Sunday, August 14, 2011

Christian Myths 4

Today we return to our series on Christian myths. To see the other articles, click here, here, and here.

1. I am waiting to find “The One,” a specific person God has for me to marry.

The Myth: The idea is based on the concept that God has a wonderful plan for our lives—which isn’t a bad thing. He does (cf. Romans ). However, our fellow believers here tend to think that God has one specific person that they are supposed to marry. Hence, if they marry any other person they are out of God’s will, and hence in sin. This can make for a very awkward and unpleasant situation for the believer.

Why? Because then the believer has no real way of knowing if this particular person was the right one (other than their emotions, of course). At this point, you either have a believer stuck in perpetual singleness or a believer who marries simply on an emotional basis (e.g., “I know he’s the one; God has told me. I just feel right around him!”). Many poor marriage partner-choices have been made on this basis.

Next, it does not take into account believers who may marry a second time (after an initial spouse’s death). If the concept of “the one” is true, then surely they are sinning by marrying a second time. “Well nonsense,” one might retort, “God simply had two planned for that person.” That may very well be, but in that case the concept of the one is not a universal standard (and hence is false by definition). In that case, there is no way to tell to whom “the one” applies. It is at this juncture that one may say that God has a specific person at a specific time—and that this is part of God’s plan. While I believe that God has every event of our lives planned out for us, and that marriage is an important decision, I do not believe this knowledge ought to constrain us to some mystical feeling. It is every bit as important that we obey God in what time we wake up tomorrow. “But God hasn’t commanded us to wake at a specific time!” And if you’ll check, neither has he commanded that you marry a specific person.

Finally, take into account the poor person who is single; the concept of “the one” either tells them to expect a partner from God himself or that God has decreed that they be single; faced with these daunting prospects, a person will either give up trying and rely on emotions or be paralyzed in fear (as mentioned earlier).

I would be remiss if I did not briefly suggest a few counter-ideas to this. First, who to marry is a choice that must be taken seriously, and with wisdom. Second, discuss who you are thinking of dating or beginning a relationship both with people who are wise, spiritual, know you well, and know the other person well. Third, pray about it. Pray for wisdom and the opportunity to discuss it with the other person. Next, and this is really prior to anything else, they must already be a Christian! Don’t date them thinking they will change or that by dating them you will influence them for Christ. Finally, don’t begin a one-on-one relationship unless you are planning, if all goes well, to be serious.

2. I would go into the ministry/on the mission field/to seminary, but I’m just not called.

The Myth: The concept of “the call” in ministry has been around since long before I was born. I grew up hearing about how unless one has been called of God to be a pastor, youth pastor, missionary, or evangelist, he should not go into the ministry. This has resulted in a number of problems.

First, it created an atmosphere where the believers in the pew were content to let the “God-called” people do the ministry, and they would do nothing. After all, if God hasn’t called me to clean up the auditorium after the Sunday services, then I shouldn’t! Such an idea is not conducive to a healthy church.

Second, it created an area of potential abuse by church leadership. I have heard, a number of times, of pastors that when faced with criticism will say (or have someone mention) not to touch “the Lord’s anointed.” Oy. This is just a power grab or a serious misunderstanding of the Scriptures.

Third, it places the believer in a place where he does not engage in the Great Commission. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20, and it is a command to all believers to go into all the world. As David Platt mentions in his book Radical, it simply is a violation of Scripture for the believer to give money and say, “It’s not my responsibility; I’m not called to do that.”

This leads us to our final point: the concept of “the call” is unbiblical. The only examples anyone can give are either to apostles or involve God directly speaking to individuals. What’s truly odd about this situation is that God has spoken to us and there are definite calls for believers to work in ministry. They are found in God’s Word! All of us are called to do missions in some way. We may not all have the opportunity to go full-time, but most of us can take an opportunity to go for a short-term trip. The ones who physically cannot should influence Christ for the world in their own neighborhoods.[1] I myself am ashamed to say I have only been on one true missions trip, and the only other time I have been out of the country was my honeymoon (though I did pass out some Spanish tracts while we were there).

So how are you to know what God wants you to do? The same way you (should) decide everything else: you pray, ask wise people, and seek the opportunity. If it is good, wise, spiritual counselors approve, you have prayed, and there is an opportunity and desire—do it!

                [1] Of course, we should all be doing that.

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  1. Thanks Randy
    These thoughts are very similar to those expressed in Garry Friesen's book Decision Making and the Will of God. I've recently read this book and it has been a wonderfully liberating experience! I've recommended it to several friends trusting that they will have their eyes opened and be released from much confusing and often incorrect teaching concerning how to find God's will.

    1. Thanks Wowzers! Sorry about not getting back to you earlier!


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