we must live our lives if we want to see heaven, but I just don't know how to do that without hurting their feelings if they end up thinking their loved ones are in hell by what I said. I would never tell someone that their loved one might be in hell but its usually the conclusion that people get after you tell them what the bible says about getting to heaven, and how to live our lives, and then if you tell them the bible also says to be baptized they really get upset if their loved one wasn't. So What should I say to an adult or child about their loss of loved one without having to lie or hurt their feelings about where they are? And how can I be able to share the gospel with them without feeing like I am basically telling them their loved one is in hell? Most of the time Im just reluctant to talk to anyone about Christ because Im afraid they will get offended and think I just told them all of their dead relatives are in hell who were unbaptized or werent good people, because that's usually what they end up thinking, even if I just tell them what the bible says. I just don't want to hurt their feelings… Sorry for the long questions but I normally like your answers, so just wanting some advice. Thanks.


Answer:

Kindness is not telling people what they want to hear. Kindness is tell them what they need to hear. What you are looking for are ways to encourage people to have a closer relationship with God and that does not require that you sit in judgment on their departed relatives.

"I know you are going to miss them very much."

Focus on the person's needs. A person who has lost a loved one is lonely. Be sympathetic. "Therefore David took hold of his own clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son, for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword" (II Samuel 1:11-12). Saul was not a good man. He caused David's life to be miserable for many years. Jonathan was David's best friend and a godly man. Yet David mourned the lose of both equally.

"The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon-Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. O mountains of Gilboa, Let there be no dew nor rain upon you, Nor fields of offerings. For the shield of the mighty is cast away there! The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. From the blood of the slain, From the fat of the mighty, The bow of Jonathan did not turn back, And the sword of Saul did not return empty. Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury; Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!" (II Samuel 1:19-27).

Notice that David did not speak a word about where either man was going. He focused on how they benefited his life and the country. He talked about how much he would miss them. Focus on the good memories they have of the one who has left.

"People go to heaven or hell based on whether they were a good person or not. That is for God to decide, not someone like you or I. However, I do know that he (or she) wants you to be good and go to heaven because he (or she) loves you."

If someone presses for an answer to where someone goes, remember that it isn't our responsibility or right for that matter, to decide the destiny of anyone. "Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"" (Jude 9). Think about it! God told us the destiny of Satan, but Michael refused to put himself in the judgment seat even with Satan. This doesn't mean you can't tell someone when they are wrong, but we can't presume to say how God will judge them in the end. We only know that God judges each of us based on what we do. "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath" (Romans 2:4-8).

We know from the story of the rich man and Lazarus that even those who will not make it to heaven don't want their relatives following them. "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment'" (Luke 16:26-28). Thus, affirming that message is encouraging.