Apologetics, Questions, Issues
A Few Hot-Potato Questions
by Ed Vasicek
Are you ready for the issues that are likely to come your way? I have concluded it is impossible to preclude everything, but we can address some common ones. Today I want to share my answers to a few common questions. This is a case of "thus saith Pastor Ed," not "thus saith the Lord."
QUESTION: Is it wrong for a Christian to be cremated?
Assuming he is dead, my answer is "no." That was easy. But I do have a few other comments. The traditional way we bury our dead (viewing, funeral, graveside, etc.) serves a practical purpose: it helps loved ones and friends accept the reality that the deceased is...well, dead. In most instances, I think it is better, psychologically, to view a body.
People try to build Biblical arguments against cremation, but their reasoning is flimsy and betrays that they are advocating a preconceived agenda.
QUESTION: Is it wrong to commit suicide? Will a true believer lose his salvation if he does so?
I answer the first question "yes," the second "no." Suicide is usually an incredibly self-centered act. It destroys the consciences of friends and loved ones, burdening them down with a heavy load of guilt; it ruins lives. It is cowardly: committing suicide is running from life. It denies the ability of the Lord to help us through life. It frustrates the goal of our lives: glorifying God in times both good and bad. If you are contemplating suicide, get professional help immediately.
I am more sympathetic, but not supportive, when someone commits suicide because he is a danger to others (e.g., a serial killer) or has a terminal disease, though such a suicide is still truly wrong. The taking of human life, other than in self-defense, combat, or capital punishment, is a serious sin.
The second question deals with the security of the believer. If a truly saved person commits suicide, will he lose his salvation? The answer to all questions like this is "no." Salvation is by grace, and nothing can separate the genuine, and I want to emphasize "genuine," believer from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I cannot imagine the shame and grief and loss of reward of the true believer who does this when he appears before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Many of us have, at times, felt like we would rather be dead, especially on rainy Mondays. That is normal during life's low times. There is a big difference between that experience and actually planning to commit suicide. Even Paul talked about how he preferred to be with Christ rather than continue with life on earth, but he submitted to God's will over his own. David could not wait unit he could actually meet with God. But suicide is a rejection of God's will and a lashing out at God.
QUESTION: Is it wrong for Christians to get married by a judge and not by a minister?
No, it's fine. Getting married in church did not start until centuries after the church began. You are just as married if you were married by a judge or the captain of a ship as if you were married by Billy Graham himself. You are married when: (1) the society recognizes you as legally married and (2) you need to get a divorce to marry someone else.
I do have a few cautions to mention, however. First, studies have shown that a good pre-marital counseling regimen can cut the divorce rate for the first seven years of marriage by fifty percent. So make sure you get good premarital counseling even if you tie the knot in court.
Secondly, God's rules for marriage always apply: no sex until you are married, marry only a serious born-again believer if you are a serious believer yourself, and honor God's Word in your marriage.
Many Christians prefer to get married in church as a way to publicize that they want Christ to be Lord of their marriage, and that's great; but countless church weddings are done out of protocol or tradition only. What really matters is this: Is Jesus Christ Lord of your life and Lord of your marriage?
QUESTION: How do we treat people who are living together but not married?
Why did you have to ask this one? Okay, I'll tackle it, but this one is a bear to answer, and I do not know that I can address every situation. In some cases, no matter what I decide, I still feel wrong on some point. I'll list a few thoughts and then you can attempt to put it together. I can't always do that.
- We should not expect lost people to act like Christians, nor should we force them to do so.
- We should expect Christians to act like Christians.
- It is not our job to force anyone to conform to God's Word, but we are to hold other BELIEVERS accountable, even to the point of church discipline. Discipline's goal is to awaken them to the reality that they are straying from God, and that they need to get right with God first and then, as a consequence, they correct their behavior. We are not to hold lost people accountable.
- What is morally wrong is wrong; it is not a case of being wrong for me and right for you.
- We have to live in this world and should not isolate ourselves, but we should protect our children from harmful influences and examples that might be interpreted as "living together apart from marriage is okay." Yet, if we have family members or friends who are doing so, we just may have to repeatedly discuss things with our kids, admonishing them that the couple is wrong and praying that they would come to know Christ. Children need to be told NOT to confront them; that is not their place.
- We win people to Christ by sharing the Gospel and being gracious, not by demanding unbelievers to get in line first.
- We should expect believers to "get in line."
- The welfare of children is crucial, so we must often choose between the lesser of evils. If a shacking-up couple have children together but one party refuses to marry, would it be better to continue the relationship for the kids or see them break up?
These are just some of the issues we struggle with. Sin starts out simply, but results in horribly entangling messes, often hurting everyone involved. This sometimes leaves us searching for the lesser of evils rather than the best of the good.
One of the great challenges for Christians today is to recognize that society no longer feels obligated to embrace Judeo-Christian values. On the one hand, we have to get more comfortable with unbelieving couples who are shacking up while, at the same time, getting firm with believers (even in our own families) who are doing the same. We tend to reverse matters.
The other complicating factor is this: for most overt sins, we encourage Christians to fix matters immediately. When a couple has been living together for some time and they want to get right with God, sometimes repentance is taking the first step toward marriage (scheduling a date and getting premarital counseling).
Reprinted from the September 2004 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church