Birthing, Schooling, Vaccinating and Other Preferences that Divide | Part 1
This month we have been focusing on the 1 Timothy 2:2, and 1 Thessalonians 4:11 idea of Keeping a Quiet Life. This lifestyle is not seen in just sitting quietly by the fire knitting, but rather in a humble heart attitude, one that is contentedly ready to serve others and our Creator God. The sin in our hearts and in the world can quickly steal away our contented quietness of heart. Another big peace stealer is found in getting caught up in the preference issues of our day and age. Consider the few that I have listed below:
Birthing: Home or hospital; c-section or traditional, pain relievers or none?
Feeding your baby: Breast is best or bottle/formula feeding. When to start solids and table foods.
Family Planning: Sterilization vs no birth control ever.
Schooling: Public school or private school or homeschool.
Sports involvement for your children: Always involved, a little involved or never involved.
Vaccinating: Protect my kids from diseases or protect my kids from the shots themselves.
Music: Only Christian music: all other music is from the devil or some secular-what can it hurt?
Or All secular: better to be secular than to listen to some Christian music that may not be exactly theologically accurate.
Or even, nothing with drum bass-it’s ungodly.
TV and movies: Educational only, G rated only, or nothing above PG or very free about TV shows and movies you watch.
Drinking: A daily beer or wine or a little wine, a little beer or none ever.
Celebrating holidays: Christmas with a tree, Easter with a candy basket regardless of the origins or not using any similar symbols or practices as the world. (Think Santa Claus and stockings, tooth fairy and money, Easter bunny and egg hunts, etc.)
Celebrating Halloween/fall dress ups vs no dressing up, fall festivals, etc.
Birthdays: Celebrating birthdays and giving gifts or not paying much attention to them.
How to spend the sabbath day: You can work at your job or any job around the house or no work at all. Do you have to stay home or can you go shopping on a Sunday?
Women working: It is okay for women to work outside the home or they should never work outside the home.
Modesty: Wearing pants to church or never wearing pants to church.
Health: Eating only organic, non-GMOs, no trans-fats, no fast food, using health supplements, using essential oils, adhering to certain exercise habits, etc. or a more relaxed view of health and diet
Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing tobacco or no smoking or chewing.
Tattoos: not allowed by the Bible or the law doesn’t bind me from the art form or no for other reasons.
Childcare : Sleepovers and babysitters or never allow my children to stay over at another home or have a non-family sitter.
And any other difference of opinion that you can think of or have experienced...
Do you feel your “hackles” raising already? Are you gathering your arguments for the coming discussion?
If you’re all full of angst now that I bring up these issues, you may likely have a strong opinion about one or more of them, don’t you?
Take a moment to think of which of these issues you feel strongly about. We will walk through some principles as we go on.
Now, let’s start by specifying that the issues listed above are grey areas. A grey area can be defined as something that is not inherently good or bad, white or black. It is an issue that falls in the middle grey area where some people may say it’s good, and some people may say it’s bad.
We must ask ourselves: how can I live in a church side-by-side with people who call my freedom bad for them, or my limitation good for them?
I want to admit to you right now, that no subject I have taught has slapped me straight across the face as much as this subject has! Why is that, you may ask? Well, it is because we are talking about heart attitudes, our sin and the unity of our church. As I contemplated the preference issues, I was faced with my own failures in pursuing peace and unity and seeking judgments of others, especially in my own mind, not even what just came out of my mouth. The issue of what we do with the grey areas of life affects our families, our churches and our evangelism to the world. We must take the time to peer intently into God’s specific instruction to us on how to deal with our grey area convictions, and to apply possible painful remedy truths to our hearts.
There are a number of reasons why people may fall to one side or another when it comes to preferences:
How they were raised and their parents’ standards.
How they came to Christ-through a legalistic testimony or through free grace influence
Experiences they’ve had in life
A hardened or overly sensitive conscience
Some study, or deep study, societal pressure or Facebook posts
Their husband’s requirements, standards or requests
Fears. We will discuss this big one throughout.
