How to maintain harmony where there are doctrinal differences in the home
True love, they say, is blind, as it knows no colour, race, tribe or any other barrier for that matter. Ideally then, nothing should be able to tear apart or come between two people, who are genuinely in love. But does this extend to religion? Should it matter that a married Christian couple belongs to different church denominations? After all, the Bible says, what the Lord has joined together, let no one put asunder. So, would church denomination now put asunder what the Lord has joined together? OMIKO AWA and ISAAC TAIWO probe clerics on this.
‘It Could Affect Family Altar, If They Are Unable To Pray Together’
(Rt. Rev. Oluranti Odubogun is the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Ife.)
When a couple attends different churches or belongs to different faith, it shows that the two are not really together. This corroborates the scriptures’ saying that two cannot walk together unless they agree.
Today, church doctrines have taken over biblical doctrines. Even ecumenism has failed to bring the churches under one umbrella, as different doctrines are practised everywhere. This is why some churches would not want their young ones to marry from another church, which is wrong, if the bible is followed.
Therefore, with diverse doctrines being listened to by the couple attending different churches, there is bound to be confusion and discord in the home. Their beliefs would be different, based on what they are hearing. The home would be torn apart. This would also affect the children, who would be divided, with each of them wanting to follow who he or she wills. This would also affect their trainings and upbringing, as there is bound to be division. What a party sees right might be perceived wrong and vice versa. It would also affect the family altar, as they would not be able to pray together because of their diverse beliefs.
Where the wife suddenly decides to worship at a different church, there should be no compulsion on the side of the husband. Rather, the reason for the change should be carefully looked into and amicably resolved. If it is the husband that is wrong, he should own up and say ‘sorry’ to the wife and if it is the other way round, the wife should be able to appease the husband. This is for the sake of harmony in the home and to maximise spiritual growth. The family should be together and attend the same church and belong to one faith.
‘There Is Only One Unchanging, Immutable God’
(Moji Solanke, Christian Science Committee on publication for Nigeria West.)
The Bible reveals in Galatians 3: 28 that God does not define us by our human situation or status. Whether married or single, husband or wife, Protestant or Pentecostal, to Him, we are first individuals, ‘all one in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 2: 12 instructs everyone to work out his/her salvation. A spouse cannot work out the salvation of the partner. Moreover, marriage, though blessed of God, (since Christ Jesus says in Mark 10:9, that a married couple is joined by God), is a human institution (Mark 12:29), with limitations and imperfections.
In Christianity, there is one Body of Christ. Doctrinal differences arise from human interpretations of the scripture. Therefore, it is important to focus first on deepening one’s own understanding of God and then trust His leading in decisions such as marriage, and spiritual growth, rather than pre-determine what the exact religious leanings of a spouse should be.
The duty of the husband or wife is to rely on God for direction in every aspect of human experience, especially where it concerns faith and the family. After all, Jesus assures (Luke 12:32), that it is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. An honest desire to support the spiritual growth of a spouse and respect his/her individuality is blessed of God. It promotes tolerance and understanding, which contribute significantly to the harmony within a family, even where there may be doctrinal differences.
It is important, before marriage, for partners to discuss and agree on the spiritual instruction of the children, and then honour the agreement, making allowance for adjustments and compromise, if the need arises. When children grow up, they tend to choose which religion, denomination or church they want, despite the religion of their parents.
It is reassuring to know that, regardless of the varying perspectives arising from a belief or understanding of what God’s nature is, the truth is that there is only one unchanging, immutable God. In His dependable love, wisdom and mercy, He is able to maintain or restore harmony to marital situations, even in cases where there has been discord.
When individuals daily trust their marriage to God, when they seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, they shall find religious, denominational, doctrinal and marital differences resolved harmoniously, in line with God’s will and impartial love. Most importantly, they shall find God working with them, as they work out their own salvation.
‘Denomination Does Not Determine One’s Entry Into God’s Kingdom’
(Pastor Belemina Obunge is the Special Assistant to the General Overseer, The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Special Duties and in charge of Regions in Rivers and Bayelsa State.)
It’s encouraging for couples to attend the same church, as born again Christians. We may have a case, where one is born again and intends to be attending a church, where he/she would be more rooted in the word of God, but he/she should also be interested in the partner too, for them to grow together. As such, the couples should do everything possible to encourage worship in one church. It is better for both of them to join the same Bible believing Church, where they would grow together.
I have seen cases, where the two are attending different churches with responsibilities in their churches, but I would still advise couples should be together to hear the same message and share the same doctrine. Going in different directions would confuse the children. Family altar is very important in the home; it helps to bring everybody together.
Though denomination does not determine one’s entry into the kingdom of God, however, the couple should agree on what is best for them. I believe unity is very important. When one of them takes up important position in the church, the other should be ready to offer help. Husband and wife should be one and rooted together in love, according to the scriptures.
There should be no compulsion on the side of the husband and he should not impose his will on the wife, but both should come together, reason together and agree to do things together. Where there is initial resistance, the husband should go into prayer and since God would always support unity, He would definitely answer. Even the children should be prayed for and be made to see the reason why every member of the family should be together. Nothing should be done by compulsion.
It Could Mean There Is No Unity Of Faith Or Spirit Or That The Man Is No More In Control’
(Rev. Gabriel Agbo is a minister with the Assemblies of God Nigeria.)
It doesn’t look very nice, but all the same, it is possible with love and good understanding. There should be mutual agreement on where to worship, fellowship, etc. Where there is a conflict, the wife should submit and prayerfully wait for the understanding and permission of the husband. It is good that the two walk and fellowship together. But if they love each other and are very matured, they will have lessons, gains and notes from their different places of worship to share with each other. It’s all about mutual respect, understanding and love.
