Volume. XXV, No. 2
Sunday, 11 July 2010


Should Christians Attend a Pagan Wedding or Funeral?


Introduction

The principle of Biblical Separation is clearly taught in the Scriptures and is arguably one of the most important teachings in the Bible. The Word of God clearly teaches both primary (i.e. personal) and secondary (i.e. ecclesiastical) separation. Primary separation or personal separation has to do with separation from sins and immorality (1 Pet 1:15,16; Eph 4; Col 3). Most born again Christians today would not argue much over how one should practise primary separation. Secondary or ecclesiastical separation has to do with separating from Apostate churches, including the Roman Catholic Church or Apostate Para-church groups (2 Cor 6:14-16), which are ecumenical in nature and false brethren/teachers such as Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen just to name a few (2 Thess 3:6,14; 1 Cor 5:9-13). It is the practise of secondary or ecclesiastical separation that is often the point of contention among fundamental and Bible believing Christians.
 
The Purpose, Motive and Goal of Biblical Separation
Some churches confuse primary separation with secondary separation, while other churches simply carry this principle to an extreme, forgetting the purpose, motive and goal behind practising Biblical Separation. The purpose of practising Biblical Separation is to give glory to God through our obedience (1 Cor 5:9-13; 2 Thess 3:6; 2 Cor 6:14-17)—when we obey, God is glorified. The motive of practising Biblical separation is love (2 Thess 3:14,15). We separate from sin because we love God, we separate from Apostate churches and false brethren and teachers because, in love, we hope that they would repent and be saved (Jud 1:23 ; 1 Cor 5:5, 2 Thess 3:14; Jas 5:19) by our taking a stand against their false teachings and practices, not against them. The goal is for the sake of testimonies so that unbelievers would know what Christians stand for or against and that fellow-believers would be edified and encouraged (1 Thess 1:6-8; Gal 5:9).   
 
To Attend or Not Attend
If a Christian walks into a RC (Roman Catholic) church just to take a look at the building itself, there is nothing evil in this. Prophet Daniel and his three friends went in and out of the imperial courtrooms and different imperial chambers which were basically various places of worship for Pagans (Dan 2:28,49). Have they ever ‘attended’ any of those pagan services? Of course they did (Dan 3:7), but obviously they did not ‘participate’ in any of the bowing and rituals (Dan 3:12-14). Yet, for the sake of brethren of weaker consciences (1 Cor 8:7-13), we should not enter into a temple or a RC Church. In doing this we may stumble other brethren with weaker consciences as in the case of eating food that has been offered to idols (1 Cor 8:13). Likewise, if a Christian has to ‘attend’ a wedding ceremony in a RC church or a pagan funeral, does it mean that he is less of a Christian and has compromised his principle of separation by his action? Take the example of a pagan funeral. Can a Christian attend a pagan funeral (either Catholic or Buddhist) and still keep to his principle of separation? Many Christians in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have or have had non-Christians parents or relatives who are/were Buddhists. We always advise them to ‘attend’ the funeral service for the sake of testimonies WITHOUT ‘participating’ in any pagan ritual or practices (e.g. bowing to the dead or carrying jaw-sticks or encircling the dead with monks). In doing so, they are still practising Biblical Separation. Therefore, we see no reason why a Christian shouldn’t attend a non-Christian or RC wedding. 
 
Biblical Separation or Isolation?
Some may argue: “Did not the Bible say that we should separate ourselves from unbelievers?” Biblical Separation does not mean withdrawing yourself from unbelievers. In fact, we are commanded to withdraw from disobedient brethren, not unbelievers per-se. If we withdraw ourselves from unbelievers altogether, or places where unbelievers gather, then how are we going to reach out to them and tell them about Christ (1 Cor 5:9-11)? If one argues that entering into a RC church building itself is evil and sinful, what makes a protestant church building (the physical structure) holier than any other building? It is not necessarily the physical buildings or places that we have to separate from, it is the false system (false beliefs and practices) in the RC church in the context of secondary Biblical separation. However, this does not mean that Christians are encouraged to attend RC services or any pagan gathering. The point is that ‘attending’ a RC wedding or a funeral does not equal to compromising one’s separatistic stand. If a Christian has to attenda RC wedding or a pagan funeral, as long as he does not participatesin its rituals (eg. Mass) and worship service (e.g. saying a prayer to Mary or any Apostle with the RC or kneeling before a statue or praying for a RC priest), he is not compromising his stand. A spiritual compromise in the context of the Scripture is a process, a spiritual attitude and a way of life that leads to apostasy. It is not necessarily a ‘one time’ exposure’ or an ‘experience in a pagan gathering place’, though such exposures are discouraged.
 
Not to Conform to This World
Apostle Paul also commands his readers that we are not ‘to conform to this world’ and that we must be ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind’ (Rom 12:2). The question is: “Wouldn’t a Christian be conforming to the world by attending a RC wedding or a pagan funeral?” Bear in mind that Apostle Paul is giving us directions for primary or personal separation (from sins, immoralities and wickedness)—he is not talking about secondary separation. The word ‘conform’ means “to be fashioned” according to the standard of the world, and the word ‘transform’ means “change or transfigure”. Both verbs ‘conform’ and ‘transform’ are in the present tense, which carry the idea of linear or continuous action. What does it tell us? It means that ‘to be conformed’ or ‘to be transformed’ is a process, an attitude and a godly way of life. Simply attending a wedding in a RC church or pagan funeral once or twice in your life time for the sake of testimony to unbelieving family, relatives and loved ones is not a definitive compromise neither will it make one less of a Christian. It is a consistent walk with God, in an effort to live more like Christ (Rom 8:29), each day by the help of the Spirit of God (Gal 5) that is the emphasis in Romans 12:1,2.  
 
Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked Together with Unbelievers
Through the pen of Apostle Paul, God commands His people that they should not have any spiritual dealing (by not participating the pagan worships or rituals) with the Devil (1  Cor 6:14-16). Note that Paul makes several contrasts between fellowship of believers and unbelievers and righteousness and unrighteousness: light and darkness; Christ and Belial; a believer and an infidel; the temple of God and idols. The contrasts Apostle Paul made are all ‘spiritual’ in nature. In other words, there should be no ‘spiritual’fellowship, communion, concord and agreement between God’s people and Satan or Darkness. The context here is not about whether a Christian should partner with a non-Christian in a business dealing. Don’t we partner with our non-Christian school-mates or college-mates to do projects and assignments? Don’t we also have to team up with non-Christian colleagues to do marketing research or make presentations as assigned by our superiors? The principle found in 1Cor 6 applies to marriage because marriage is essentially a spiritual unionand fellowship between the two individuals: male and female; but it is not the same in the matter of business partnership or vocational and academic teamwork, which are neither spiritual unions nor spiritual fellowships. Ideally speaking, however, it would seem more practical and feasible to work with people of the same faith. Likewise, attending a pagan wedding or a funeral itself does not compromise our separatistic stand as long as no spiritual union or fellowship is involved. There are times that we need to physically separate ourselves from the places of sins and immoralities (e.g. red-light district and Casinos) in terms of primary separation, and there are also times that we need to be more prominent in taking our stand against Apostate churches or false brethren.
 
Conclusion:
It is not a sin or a compromise of primary separation when a Christian attends a RC wedding or a pagan funeral unless he participates in itsrituals and involves himself in the spiritual union and fellowship with unbelievers(2 Cor 6:14-16). With regard to secondary separation, a Christian must have no spiritual cooperation with apostate churches or organisations (e.g. having a joint evangelistic gospel rally or joint prayer session). However, this does not mean that we should never attend a pagan wedding or funeral for the sake of testimonies to our non-Christian loved ones, relatives and friends. We should always seek God’s wisdom and safeguard ourselves not to fall into an extreme in practising the principle of Biblical separation. May God grant us His wisdom.
 
Ps Weng
 

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Announcements
*Kitchen Rosters: Team Leader: Bro Lucas Yiew. Next Lord’s Day: Team Leader: Bro Daniel Volvricht.
*Welcome to our pulpit: Preacher Hai Seng Lim
*Budget proposals by all groups to be handed to Church Treasurer by NEXT Lord’s Day.
*No Ladies Fellowship Prayer Meeting on Tuesday. It will resume in 2 weeks’ time.
*Hospitality Roster for Pr Hai Seng Lim is on the notice board. Please put your name down to fellowship with him.  
*Those who can help to provide snacks or food for VBS, please contact Sis Peng Ha Yeo.
*24th Anniversary Greetings from Mrs Irena Kurek-Braden (Syd).
*Greeting from Rev George van Buuren (Holland).
*All leaders to hand in their reports for financial year 1 Jul 2009 - 30 Jun 2010 to Dn Edwin D’Mello by 31 July.
 
Looking Ahead
*ACM & Session Election, Sat, 21 Aug, at 7:30pm.
*Gospel Sunday, 12 Sept, at 7.30pm.
Praise & Thanksgiving
1. Journey mercies: Bro Terence & Sis Evelyn Lee & family; Bro Joseph & Sis Chrisanthi Selvanayagam & family (Adl); Bro Peter & Sis Mary Ting & family (Syd); Bros Chris Budiman (Adl), Norman Chia & Jonathan Liaw; Sisters Xandrea Cai’s parents (S’pore), Cindy Chan (Adl) & Michelle Lee (Melb); & others who have travelled.
2. God’s guidance and help for our students in their exams.
3. Church activities - over the past week.
4. Daily mercies, protection & guidance.
5. God’s protection during the heavy storm.
 
Prayer Items
1. Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Dr SH Tow; Rev & Mrs James White; Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Colin Creaser, Makoto Kobayashi (JPN), Elton Law, Jonathan Liao (Melb), Len & Richard Pearson, & Fred Volvricht; Mr Swee Liang Ng; Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Auntie Oei; Sisters Lynette Booth, Mabella Booth, Annie D’Mello & her mother (Mumbai), Lydia Fan, Myung Ki (UK), Choon Fong Lee (KL); Lehia Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson; Susan Veradi, Irena Kurek-Braden; & others in affliction.
2. Healing & health - Bro Winston Selvanayagam
3. Cambodia Missions - Rev Stephen Choi & ministry (Phnom Penh); Khmer Bible Students in bible colleges & seminaries.
4. Laos Missions - Bro Surish & ministry (Vientiane).
5. Bro Richie & Sis Myra Hornung - Missions work (Mindanao)
6. iSketch&Tell Studio - Pr H S Lim & his ministry in Adelaide (July).
7. IBPFM (USA) - Rev K Coleman & Board.
8. Ps & Sis Ki & ministry in New Life BPC (Lond).
9. Ps & Sis Weng - ministry in Hope BPC.
10. Hopefuls in S’pore; In Kuching: Teo family.
11. Journey mercies: Bro Terence & Sis Evelyn Lee & family (Perth); Sis Michelle Lee (Adl); & all others who are travelling.
12. ACM & 6th Session Election on Sat, 21 August.
13. Job - Sisters Xandrea Cai, Judy Li, Corinne Teng & Mag Yu (S’pore).
14. Final stage of Pregnancy - Mrs Sonya Rand (London) - safe delivery.
15. Good health in pregnancy - Sisters Mira Horenung & Demelza Ting. 
16. VBS - Pr Hai Seng Lim, organizers, helpers & children.
17. God’s protection & peace in Israel.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063