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Frequently Asked Questions - Practical Issues

FAQs - Practical Issues

All Christians are in the process of learning how to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbour as themselves. It may be difficult now for you to love those who have done wrong unto you. But if you want to please the Lord and obey Him, ask Him to help you to forgive them, and even to love them. Jesus set the perfect example for us. When He was on the cross he prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

As a Christian, you must understand that you can only love those who are against you through Christ enabling you to do it. On your own, you will not be able to do it. But keep looking to Him for help and you will soon find the willingness and changed attitude in your heart toward them. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)

Your salvation remains the same and does not change whether or not you love everybody. However as long as you do not do what God wants you to do, you may not feel at peace with yourself and with God. The Holy Spirit of God within you will keep on reminding you about this. You may even lose the assurance of salvation and feel, "Maybe I am not saved" as long as you do nothing about it. In 2 Peter 1:5-10, God’s Word tells us-- "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:"

Because of research made in prenatal life, it is virtually agreed by all that human life begins at conception. Once the ovum is fertilized a new person that bears God’s image has come into being and he or she has the right to live. (Psalm 139:14-16). By the 6th week of pregnancy the new person is already able to think and experience pain. The Bible records that John the Baptist rejoiced over being visited by the mother of Jesus by leaping in his mother’s womb at the 6th month of pregnancy.

All of this means that abortion, or the killing of an unborn child is sinful and morally wrong. It may not be considered as cold-blooded murder, because the mother who wants an abortion does not know the unborn child yet and usually does not deliberately seek its life out of hatred, but it does violate the sanctity of human life, and is deserving of some punishment.

But is there any situation where abortion is not immoral? Historically Protestants have made one exception: the life of the unborn can be taken when a continued pregnancy would put the mother’s life in jeopardy. This is justified on the basis of self-defense and also on the basis of choosing the lesser of two evils. Due to rapid developments in medical science however, this situation has become very rare.

The other exception that is sometimes considered is when the pregnancy is a result of rape. In this case the new life did not originate form the mother’s choice at all. But this does not remove the unborn child’s right to life. The unborn child is not the attacker but is in fact the second victim who should not receive capital punishment for his father’s crime.

Once again however this situation is extremely rare. A study of 20,000 rape cases in a certain country recorded no pregnancy. Because of physical and emotional factors, pregnancy following rape is very rare. Many women who wanted an abortion in the 3rd month onwards have falsely claimed to have been raped, when they were not. Because this loophole has given them the opportunity to seek abortion without the social stigma attached to it.

The vast majority of abortions however, does not fall under these two exceptions, but are motivated by the desire for their own economic and social well-being. Most women who abort are not married and do so to avoid the shame of being an unwed mother and the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy. They are just like king David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and this act ultimately led him into murdering Bathsheba’s husband in order to protect his reputation -- in trying to cover up one sin, those who abort commit a sin far worse than the first one!

There are some married mothers who abort because they have found out that the unborn child is handicapped or not of the desired sex. A pregnant woman who undergoes amniocentesis might be disappointed to find out that the child has Down’s syndrome, or lacks an arm or a leg. And they think that the child’s life will be miserable, so they justify abortion as mercy killing. But physical or mental handicap does not necessarily mean a life not worth living. And besides that, a handicapped fetus also has a right to life. So abortion is still wrong in such cases.

Is there an alternative to abortion? Yes, if the mother is willing to face the consequences her past choices and make sure that the child is wanted either by herself or by others who stand in line waiting to adopt children. A mother who does not abort but goes through with the pregnancy will at least live with a clear conscience, and the consolation that she has helped to bring a new life into the world.

Ecclesiastes 2:16-18 "I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."

In these verses Solomon describes his sojourn into the deep waters of philosophy. He sought to investigate the value of human wisdom, and also what advantages wisdom had over madness and foolishness. And Solomon’s mind amassed so much wisdom that according to 1 Kings 4, he was wiser than all men, he invented 3000 proverbs, composed 1005 poems, and he was able to give lectures on any subject, including botany and zoology. Kings, queens and philosophers came from far and near just to hear Solomon speak and they were astounded by the wealth of his knowledge of these things and of philosophy.

About 400 years later, the Greeks began to develop philosophy into a science. Then from Socrates down to 20th-century thinkers like Bertrand Russel and Jean Paul Sartre, have devoted their lives to trying to determine what constitutes the good life for humans both as individuals, and as social and political beings. This resulted in a whole series of different schools of philosophy: Some adopted Platonic ideas. Others applied Aristotelian principles. Some were Stoics, some were Skeptics and others were Epicureans. The 17th century brought Rationalism and Empiricism, and later on, Hegelianism, Pragmatism and Existentialism came on the scene. In the east there were philosophers like Confucius, Mencius and Lao-Tzu.

