I'm going to step on some toes...hopefully not stomp on them too hard, but lightly step. I tend to avoid doing so when possible, but the time has come when I believe Christians need to wake up and sometimes the only way to rouse a person is to cause a little pain to jolt them into awareness. And so, in advance, I apologize if I step too hard. I will try to step lightly.
It concerns an area of conviction. It seems to me that where the Bible is silent, Christians are a bit schizophrenic. In certain areas of silence or where the Bible does not make an explicit command, we have no trouble saying overtly that such-and-such an action is wrong. For example, I don't believe I've ever heard a pastor preach that taking a second wife is okay, yet I can't find a verse that explicitly condemns the practice. However, despite the lack of a “thou shalt not...” verse, Christians turn to other passages with principles to back up their condemnation of polygamy. I also don't believe I have ever been taught that illicit drugs are fine in moderation. If cocaine were legal, would pastors sanction doing drugs in moderation? There is no verse that condemns taking drugs, yet we turn to other passages to support the assertion that this is wrong. There are principles in the Bible that provide clear guidance in areas where the Bible is not specific.
So, I'm not sure then why other issues are not treated in the same manner. With other issues of conviction, it seems we are told that the Bible has no bearing upon them. Further, one cannot share his or her beliefs as to the Bible's influence without the instant assumption of condemnation. Some matters of conviction are simply taboo and we are told that the Bible has no input on those issues. But doesn't the Bible speak to all areas of our lives?
Take homeschooling, for example. While there is no verse that specifically states, “Thou shalt homeschool,” there are plenty of verses that Christians have used to support the idea that this is God's best for the vast majority of parents. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, for example, commands us to teach our children diligently and to do so constantly. Many Christians believe that this command is much too difficult to accomplish when the majority of most days are are spent running around, working, etc., while our children are spending the day being trained by someone else. And yet, it seems that if a Christian tries to gently share his or her conviction with others, they are met with an instant and usually incredulous defense and reminder of “Christian liberty”. It does not seem to matter whether the sharing is done in genuine love and concern. It seems to always be met with offense and the assumption of condemnation. Schooling is the sacred cow of Christianity.
Perhaps this should not surprise us. First of all, the issue deals with people's children, a subject that is so close to the heart that it is nearly impossible to evaluate without emotion. No one likes to hear that they may be wrong on such an important issue as who spends 7-8 hours per day with their child. No one wants to evaluate an area of their life that could have possible life-altering ramifications and could induce lasting guilt for having made the wrong choice for so long. It is certainly much easier to convince a parent of young children of the Biblical basis for homeschooling than it is to convince a parent whose children are nearly grown and have been in the system for the majority of their schooling. The admission of having made the wrong choice for so long about something as precious as their very own children is sometimes too much.
Secondly, there have been those in Christendom who have taken the truth and slapped their brothers and sisters across the face with it. Those who are very conservative can sometimes tend to be unloving in how they approach others and how they communicate their convictions. This is unfortunate, but it is just as unfortunate that the less conservative make such an assumption of everyone with such convictions based merely on that fact. It is a stereotype that should be avoided.
Furthermore, education has become our modern Baal. We idolize those who are intelligent and put those with high I.Q.s on a pedestal. Science and statistics are our gods. So, rather than evaluating the choice of how to educate our children by the Bible's standards, we are looking at the choice through the light of the world's lens. We forget the sovereignty of God...that He will train our children adequately for His work, regardless of our own inadequacies...and we want to make the schooling decision based solely on our own evaluations and the “way that seems right” (Proverbs 14:12).
To be sure, not everyone can homeschool and not everyone is called. There are single moms who cannot make it work and there are rare children of such strength of faith and character that they are specifically called to be a light in the darkness of a public school. I have heard of a homeschooled young man recently who prayed earnestly, along with his parents, and felt called to be a missionary to the public school. God has worked powerfully through him to bring many kids to the Lord and he has been a real instrument of revival. However, the number of such missionaries and such hard cases is, in my opinion, likely so small that I'm not sure what we are doing as Christians using that as our blanket excuse? I believe the majority of parents who have used this “missionary reasoning” have children who have actually done more damage to the name of Christ than good. We underestimate the spiritual battles Satan has raging in the public school (and even Christian schools) and the amount of pressure under which our vulnerable and impressionable children must stand firm in their faith.
