In class the other day, my students were sharing prayer requests. One student asked for prayer concerning his grandmother who had lost her husband a few years previously. In the course of our discussion I asked the student if his grandmother was a believer. “Yes,” he said. “And your grandfather, what about him?” I asked. “Yes, he was a believer, too.” He paused for a moment. “Well,” he continued, “I mean he is a believer. I guess he’s still a believer.” He seemed a little uncomfortable and there was some nervous laughter around the room from the other students who did not know whether or not he was making a joke.
“You said that well,” I answered to him. “I think that we as believers need to be very careful how we talk of the believing dead. We always speak of them in the past tense, as if they don’t exist anymore. They do still exist, and probably moreso than we do at this time. We need to think carefully about what we believe about life, death, and the future, and we need to make sure that the way we speak is consistent with what we believe.”