Volumes and volumes of books have been written on philosophy. And Solomon himself tells us about this endless but futile pursuit when he wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:12 -- "of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." Isn’t it significant that Solomon, the greatest philosopher who ever lived on this earth tells us that philosophy has very little value, and that it brings grief and sorrow instead of happiness? Instead of accomplishing what it set out to do, namely to determine what constitutes the good life, the pursuit of philosophy has left mankind more confused than ever, and nowhere nearer to attaining the good life.

There is only one kind of knowledge that can enable us to have happiness and attain the good life: and that is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is described by the Apostle Paul as the "Wisdom of God." According to Colossians 2:3, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ. Therefore, if you want to have true wisdom, and one that leads to a real, deep and lasting happiness and peace, you must seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

The OT does teach monogamy: The story of the creation of the first two human beings reveals monogamous marriage as the expression of the will of God. If polygamy was God’s plan, He would have created Adam and Eve, and Mary and Jane and Susan, etc. The ‘one flesh’ principle of Genesis 2:24 cannot make sense in the context of polygamy. Polygamy first appeared in the reprobate line of Cain, when Lamech took two wives.

The image of a monogamous marriage was in the minds of those prophets who represented Israel as the one wife chosen by the one and only God, Jehovah (and later on in the minds of the apostles who represented the church as being the bride of Christ). From the time of the Return from exile onward (536 BC) there is no reference to polygamy among God’s people to be found in any of the post-exilic books of the Old Testament. Malachi 2:14,15 - "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth."

By Christ’s time monogamy was the rule among the Greeks and Romans as well as among the Jews, and Christ’s affirmation of the "one flesh" principle of marriage (which makes sense only in a context of monogamy) found ready acceptance among His countrymen (Matt 19:5-6). The apostle Paul stated that a church office bearer must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). If the higher standard required of leaders by God excluded polygamy, it could hardly be viewed as ideal.

While polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called "the hardness of men’s hearts" (Matthew 19:8) it was ENDURED by God - especially in the case of a king whose dynasty would fail if he produced no son by his first wife. A state of civil war might well ensue from such a situation, with resulting bloodshed and disruption to the state. In Ancient Near Eastern cultures monarchs often had a large harem of wives and concubines as a display of their greatness. Perhaps David and Solomon were "following the trend of the times." But there is implicit disapproval from God on the kings’ polygamous marriages in Deuteronomy 17:17 - "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away"

In almost every case of polygamy described, there is a resulting situation of family strife, jealousy, unhappiness and spiritual failure. Jacob’s wives quarrelled with one another for his love and favour even though they were sisters. In David’s case: the rivalry between his sons by different wives caused them to kill one another. In Solomon’s case: it led to his own downfall into idolatry (1 Kings 11:3). Elkanah’s one wife was considered as a "rival" or adversary by the other, who "used to provoke her sorely, to irritate her . . ." (1 Samuel 1:6). No husband has the capacity to love all his wives fully and equally, and no wife has the capacity to receive a rival to the husband’s affection and attention.

Monogamy is best!

The love that Christians have for the person they marry must be subject to their love for God. If a Christian marries someone who does not love God, then he is loving that person more than he loves God. God requires us to love Him first, and then to love our husband or wife. God also commands Christians to marry only Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14 - "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?") It would be wrong to love anyone more than God, even one’s husband or wife. Even if a Christian marries a Christian, he still must be careful to love God more than he loves his wife.

There are various degrees of love. This fact is recognised by all. A man who is married must love his wife. If he has children, he loves each child. If his parents are living, he also loves them. And if he has very close friends, he would also love them. But the degree of love he has for each of them may not be all the same. If all of the people he loves are in danger at the same time - who would he help first? And who would he help last? The fact that he helps all of them shows that he still loves them all.

Therefore when the Bible says ‘love thy neighbour’ - Yes, the Christian’s love for Christians (whom he is naturally closer to) would be different from his love for non-Christians, but it is a difference of degree.

People naturally have more love for those who share the same views, beliefs and attitudes as they have. Although Christians also love non-Christians, they have to be careful that their love for non-Christians must not make them compromise their own views, beliefs and attitudes, or else they may be drawn away from God by non-Christians.