Ultimately, just because we can do something does not mean that we should. Just because there is no “thou shalt not” verse, does not mean that we should not carefully evaluate each and every decision in light of Biblical principles. Christian liberty is not our excuse to put our brains into “cruise” and simply do what everyone else in the church is doing. It should spur us to evaluate why we have made the choices we have made and encourage us to find scriptural support for everything we do.
I hope I have not come across as judgmental or harsh. It is not my heart. But shouldn't we challenge each other and stretch each other spiritually in all areas of life? Isn't that what the Christian walk is about? Shouldn't we have open minds to consider all areas of our life and whether or not they are in alignment with the Bible? I still have room to grow and change and I'm sure you do, too! Or are there some topics that are just off limits? Are there some topics that are too personal for Biblical insight and accountability from others? Ultimately, we may not all agree on what the Bible says concerning this issue, but I hope we can at least start to have the discussion without the assumption that people such as myself are simply being judgmental and narrow-minded. On the contrary, I care too much to continue to keep my feet to myself! I just hope I didn't stomp too hard.
Excellent post, Danielle. You focused on education, but the underlying point could be expanded to many things that some Christian groups rail against...turning personal convictions into blanket criteria for "judging" another's level of Christianity, thus turning the focus away from loving and serving one another and towards judging external appearances and actions.ReplyDelete
The pastor at one of my friend's fundamental churches in my area preached recently about the "evil" of tatooing body parts, using the verse forbidding tatooing in Lev 19 as a basis for the sermon. What was NOT mentioned was that in that same Lev 19 chapter, the Lord also forbade wearing clothes made from two different materials mixed together (hello, cotten/poly blends?)...but it seems that no one preaches about that a sin.
What it comes down to is the final verse in I Cor 13, and I think the "Message" translation seems to open up the meaning:
"13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love."
Did you catch that love is put HIGHER in importance than even trust/faith in God?? Indeed, without faith it is impossible to please Him, but the two greatest commands are to love Him, and love others.
I could go on and on about examples of how Christians become stumbling blocks to the unsaved and the saved by setting up "ideals" of godliness that are unBiblical, including using the "laws" of the OT to mandate behavior that is now no longer under law, but under grace. But as Paul addresses in Romans, we should not do those things that our conscience tells us not to just because we are "under grace." Rather, we should realize that the ministry of the Holy Spirit within a person's life is very personal, and the outward appearance/actions of another should in no way limit our demonstration of God's love and grace to them. When we give love and grace freely, and let God worry about the convicting of the inner man, we ourselves are set free to act according to our own convictions, knowing that it is only God that we have to stand before and give an account.
And while homeschooling is best at this present time per my own personal conviction, I recognize that others may not have those convictions. Even Jesus wasn't noted in the Bible to have been "homeschooled," but rather went to the temple and sat with the leaders there (not to mention HE taught THEM...lol)...sounds like group education from someone other than his parents to me. :-)
Good points, Jessica! Yes, it definitely comes down to love. Do we love others enough to graciously offer Biblical advice? Do we love others enough to speak humbly and allow God to use our words rather than trying to be the Holy Spirit ourselves? Each must determine convictions in their own hearts, but we are also to be "iron sharpening iron"!ReplyDelete
And, by the way, if we want to explore this particular topic further, I would offer more food for though on your point about Jesus sitting under the Jewish leaders. I believe this would be analogous to us going to church today. Certainly, I would not be against that type of teaching! :) If it were more than just church, I would also offer that it probably wasn't 7-8 hours per day and it was also conducted by priests, who were God-appointed for their positions. So, I see it as a bit different. But I just enjoy being able to discuss this openly!
AND sometimes love is NOT saying anything, too. I am always very, very careful about my comments when talking to a single mother or someone for whom homeschooling is an impossibility (or at least a perceived one).ReplyDelete