We, as Christians raised in the United States, are well aware of how the eroding moral climate is incrementally impacting us within our nation, state, city and local community. Its effect has been widely discussed in Christian circles. But little is said of its impact on family celebrations that include not only the nucleus family, but relatives as well: grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and numerous cousins - Yes, the whole family clan.
We now face numerous, difficult decisions not only from strangers, but from friends and family members who are pressuring us to do what is uncomfortable and even at times unconscionable; to join in celebration of what to us is not cause for celebration or is at least dubious. Fiddler on the Roof comes to mind. How do we walk in integrity, act honorably to all, and keep a clear conscience under such circumstances?
Let’s take, as example, the baby shower:
Case in point #1: Jane receives a baby shower invitation. Linda, her niece, is pregnant and a celebration with gifts is in order. Linda, a lovely, likeable young woman, is unmarried, living with her boyfriend, Mike. New life coming into this world is certainly a cause for rejoicing. But for many Christian believers, the circumstances surrounding this birth are not cause for public celebration. So how should Jane respond to the invitation?
Case in point #2: Ruth, an elderly, widowed grandmother who lives alone, receives a baby shower invitation. Her granddaughter, Susan, is pregnant, and friends and loved ones are planning a baby shower to celebrate. She is married to another woman and is pregnant through artificial insemination by an unknown donor. Susan is highly intelligent, and loving and kind to Ruth. Most of those invited will likely attend. Because Ruth lives such an isolated life, such gatherings are vital to helping her feel a part of the larger society. What should she do?
I’m sure many of you can relate to the two cases listed above. Many of you have probably faced additional complex cases. Many, including myself, could use Godly wisdom in knowing how to delicately handle these situations. In such cases, how do we, as Christians, demonstrate love towards others while inwardly disapproving of such behavior? Yes, Jesus ate with sinners. Yes, Jesus talked with the woman at the well who at the time was living with a man not her husband. But if men attended baby showers in celebration, would He have attended? What would He have us to do? Others see only gray in such cases and say we would have to totally isolate ourselves from the world to do otherwise. They find themselves feeling accepted by all their relatives for their tolerance and compassion.
Perhaps you, too, see these as gray areas. But as our society moves increasingly from Judeo-Christian to Pagan customs, the gray areas of today will be turning darker by tomorrow. Brace yourself. Harder choices are coming your way unless we as a nation repent and turn back to the Judeo-Christian God on whom this nation was founded.
Now some Christians in such cases have said to me, “It’s not the baby’s fault. I need to attend in support of life. Besides, how can I witness to the lost if I’m never around them.” This is a valid statement. But inwardly the question must surely arise, Should I congratulate the parents-to-be? Others see in this case a red flag. And they say to themselves, I can’t do this! It’s just not right. They have reached the point where the issue before them is no longer gray, but black. I cannot be an active participant in this celebration. Some who find such situations to be strictly black and white and act accordingly find themselves totally isolated from family for declining such invitations. They tend to open up their rulebook, see how someone is falling short, and simply write them off. They have not realized that many do things in ignorance, such as did the apostle Paul prior to his conversion. These who choose not to attend may be totally lacking in love and compassion. They may be judging the world without mercy. They have yet to learn that the truth must be spoken in love, and that we are not to force our will upon another. Others who choose not to attend do not wish to throw stones or publicly shame. They are reminded of Joseph’s attitude when he decided to release Mary, his bride-to-be, from being his wife - having found she was pregnant by another. He could not condone what he thought she had done, but because he loved her, he did not want to publicly disgrace her. He intended to deal with the matter privately. (We know, of course, that God intervened on Mary’s behalf revealing her innocence.)
Most of us have attended weddings knowing the couple lived together prior to the wedding. We have also attended weddings knowing the bride was pregnant. We rejoiced and celebrated, not as wholeheartedly as if we knew they had waited, but because they were outwardly setting things straight (whether or not they had a change of heart inwardly), turning from immorality to morality But such is not the case in the above two examples.
Let me be perfectly clear. Christians do not have the same convictions in every situation. We are all at different levels of maturity. And we also sit under differing emphasis teachings. While one may come under conviction to not do an action such as attend such a celebration, another is convinced to attend as a means of expressing love to the non-Christian or unrepentant. I am not your judge. We are each to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Our goal is to act towards all in an honorable way and to strive for a clear conscience, such as the apostle Paul talks about.
