Convictions & Choices, part 1: Don’t Do It Because “They” Do
We recently talked about not doing something “just to prove them wrong.” Today I want to talk about the flip side:
Don’t embrace a conviction just because others do.
Just as the world often goes along with lifestyle decisions because of the people around them, Christians sometimes take on the convictions of others around us without actually searching the Scriptures and knowing exactly why they believe and do what they do. Here are some convictions that I’ve seen Christians adopt because of others, and it has almost always ended up to their detriment and sorrow:
- homeschooling/private Christian schooling/public schooling
- following Babywise/co-sleeping
- sports/dance/theater/extracurricular involvement
- delaying babies/being “quiverful”/stopping after 2 kids/surgical sterilization
- pastoral & missionary service
- going/not going to college
- following a particular curriculum or ministry
The list above is not necessarily a list of right things, or of wrong things. It is, however, a list of things that would be absolutely wrong for you to do if they do not “proceed from faith.”
Here’s the thing I feel pressed to tell you, sister:
YOU SHOULD NOT DO ANYTHING THAT IS NOT FULLY DONE IN FAITH.
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
ARE YOU “RUNNING FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE,” GATHERING CONVICTIONS FROM OTHERS?
Many women today, I feel, are very near the line (if not over it) that 1 Timothy 5:13 describes, of young widows with not enough to do:
“they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies…”
- The fact that someone else does or says something, and seems godly and wise, can not be enough for you.
- The feeling that you were raised in a different way, and this way seems so righteous and wholesome can not be enough for you.
- That an impressive or dynamic leader espouses this idea, curriculum, conviction, or approach can not be enough for you to follow it.
- The novelty or uniqueness of an idea can not be enough for you.
- The fact that you read about it and it resonates with you can not be enough.
- Really liking and admiring the woman saying it, and her family, can not be enough.
IN THE HOMESCHOOL COMMUNITY
I have particularly witnessed this in the at-large homeschool community, so that is where I’m going to call it out. Sadly, it is not uncommon to see women essentially going “from house to house,” wandering in and out of various convictional stances. These women:
- take on convictions of others,
- talk loudly about them,
- live them out for a while, wholeheartedly trying out “this” discipline method, “that” birthing style, “this” belief about birth control, or “that” homeschool approach,
- feel defeated and discouraged when it doesn’t “work” for their marriage, family, or child,
- often proceed to talk loudly against the convictions they were once all for,
- and then, do it again, usually swinging to the opposite end of the pendulum.
They do this not based on reading God’s Word, not based on leadership from their husband, not based on teaching from their pastor & church, but often based on the teachings of other women in blogs, books, magazines, and online forums.
I fear that there is a great risk of becoming like those busy bodying widows when we spend more time talking with other women online about our convictions (or mentally “talking” with other women in books/articles/magazines/blogs), than we do with our own flesh-and-blood husbands.
[And trust me, I’m not saying any specific thing on the list good or bad, although I definitely have my own opinions & convictions (some of them quite strong). I’ve lived and done some of those things, and some of them I have specifically avoided.]
But it concerns me to see women taking on large-scale, burdensome convictions without the drive for those convictions coming first from Scripture, and without their own hearts being fully knit together with their husbands.
TWO SPECIFIC EXAMPLES
#1- Sadly, it seems there was a disturbing trend of this tendency in the patriarchal/quiverfull circles of Doug Phillips & Vision Forum. Now, please hear me out, whether you are/were a lover or hater of that group.
Ironically, in a system where the husband was supposed to be the head of the home, there are many instances I have read about and observed-from-afar where the wife was the first to be “convinced” of the convictions they took on. Husbands then, at their wives insistence/enthusiasm, began to live out these strong and difficult convictions. It seems that many did this, not because they were independently, biblically convinced of each one, but because their wives pulled them into the whole thing and they coalesced.
Sisters, this should not be.
Later, it turned out that this system of living was burdensome to many who embraced it. Many of the women found themselves carrying a burden that felt too heavy. Many marriages and families struggled (and still are). And many, sadly, have thrown their faith out with these convictions that (for them) seem wholly tied up with Christ.
#2- I have also seen it with children and discipline issues, in completely different circles.
The wife goes out into the worldwide web, finds a parenting system that appeals to her “mommy heart,” because it seems soft and sweet and “non-punitive,” and is fully intertwined and committed to this system, before her husband has even had a chance to consider it and weigh in. When their husbands try to express concerns, they are ignored or belittled for “not understanding child development” or “not being as well-read” as the mom.
This approach produces division within homes, enmity between mom & dad, difficulty between fathers and their children (when their children turn out to be little pills), and can even lead to divorce, all because the wife was out, running from virtual house to house, taking on opinions and convictions without her husband’s input.
HEAVY BURDENS V. LIGHT BURDENS
In Matthew 23 (and Luke 11), the burdens given to people by the religious leaders were described:
“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”
This reminds me of the burdens tied on people’s shoulders by those who loudly tout the rightness or wrongness of various convictions. And, like the Pharisees, those who teach about these burdensome convictions will not be there to help move and lift the burdens when it becomes to great for people to bear alone.
Doug Philipps is not there to help lift the heavy, everyday burdens of the fathers and mothers he shackled with a works-based approach to godliness. Nor are the internet forum moms (who hand out advice in droves) going to be there to help you when your 5-year-old is a violent whirlwind of destruction and makes your home life miserable. They lay up heavy burdens on the shoulders of others but do nothing to help lift them.
But the burden given to people by Christ is described much differently:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
He does not give burdens that are greater than we can bear in His strength. He helps us to carry the things that He puts on our shoulders.
Christian wives should not be out running around (on the internet or in books or homeschool conventions), gathering convictions to bring back and lay at our husbands’ feet, for them to take on and “do.” If we do, we become part of the religious system described above, where we are laying heavy burdens on other people’s shoulders.
Before embracing a convictional stance, be sure that you are “fully convinced,” as Romans 14:5 tells us to be. In order to be “fully convinced” as a married woman, I believe I should:
- look to God’s Word
- look to Christ & take on HIS rest-giving yoke
- look to our own husbands, ranking their opinions much higher than anyone else on earth
- look to our own consciences
to determine what we are “fully convinced” about and can do “in faith.” And more often than not, rather than producing exact carbon copies of one another, that is going to produce some areas where we operate differently from the people around us.
Which is EXACTLY why God gave us Romans 14.
Which is where we’ll pick up, in part 2.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:
- Do you see this tendency in yourself, or in the group you are a part of?
Because I know this is a potentially divisive issue, I offer this heads-up: I am going to be actively moderating comments & will not approve rude, combative comments. Personal, observational, or factual comments are fine. But do not wholesale-criticize a group of people. Do not make sweeping, judgmental statements. Try to be more conciliatory toward the opposing “side” than you hope for them to be toward you.
I would love to host a robust, honest, kind discussion here.
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