My husband and I can’t agree on whether we should be cremated or not. Is there any biblical instruction for this?
Every culture, tribe, and people group of the world develops protocols and rituals for laying its dead to rest. But burial and cremation rituals vary enormously from age to age. An area’s climate, dominant religion, and local traditions, current fears and fads, and poverty or wealth all influence the funeral customs of any given era and culture. Because of the great discrepancy in burial and cremation rites over many centuries, one can only conclude that the only thing we all have in common is that everyone dies, and burial or cremation rituals will thus always be necessary.
How we mourn, conduct a funeral, and have a loved one’s body prepared for burial or cremation will continue to vary the world over in a thousand ways throughout the ages.
Therefore, one’s preferred way of being mourned and remembered cannot be said to be Christian or non-Christian. To try to find Christian guidelines, what century would you choose? What country? Whose rules and rituals? Is the “correct” (i.e., Christian) funeral simply the one you’re most familiar with, and does it then follow that another kind must be mistaken or unbiblical?
For me, burial or cremation are equally valid choices. Both accomplish the passing away of our earthly bodies, which Paul likened to clay vessels or mere tents (2 Cor. 4-5).
I think Emmylou Harris says it best in her song “All My Tears”: “It don’t matter where you bury me / I’ll be home and I’ll be free / It don’t matter where I lay / All my tears be washed away.” That is the gospel truth.