If you have ever had contact with a 2 to 4 year old, you probably learned rather quickly that their favorite word is “why.” If you have had any interaction with a teenager, you soon realized the word “why” cropped back into their vocabulary. For the little ones, the answers “because I said so” or “it just does” may be enough to relieve you from a long explanation. However, that just doesn’t work on teens. It also doesn’t work on adults.
Part of our ministry activity includes counseling those who have harbored anger, bitterness, and questions regarding much of what they have experienced and learned in church. The fault for much of what some refer to as “extreme” days was the lack of teaching of one generation to the next, and it has persisted ever since. The lack of teaching what? The lack of teaching “the WHY.”
Following World War II, there was a great missionary surge in the church which lasted into the 1950’s. Many of the missionaries who were sent out during those days served on the field 40, 50, or more years. And, the church become complacent. People went to church, did the church “thing,” supported the abundance of missionaries, believing that they were following the Bible.
The decades of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s were fraught with so many changes in society. The sexual revolution, feminism, the drug culture, prayer removed from public schools, the Roe vs. Wade decision, progressive school curriculum — these were simply some of the changes happening in culture. Political and economic changes were also occurring, including the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, and the Iran hostage crisis. How could this be happening? We all go to church. We have sent out missionaries. We are a Christian nation. The church was shocked to its core with the changes happening around them. Those changes are similar to what the church is facing today.
Although I don’t think I can say that I have actual facts to prove my theory, I do believe that the preponderance of circumstantial evidence can prove it. It is my belief that the actions of the church during those days were reactionary in an effort to build up a wall of protection to keep the world from infiltrating the church beliefs and practices. Even though verses were used to support some of the practices and decisions, the truth of the matter is many of those verses were taken out of context. Worse yet came the perceived “do as I say” dictates.
Instead of reacting, preaching and teaching should have focused on teaching doctrine, shoring up the family through the Word of God, and prayerfully considering what could be done in light of a changing world.
Yes, there were many do’s and don’ts. Leaders believed these do’s and don’ts were the practical ways to deal with the changing times. Could there have been different “practicals”? Sure. Each of us probably could come up with a number of different “practicals” that would have honored Biblical principles.
The problem was that the Biblical principles were not taught in conjunction with the rules and standards. There were and are Biblical reasons for the “practicals” whether we understood them or not then or now. Whether they were taught to us or not, the “why” has always been there. There are Biblical principles for every aspect of life.
“But, what are the chapter and verses?”
That would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? However, that isn’t the case. There many grey areas where the Bible simply does not say, “Thou shalt not.” Instead, we must search the Word of God ourselves asking the Lord to give us the discernment and wisdom to learn what He would have us do. I have found over the years that wisdom sought out for myself tends to be learned on a deeper level than when someone simply tells me.
There is clear Biblical teaching on some life areas; other areas are not so clear. I am including a link to a PDF entitled “What To Do When There Isn’t a Chapter and Verse.” It includes seven basic Bible principles with verses that will help you discern what is right and wrong for any situation.
In every aspect of life, first seek out what the whole counsel of God has to say about it. You cannot rely on simply one or two verses. It is too easy to take those out of context resulting in thinking the Bible says something that it does not. Be willing to change should the Lord convict you that your thoughts or practices are wrong on the matter. For those grey areas, where there isn’t a “chapter and verse,” apply the seven Biblical principles to help discern what would be the best decision to make on the matter. Giving up long held traditions, thoughts, opinions, and, yes, assumptions is not easy. I’ve been there myself. Paul addressed just these things in Romans 14:
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
Some will be persuaded toward higher standards, others will not. We must not judge either as right or as wrong. We must, as brothers and sisters in Christ, stop proclaiming “liberty” in order to do what we want and start considering if we are a stumbling block to another Christian, or worse yet, hindering an unbeliever from coming to Christ. It isn’t hard for me to submit myself to a higher (aka: stricter) standard that I personally do not hold when I keep in mind that I am trying to be a blessing instead of a stumbling block. At the same time, it is also not difficult to fellowship with another who holds a lesser (aka: looser) standard than I so long as they do hold to the same doctrine and way of salvation. Who knows if my gentle spirit on a differing standard or issue may spark a teachable moment to show from God’s Word why I practice what I believe the way that I do?
When we learn to study and teach “the why,” we will pass on true Biblical principles to the next generation rather than simply a list of do’s and don’ts. We will give them a sure foundation on which to stand.
Psalm 100:5, For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
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