For instance, in case #1 Jane chose not to attend but did mail a gift for the baby. She did not convey the real reason for not attending, only that she had a prior commitment. Is it necessary for her to explain why? Privately she did wish good health for both Mom and baby, nor did she withhold love from the parents and child after the birth when next they met. She intended to help in whatever way she could, provided such actions did not violate her conscience. But for other Christians, such things do not bother them. In case #1 they will attend and jokingly say, “When’s the wedding?” They will find a way to get their point across without condemning the parents. Which is the more honorable thing to do? But case #2 is a bit more difficult to jokingly give truthful expression.
Ruth, the grandmother in case #2, felt compelled to attend her granddaughter’s celebration even though she said parts of it were awkward. Later she received a thank-you note from Susan who commented on how loving and supportive her family was regarding her new family-to-be. Upon reading Susan’s thank-you note, this grandmother once again felt uneasy about the whole thing because the message conveyed was that of Susan feeling approval of her actions.
Should Ruth receive another shower invitation by her granddaughter in celebration of a second child by another donor father, will she still feel compelled to openly celebrate? Debbie, a friend of mine, attended a baby shower of a friend’s unwed daughter whose name is Alice. She then attended a second baby shower for Alice, pregnant with a second child by another father. But when she received a third invitation for yet a third child by yet a third father, she said, “Enough is enough. No more.” What was the ultimate message Alice was receiving from those who attended: What you have chosen to do has our approval and blessing. Yes, Alice would have gotten the same message had Debbie declined the invitation, but Debbie’s conscience would be clear, not troubled.
Many of our past decisions were made by trial and error. We prayed and sought the Lord, and, based upon our present knowledge of His word, preceded to make each decision believing it to be what God would have us to do. Later, we came to realize that some of those decisions were not the best. But God knew our heart. He knew we acted in good faith. And He will continue to teach us through this method of trial and error for many things we have yet to deal with. We want to learn from our mistakes and definitely don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Others, however, myself included, have compromised on our beliefs throughout the years having been deceived into thinking we were doing the will of God when in actuality we were seeking our own will. I am so thankful for God’s mercy and forgiveness of my sins that I have since repented of. And as I have turned from each sin that had so easily beset me, His word tells me not to look back at what He has washed clean by His blood. Not only that, but that He has buried them at the bottom of the ocean, choosing not to remember them. And if He doesn’t remember them, why should I? But I have reaped the consequences of a compromised life. And I don’t want to compromise any longer. Our goal, after all, is to grow to maturity and live a victorious, overcomer’s life.
If we stand by our convictions, we will pay a price with the world, but receive the approval of our Maker. But remember, the love of this world is so short-lived compared to life everlasting. Who do we love more: our God or the world and all it has to offer? In the book of James we read that friendship with the world is hostility toward God.
As morals continue to spiral downward exponentially, the gray will eventually recede for each and every family member who calls himself (herself) Christian, leaving only black against white to contend with. Eventually, a day will come when you, too, will be forced to make a choice you don’t want to make. Right now the ramifications of our choices are minimal. But they will increase in intensity as our society further deteriorates from the dictates of our first Love, the one and only Almighty God.
Persecution comes in many and various forms for those who choose conscience over socially- sanctioned immorality. But we have the promise of abundant life both now and in the life to come if we follow Him and obey His word. It is not our duty to subcome to the world’s pressures when they run contrary to the word of God. It is we who are to apply pressure to those in authority to do what is morally right. Applying pressure applies to family situations as well. Actually, it is very easy to complain about how our politicians are capitulating to the dictates of the lobbyists and Wall Street; but when such issues hit closer to home, we get a taste of how difficult it can be to truly love God more than family, relatives, community, nation, possessions, or anything else this world has to offer.
There may come a time for the entire Body of Christ whereby God will raise up among us Spirit-filled, universally recognized, mature Christian authorities to convene and establish precedent for such ethical matters as I have discussed. Until then, we must individually seek the Lord for wisdom when these situations arise. We are not to be self-righteous or judgmental. But we do need to ask ourselves if perhaps we too, by our actions, are contributing to the demise of the social fabric of our nation – one family member at a time. Godly wisdom is absolutely necessary in this hour.
We all want to keep peace in the family. We don’t want to make waves. We want to get along. But at what point does such a peace become a negative peace: at what price to ourselves and to society at large? What is our goal? To walk with God in integrity, act honorably to all, and keep a clear conscience?
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“The churches in Asia Minor were at a crossroads, impacted by persecution and wooed toward lives of compromise that might soften the persecution (Revelation 2:10,14).” (1)