Birthing, Schooling, Vaccinating and Other Preferences That Divide | Part 2
*The following is part 2 of a blog series on the Preference issues.
Please read part 1 first.*
What is the Remedy?
My observation of our tendencies as humans, is that we all tend towards soapboxes, and we all tend towards being evangelists of something. The question is, what kind of evangelist are you? Are you a gospel evangelist, or an evangelist for your favorite grey area? In things that matter less than the gospel, you do not, dare I say should not, have to dominate, evangelize, or even be known for your choice.
In Tim Challies’ book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, he lays out for us what our primary focus should be.
There are three levels of doctrine in the Word of God:
1st Level Doctrines—These are the heaven or hell/salvation issues. These are primary doctrines of the Christian faith, and to deny them is to abandon biblical Christianity. Unity in these core doctrines is non-negotiable with our Christian brothers and sisters.
2nd Level Doctrines--These are important doctrines, but ones that we may not be fully unified on. However, we can “shake hands over the dividing fence,” on these issues. Second-level issues include infant baptism and cessation of the miraculous gifts.
3rd. Level Doctrine—These are not really doctrines, but simply grey area preference issues. These freedoms should not divide us.
These are smaller issues God isn’t specific with us about and leaves to our conscience and wisdom principles for decision-making.
We cannot bring a condescending spirit to those who are weak in these areas. You may not judge them as less than you spiritually for their decisions in a grey area.
These should not be bandwagons to proclaim or smear all over Facebook.
Let’s do a heart evaluation and discuss how to respond:
You are called to be an evangelist for Christ. Did Christ teach what you should do in each of these preferences? No... or else it would a command, or a doctrine, not a grey area.
What did He say?
Build up believers in their faith.
Show compassion, kindness and patience with all.
Win souls for Christ.
Glorify God in everything.
Walk in the fruit of the Spirit.
Act in agape love-die to your freedoms and self-indulgence.
Good things can become the devil. Ask yourself: Could I be enslaved to this? Is it possible that I am not always mature and on the alert to Satan’s schemes to divide our body?
Again, ask yourself: Am I an evangelist for something that isn’t Christ or his clear truth?
-Am I our church’s homeschool evangelist?
-Am I our church’s hospital birth evangelist?
-Am I our church’s anti-vax, anti-doctor, anti-pharmaceuticals evangelist?
-Am I our church’s health food, no-GMOs, only organic and whole grain evangelist?
Dare I suggest it is time for us to just be quiet about the preference issues? The world needs to hear your words about Christ and His good news. They need to see you live a 1 Timothy 2:2, “...peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” You don’t have to tell everyone your preferences. You don’t have to post about it all over Facebook and Instagram. The social media outlets have become a genre where believers are not loving believers according to scriptural directives of godly communication. It is better to say nothing than to offend your brother or sister in Christ by soapboxing about a grey area. I suggest that you wait for someone to ask you what you think before you loudly proclaim it- blanketing all unbelievers, weak believers, and strong believers with your opinion.
What about within your local church body, family and friends? How should you conduct yourself around them with your preference issues? Again, I suggest you practice not talking about preference issues unless asked about them. For example, seek to graciously change the subject when others walk up in the church hallway, and you’re talking about vaccinating (for example) with another mom. In fact, it may be wise to not even talk about such volatile subjects at church at all. Remember, 1 Peter 2:16, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” Be wise, walk humbly, curb your freedoms, love others.
What about when someone starts to bring up the conversation naturally? You can carefully safeguard the unity of the church according to Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It may seem as awkward as interrupting gossip is at first, but keeping love for your Christian family foremost in your mind will help constrain you.
The preference issues we hold really strongly, we have to admit, put us in danger of idolatry or being unloving. “I enjoy it and it’s not sinful,” you may say. But, if you hold something strongly, and someone else holds things differently, it can be so easy to slip into selfishness, argumentativeness, and love-lessness. It would be better to give up freedoms, then to completely undo another believer. The Bible is clear: no self-will allowed-ever. We do not have the right to view other people as less spiritual because of their freedoms, choices and preferences.
As Paul said...never eat meat again... at all???? What love is this? Never talk about homeschooling again; never talk about avoiding shots again? This is radical love for others!
If for some reason God asked you to love others by eating fast food, getting shots for your kids, homeschooling, letting your kid have a sleepover, wearing dresses only, etc…would you love your sisters and brothers in Christ more than your freedom to choose in those areas? If that thought astonishes you, as it did even to me when I studied it, then you and I must consider if we are holding 3rd level doctrines so tightly that they’ve become idols we worship. Have you ignored certain people at church who hold different preferences, or have you actively pursued someone to change their mind on a preference issue? Is it possible you have fallen in love with your preferences over loving people?
Clearly from the Word this is unbiblical. We have no right to judge another in a grey area choice. It doesn’t matter if you’re irritated with others choices. You must ask, “Is God irritated by their choices?” Remember, Matthew 7:1-2 is clear, you will be held accountable to every person you enslave with your judgments. For example, the Bible does not tell us what kind of car we should drive. The kind of car you drive is a matter of preference. When it comes to preferences, it really does not matter if you have a different preference than someone else, provided it passes the test.