Let’s start with what primary sins tend to flare in our hearts when it comes to the preference issues:
I may envy and desire a person’s praise for my wisdom in a grey area. I may lust and have moral weaknesses for certain preferences. I can envy in idolizing what my heart longs after, placing preference issues above what God calls me to focus on.
Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”
I want to be known for my freedoms. “See, I’m free to do this, or free to do that.”
I want to be known as the guru for this preference issue.
1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
What will happen if I do this or do that?
What will happen if I don’t do this or don’t do that?
What if... what if… what if…
Fear should never be the basis for decisions. We must deal with our sinful fear before making decisions. I’m not talking about avoiding wise precaution, but I am saying you must get to the root of your fear. You also should not seek to persuade your husband (and the whole internet) on the validity of a preference issue based on fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
This is most often seen in assuming motives-guessing why people do or do not participate in certain preference issues. Thoughts can vary from, “These people who won’t do what I do are legalistic and ignorant. They need to loosen up,” to “Those people are too free, they need to be more godly by choosing what I choose.” Another thought is, “These people who make these choices are harming their family and are unwise.”
Our sinful flesh is so tempted to set up our own little throne room. We prosecute, and act as jury and judge. We lay down a sentence. We need to be so careful in spiritually judging others: we are to welcome in the weak, but not for condescension, or to control them, or to try to be their leading guru.
Romans 14:1 says, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.”
How often have we truly believed that the grass must be greener on the other side? You may have said before, “My dad/mom/husband won’t let me…. all my friends have this standard of freedom, and I’m stuck in this decision by my dad/mom/husband.” Or, “I will not be content unless I get to do what I want in this preference issue.” Or possibly even, “I can’t be content in this church if I have to sit by and love these women who don’t agree with me.” Discontentment fertilizes a bitter root.
1 Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain”
Self-righteous favor earning:
You may think, as I once did, “If I do ‘this act’ I am more godly. If I wear a denim jumper, live on a homestead, grind my own grain, and bake my own bread, then I will be closer to godliness.” Fill in whichever preference issue you have been tempted to think God will shine His light of favor on that you are adding to His work on your behalf on the cross. So often we think, “I want everyone to see my ‘godly’ (or wise) choices in these preferences.”
Self-will looks for others and forms a group of those who agree. Self-will looks around for commonality and forms cliques around 3rd level issues, causing division by pursuing its own selfish will. It is selfish to let someone know how personally offended you are by the things they choose to do in Christian freedom. Are you easily offended? The issue is with you!
Self-will is used by Satan to distract us from the truth.
Self-will blinds our hearts from seeing God’s interests.
Self-will leads one to believe that they’re actually doing God’s work. “This preference issue is what God would have everyone do if they were mature or more spiritual enough to figure it out.”
Self-will leads to arrogance as one thinks they can correct God Himself. It causes us to try to shape God to our views.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Divisiveness allows your opinion to push people away. The church is corporate. You walk with Christ, but in a group, not on an island. You may be tempted to think, “They don’t think like me, they don’t choose like me. We cannot get along.” Sister, we are a dishonor to Christ when we have immature love; when we bite and devour one another as Galatians 5:15 rejects. You need to ask yourself, “Can I be mature in my freedoms, but immature in my love for others over preference issues?”
Jerry Wragg states, “You cannot boast maturity in your Christian freedoms and liberty if you cannot demonstrate maturity in your Christian love for one another. It is not a freedom if you have to grip it tighter than your love.”
Divisiveness is not love. Love is careful and thoughtful. Love is not reckless and self-seeking, especially in preference issues. Love seeks personal and corporate spiritual advancement.
So often we are guilty of holding a 3rd level doctrine over love. We are to be promoting what is eternal over what is temporal. The Kingdom of God is not schooling, birthing, or vaccinating.
