I am a Christian living in Latin America.  Thanks for sharing God’s truth all these years.  I have a question:  Should I biblically visit my dead parents or relatives or am I falling into idolatry, or waste of time?  What could be the best approach to the correct understanding?  Thanks.


This is a difficult answer to give a black and white answer to.  How we honor those who have died is more a matter of culture than religion.  There can be religious implications, of course, but I believe that this is principally an issue of local culture, not religion.  I live in the United States.  For the great majority of Americans, to visit the gravesite of their departed family members has no religious implications.  We do so as a personal means to remember our departed relatives. It is a way to keep in touch emotionally with our memories of those who have died.  There is not even a hint of implied idolatry in the typical American person visiting the grave of a loved one.
The situation in much of Latin America is significantly different.  Some, influenced by Catholic ideas, pray to the dead and ask the dead to intervene with God.  In some cases, such Catholic practice can rise to the level of idolatry.  There is no biblical example of Christians praying to the dead or invoking those who have died in their relationship with God.  This Catholic practice is certainly not biblical and, like I said,  it may even rise to the level of idolatry.  So, should Christians in Latin America take part in the cultural practice of visiting the graves of their departed family members?  Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 9 tells us that, even if a practice is not sinful, per se, it can be possible that those who do not understand this may struggle with us taking part in such practices.  Paul uses the example in both of these passages of eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols.  In Romans 14, Paul tells us that it is not sinful to eat meat which has been sacrificed to idols, simply because idols are not real.  However, he suggests that, because some of the “weak” Christians in Rome do not understand this, they might struggle to see a disciple eating meat which had been sacrificed to idols.  For this reason, Paul proposes that it might be best from a Christian–even one who knows it is not at all sinful per se–to avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols.
I would apply this to the question of visiting the graves of the departed.  In America, this is extremely unlikely to be a stumbling block to Christians.  Personally, I am not into visiting graves.  Personally, I do not need to go to a grave site to think about my departed father.  I simply think about him.  However, if a Christian decides to do this in the US, I see no possible problem.  However, the situation is Latin America is different.  It is possible that a disciple of Jesus might want to avoid this practice for the sake of their fellow believers, and even so as to make a distinction with the superstitious practices of Catholics.  However, this is a personal matter.  I cannot tell you with certainty what you ought to do.  If visiting a grave site will be a stumbling block for fellow believers, as Paul said about meat sacrificed to idols, you may want to discontinue this practice.  However, as long as you are not praying through the dead or worshipping them or taking part in superstitious practices, I see no reason to call this sinful.  Go for it, as long as it will not be a stumbling block to others.  You should do this if it will help you to honor your parents in your heart.  For me, I would not do this, simply because I understand that the grave site is not where my father is.  A grave has no deep meaning to me, but if it does for youif it helps you to honor your parents in your heart, then, there is nothing wrong with doing this (as long, as I said, that it is not a stumbling block to a family member of a Catholic believer).
John Oakes

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