What is the test? Romans 14:10-12 above says we are not to criticize other Christians in the non-essentials. Jesus Christ will judge us all! And what will he judge? He will judge our service to Him, that is, our works, not our sins. The believer’s sins have already been judged-Colossians 2:13-14. Christ paid for them by shedding His own blood on the Cross.
All of us need to grow. We need to grow in spiritual wisdom and maturity. What do mature believers around you talk about? Preference issues or unifying truths? Sharon Kotecki, of Grace Immanuel Bible Church quipped, “What would wisdom say to do with my preferences?” Take a walk through Proverbs chapters 1-9. In these chapters you will hear wisdom’s call in sharp contrast to the way of the foolish. Here you will be challenged to righteous character and conduct along all of life’s path. As you grow in the knowledge of the Lord through His word, you will gain wisdom. And as you grow in wisdom, you will learn to discern between what issues are important to hold differently than others, and which issues are not.
Do you see this progression of growing in discernment in your spiritual walk?
So, how do I deal with my heart?
Again, test yourself: Are you free, or are you in bondage to your preference issue(s)?
Are they things I, or my family, “can’t give up?” Have you ever tried to give them up? Could you give them up if God asked you to, in some way, without kicking, screaming or complaining? Are you free, or are you a slave to them?
Curb your freedoms
Philippians 2:1-5 says, “Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”
So, act in agape love. Sacrifice yourself, and your opinions, to serve one another.
Alexander Strauch in his book, If You Bite and Devour One Another, says, “The foundation of Christian Ethics is not freedom or rights but costly, self-sacrificing love that builds up the Lord's people.”
1 John 3:16 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
What is the Goal?
Is your pet-evangelism building up your church or cracking it apart? Is it polarizing or uniting?
My husband has told me many times, “You don’t even have to evangelize your position; people are watching your choices and can see what you do. If they pursue you and ask, then you can be open to share, but don’t seek to evangelize everyone you meet about your position on an area of personal freedom.” We must bring our passion for our freedoms into subjection out of agape love for others and unity in the church.
Romans 13:10 says, “Love compels you always: Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Our goal is a mature love, shown in our treatment of others, that looks to Christ.
Hebrews 12:14-29 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Excellent wife in training, we must seek peace towards others. Consider how you can be showing peace to others in the preference issues.
Have you ever noticed, as well, that the majority of those who stand hard and fast on preference issues are women? For sure there are men out there who are dogmatic about some grey areas, but women tend to talk about preference issues and post articles and comments online way more than men do. This is my personal observation and, interestingly enough, the Bible talks about women who camp on issues and won’t let them go. Solomon repeated a wise proverb for us about how it is better to live alone than with a (fearfully) contentious woman. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.” We need to be careful that all of our words and actions are patterned after Christ. It would be bad enough for an enemy to come and destroy your life and family. But according to this Proverb, a woman can do this damage herself from within!!! Our lives are to build up and give life to others.
As Excellent Wives in Training, we are to be daily living out the pattern of Titus 2’s younger women. We are to be growing in reverent behavior and control of mouth and body. We are to be learning from the older women and preparing to train those behind us on the path. We are to be especially learning how to be sober and self-controlled, pure, laborers in our homes, kind and submissive to our husbands so that God’s word shines bright through our actions and attitudes. When we focus on these things, we will have less time to worry about having certain freedoms or judging others. We will be following the prompting of 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12, ‘But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
In 1 Timothy 5:-10 we have a picture of what qualified a widow in being supported by the church. I love this passage because the actions of this widow didn’t just happen yesterday to qualify her today. These are the actions of a young woman who continued faithfully throughout her life, transforming into the image of a woman after God’s own heart! Look at how she shows no selfish interest: “...having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.”
Friend, may I encourage you, finally, with this: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
“True unity between us and the family of God is built on underlying humility. Each of us must lay down prideful divisions and our tendency to trample one another in pursuing our own glory and power,” says Pastor Brian Arnold. “The gospel defies all human preferences.”
In conclusion, Jerry Wragg, in his discipleship book, Grace and Granite, lists the following questions to ask yourself about the grey areas you pursue. Think of the grey areas that stuck out to you at the beginning...the ones that got you all prickly at the beginning considering your strong opinions about them or your disagreements with others over them:
Is it a spiritual advantage in my life? 1 Cor 6:12-20, 10:23-31
Does it slow me down with excess baggage in the Christian race? (Distraction or temptation) Heb 12:1-3; 1 Cor 9:24-27
Can it potentially enslave me? 1 Cor 6:12; James 4:1; 2 Tim 4:10
Does it hypocritically cover my sinful desires? 1 Pet 2:16; Gal 5:13; (Test your motives)
Does it violate Christ’s supreme rule in my life? Rom 14:20-23; 14:5;
Does it impair my judgment or hinder the Holy Spirit’s control of my will? Rom 8:6-14; Gal 5:16-25; Eph 5:18
Does it build up other Christians by my example? Rom 14:13, 15; 1 Cor 10:23-33
Does it lead others toward Christ? Rom 14:16; 1 Pet 2:12-24, 3:13-17, 4:15
Is it consistent with Christlike character? 1 John 1:6, 2:6
Does it magnify the glory of God? Titus 2:5; 1 Cor 10:31
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up... So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:30-33