Definitely, there can be gains, if it is properly managed and if what is being taught in those places is genuine. Love wins! Even the Bible says that you should not throw away your partner, if he/she is an unbeliever. You pray and love to win him/her. Love conquers. We must tolerate, but that does not also mean that the woman should deliberately disobey the husband and worship in another place. It can cause a lot of problem, and even lead to a divorce.
When you see people from the same family scattered everywhere, and in different places of worship, it could mean there is no unity of faith or spirit or that the man is no more in control. At least, my children should worship with me, until they leave to stay on their own; that is until they become independent.
Doctrinal issue could be difficult sometimes. It is doctrinal issues that breed all this splitting of churches and multiplication of churches you see everywhere. The Bible calls it ‘wind of doctrines.’ It blows fast and very hot sometimes. There are people who cannot tolerate doctrinal differences. This can cause serious problem in the family, as it has done in the church. It is best to believe the same thing and speak one language. I must advise that people focus on Jesus and not on doctrines. Doctrines cannot save you, but Jesus will.
It can be corrected with love, dialogue patience, as well as, living by example. When you love and live well, relate well, people, including your family members will willingly and happily follow you to your place of worship. But if it is the contrary, they will hate you and that your ‘god’ or whatever you worship. But, it can at the same time breed more confusion than understanding. God cannot be approached in two ways. God is one and the way to God is one.
‘There’s No Harm, If Both Churches Are Bible-Based, Embedded In Bible Doctrines’
(Archbishop Magnus Atilade is the Archbishop and President of Gospel Baptist Conference, as well as President, Christian Welfare Initiative (CWI)
It’s advisable a couple attends the same church and remain in one faith, so that they could believe in the same thing, practice the same thing and see things in the same perspective. This would also help their children to see things the way their parents see them and follow their path. It is good for posterity. However, if they are attending different churches and both churches are Bible-based, embedded in Bible doctrines, there is no harm.
On the issue of the husband being the head of home, putting his feet down that his wife attends the same church, there should be no compulsion. Rather, both should work together amicably and make each other see the benefit of attending one church for the benefit of the home and that of the children.
‘There Cannot Be Unity In A Family, Where The Couple Attend Different Churches’
(Pastor Olusegun Daodu is the General Overseer, Christ Reigns International Church, Ibadan.)
When a couple attends different churches, they cannot be one, especially these days that most churches preach denominational doctrines. If churches were preaching the same thing based on the word of God, there would have been no danger, but denominational doctrines have replaced the truth in most churches. Since what one hears determines his/her spiritual health, it becomes imperative for the couple to stick to one Bible-based church and remain united for their sake and that of their children.
There cannot be unity in a family, where the couple attend different churches. In a case, whereby a church teaches that a believer should love his/her enemies and another is teaching that a believer should curse his/her enemies, what happens? There would also be different understanding of how to handle warfare, where the couple is not attending the same church.
Therefore, for the couple to enjoy their unity, they should feed on the same spiritual table, which would enable them to help and lift up one another, whenever one is falling.
There is need for unity of the spirit, mind and body, so that, they would remain one. They would have divergent views on issues, where they are attending different churches, such that, when one is moving towards this direction, the other person would be going in another and entirely different direction.
‘There Is No Compulsion In Serving The Lord’
(Rev. Sola Akinkuolie is the General Overseer, Christ’s Overflowing Anointing Church, Ayobo)
Christians, including either of the couple take certain decisions for certain reasons. For example, if a wife and the husband were attending a church that would not take them to heaven and the wife eventually realises and get born again, she may decide not to follow the husband to the church they were attending together before.
There are some churches that still get involved in idolatry and anyone that knows the truth would not like to continue with such a church.
The major reason of going to church is to be prepared for heaven and not for mundane things of this world. And where a party realises that this goal is not realizable, where he/she is going, he/she can withdraw from attending such a church.
It is now better for the one who knows the truth to pray through and ensure the partner is also convinced, so that both of them would now be attending the church that would take them to heaven. If this were not done, there would be division in the home, as the children would be at a loss as to who to follow. Where the children decide to follow the one that is still going to the wrong place, it would definitely have effect on their spiritual life.
The man cannot force the wife to attend his church and vice versa. There is no compulsion in serving the Lord. Even when the husband is the one attending a Bible believing church, he can only convince the wife through prayer and persuasion.
‘It Could Open Both To Temptation’
(Joel Olasunkanmi Iyiola is a Pastor in Bible Based Church, Ibadan)
What is good is good and what is bad is bad. For couples to be attending different churches is bad because they would be hearing different messages. Attending different churches by a couple would definitely have negative effect on the children, who will be divided, as they would choose who to follow, who they like and of course the one that is convenient to them, which may not be a Bible-based church.
Sometimes, the husband may need the wife, who might say they are having a vigil in her church. This may not go down well with the man. This is the beginning of a problem, which is capable of breaking the home. Where they are both attending the same church, they would both know when they are supposed to be in the church or at home together.
Attending different churches is dangerous, as it is also open to temptation on both sides, especially, the one that may not be attending a Bible-believing church. They are supposed to be together in all things. “One would chase 10, two would chase 10, 000”, the Bible says. The problem in the world today was caused by separation. Remember, because Adam was not with Eve, his wife, Satan capitalised on that to lure Eve, convinced her to eat the forbidden fruit, which she later gave the husband. Had it been they were together, probably, Satan would not have penetrated between them. Husband and wife must be together in all things, including going to church to face their common enemies.
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