The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy.
Not all grey areas are morally or ethically right or wrong. Certain preferences are not preferences for all families and all people. The fact is, some have no choice in what they decide in a particular area, and some have all choices in these matters. We may not know what has led someone to making a particular choice in a grey area, so we must be so careful what we say!
The Primary Issue
So, what is the primary problem at hand? 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 is a perfect passage to help us see the eternal perspective of preference in the Kingdom of God: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. “
Here Paul confronts divisions in the church that are outside of the gospel message. Even something as godly as who baptized whom. In our flesh we allow divisions to rise between us over all kinds of things. Jerry Wragg points out that, “Other people’s lifestyle choices can irritate us. We can be fearful of each other when we come from different backgrounds. Fearful of what each other might do or think.” Actions that are based on fear must be evaluated and removed! Decisions based on fear must be removed even faster. We need to base our actions and decisions in life on the solid truth of God. He is clear in His word about how we are to handle our actions and decisions and how we express those grey area convictions to others.
I read from Pastor David Brown who expounds, “There’s an old saying that says a horse that is pulling can’t buck, and a horse that is bucking can’t be pulled. My Christian friends, if you are busy serving the Lord, you aren’t going to have the time to be concerned about what kind of car another Christian drives. You won’t get in an argument over which homeschool curriculum is the best, because all that matters is which one is best for your family. You won’t have time to argue whether women should wear makeup or not. (A pastor friend of mine used to say, if the barn needs some paint, paint it!). You will refuse to take sides on whether a Christian should own a television. It is not worth the effort to argue about whether Christians should eat out on Sunday. These are the types of things that are preference issues. Instead of judging others in matters of preference, we would do better to judge our own lives and be sure our works will pass the test at the Bema Seat of Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 gives us a glimpse into the workings of the Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ. If we make Jesus Christ Lord of our lives and obey Him, then, and only then, will our works pass the test. 1 John 2:28 reminds us -- "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming."
And back in 1 Corinthians 8:8-13, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
Here is the first main question I want you to ask yourself about your biggest preference issues: Do you have overconfidence in practicing your freedoms? Take heed, lest you fall! John MacArthur clarifies 1 Corinthians 8 for us, “So Paul really hits the issue. In this whole section, he says, there’s two things wrong with indulging your liberty to excess. One, it offends others. Two, it’s going to bring you to the brink of sin and wind up disqualifying you from service to Christ. There must be self-denial. There must be self-control and discipline...keeping that body in subjection, discipline and denial, maybe of some things you have a right to do, like an athlete who denies himself the things he has a right to, because he trains to win a race.”
Is it possible that you are so vocal about a preference, that you are a stumbling block to believers, or to the Word of God itself, in unbeliever’s lives? Is it possible people are afraid to mention their thoughts on a matter, or even make their own choices, because it would mean going against you, because they know they will displease you,or you will be verbally aggressive about it? If you aren’t sure, perhaps you should ask others who go silent when you talk about your preference issue.
Perhaps you are realizing you have a habit of constantly talking about your preference issue, and you have noticed your church family becoming more distant and you’ve wondered why? It is likely that those in the church have become irritated over this repetition of a preference issue. If they know all you talk about is “X” grey area, they likely won’t reach out across the aisle at church in unity with you. It may become a huge struggle for them demonstrate sacrificial love. This doesn’t excuse their lack of love, but your actions must be evaluated.
This next passage I want to show you from the Word is so clear, but it is long. Please humor me and read the whole thing:
Romans 14:1-23- Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So, then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.”
What are you willing to love your brothers and sisters in Christ enough to give up, or even just stop, soapboxing about your preference issue? Paul was willing to give up delicious meat for his family in Christ… what would you be willing to give up in love?
Stay tuned for part 2 on the remedy, and more heart applications in Part 2 of Birthing, Schooling, & Vaccinating and other Preference Issues That Divide.