With my experience in the death care industry, the above title caught my attention when I read it on the Reuters news website. I assumed it was a report on how certain individuals have tried to “fake their death” and cause others to believe an accident or some other incident had brought about their death. But, re-read the title, and you will notice it is about those who were “faking their funeral.”
At the Hyowon Healing Center in South Korea, more than 25,000 people have participated in “living funeral” services according to the article. From teenagers to retirees, the participants donned shrouds, took funeral portraits (which is a unique funeral custom in some Asian countries), penned their last testaments (wills), and laid in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes. Why would anyone do something like this? Can simulating death improve life?
Jeong Yong-mun, who heads the healing center, stated his company began offering the living funerals to help people appreciate their lives and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends. Jeong said he is encouraged when people reconcile at a relative’s funeral but is saddened they wait that long. “We don’t have forever,” he said, “That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.” Amazingly, the program has helped some avoid taking the final drastic measure of suicide, which is twice as high in South Korea as the world average. “I picked out those people who have asked themselves whether … they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision.”
Surprisingly, Scripture contains references that, in some ways, parallel the intent of this odd experiment. In 1 Corinthians 15:31,the apostle Paul wrote: “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” Jesus, our Savior, declared: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).Again in John 12:25: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
What do these verses suggest? In context, Jesus is teaching us why we should estimate our faithful service to God as more important than everything else, even more important than life itself! This level of devotion and understanding seems like an exaggeration to many, but instead, we should understand it as a paradox. It is a terrible folly for a person to save his/her life by not denying him/herself and taking up the cross to follow Jesus; by this choice of refusing to serve Jesus to ensure ease or comfort in this physical life, they will sadly forfeit eternal life with the Savior in Heaven! What a terrible trade!
Paul understood enemies of God might strike him down at any moment, but he was willing to die for Him (Jesus), who had died for him (Paul). “For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). While we will likely not face a martyr’s death, we are still expected to “be faithful until (up to the point of costing your life) death” as Revelation 2:10 teaches. Paul, Peter, and many others kept faith to this measure!
You don’t need to get in a casket to know death is coming (Hebrews 9:27). Life is fleeting for all (James 4:14). Die to sin and all that the world offers today, and you will have eternal life! Want to know how to do this? We will be happy to show you from Scripture what you must do; ask us!