To love God is more important than to love one’s neighbour. Jesus said: "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Mark 12:28-31)

Therefore, there is a priority that Christians must keep: I must love God first, and then love my neighbour. If my neighbour loves God like I do (e.g. other Christians), there is no problem. But if my neighbour does not love God, there may be a problem, especially when he wants me not to love God, but to become just like him. That neighbour may love things that God hates and he wants me to love him enough to love these things as well. He may say "If you don’t love the things I love, how can you say that you really love me?" or "If you love God whom I don’t love, how can you say that you really love me?" Then my love for God must come first. I can still love that neighbour, but now that love must necessarily be limited. I must first try to convince that neighbour to love God. If he responds well and loves God like I do, then I have no limitations to loving him. But if he refuses to love God after all my efforts to persuade him, then my love for him will have to be limited.

It would be a sin if a person looks lustfully at them. The difference is in the manner of looking. In a culture where nakedness is common, the people who grow up in such an environment may have a higher threshold of temptation to lust than those who live in an environment where nakedness is prohibited. I think that a missionary who is brought up in the latter type of environment will have problems initially when he goes to the former type of environment. But as he gets used to it, he may be able to look without lust. What he can do, if he anticipates problems, is to pray hard for grace to overcome the lust. He may have to consciously focus his eyes away from where the eyes are prone to wander - perhaps by concentrating on looking just at the heads of the people there all the time, and not at their bodies.

Tribes that are naked have varying standards of morality. Some have been known to be extremely immoral. But others seem to have better standards. They are usually found in the equatorial regions where the hot climate makes it less needful to cover oneself up. Most of them have a minimal standard of modesty. E.g. the Palawanos at one time wore G-strings to cover their shame. Anything less than that would be unacceptable in their culture and would provoke their own people to lust and sin.

Someone may then argue then, that theoretically, nakedness can become an acceptable norm in modern society and there would be no lust and no sin, just like in these tribes. But this is not true, because modern society does not have the natural simplicity of the tribal people. Modern civilised living is complicated with a much more influences, history and culture than those who live in a tribe roving the forests. I do not think that nakedness can ever become morally acceptable in a civilised environment because of this.

Lack of confidence in making decisions is not sinful. Sometimes we make decisions where we are not sure what the outcome will be and we wonder if it is the right decision. E.g. career, life partner, buying a flat, having a child. There is nothing sinful in being unsure of these kinds of decisions. But this can lead to sin if we allow those unsure feelings to make us fear, worry too much and to doubt God’s goodness to us. When you are unsure about any decision, the best thing to do is to pray, asking God to give you wisdom (James 1:5 – "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.") and to keep you from making the wrong decision. After you have prayed, use whatever wisdom God has given you to make the best choice, and then just leave the outcome of the decision to God, trusting that He has answered your prayer. What is sinful is to do things that are contrary to one’s conscience or knowledge of God’s Word.

The prohibition of marriages between brothers and sisters is found in Leviticus 18:6-9, together with prohibition of marriages with other family members and close relatives. These prohibitions still apply to Christians, since the apostle Paul disciplined a member of the Corinthian church for marrying his widowed step-mother (1 Corinthians 5:1) and he called this relationship an immoral one. Today, such relationships are known as incest, and are disapproved by the public.

However, in the times before Moses, there was some tolerance for such marriages. e.g. the children of Adam and Eve probably had to marry each other, since there was no one else for them to marry. Hence Cain and Seth must have married their own sisters and had children by them. God permitted this only at the beginning, out of necessity. As more and more people lived on earth, there was no more need for this practice, and hence it became sinful for anyone to marry his own sister.

Today, it is also known that incestuous relationships bring the problem of genetic defects and retarded children. This is due to the genetic depletion that has taken place over hundreds of generations since the time of Adam and Eve. Many different types of genes have been lost due to death and disease. The total number of gene types in the world today is much less than the total number of gene types that existed in the world at the beginning. This is true not only of human beings, but of animals as well. Hence any species that goes through a few generations of ‘inbreeding’ i.e. marrying within its own family, will soon manifest serious weaknesses, mental and physical problems.

This is the result of the Fall. It would not be true today if man had not sinned, because death and disease would not have depleted the genetic pool. In the first few generations, brothers and sisters could marry and have children without worrying about their children being retarded or abnormal, because their genes were perfect. Now, our genes are not so perfect. This may be the reason why God now disallows close marriages and wants us to consider them as immoral. It is for our own good.

If the customer wants the interior designer to work together with a Fengshui expert or to read Fengshui textbooks and apply its principles, then the designer should decline the job. But if the customer himself makes all the specifications to the designer according to his study of Fengshui, then it would be all right for the designer to accept, because it would be just like working for any other customer according to their own whims and fancies.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

May 21 & 28 - Looking for the Saviour

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20