Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Wedding Ring: Is it Worth It?

~A precious little child at convention. I often look at such and wonder what life holds, what eternity holds for her.
I pray, "God, don't let me do anything that would influence one of your little ones in the wrong way."

I got home last night from a church convention. Called the Interchurch Holiness Convention, it is where several similar denominations come together for a few days of fellowship, inspiration, and corporate worship. Our family helps by running sound and recording all the services as well as producing a printed publication called the Dayton Daily.

This post won't mean much to some of my readers--it might even be confusing. Please understand, it is intended for my fellow CHM friends who have shared a similar heritage and know what has generally been believed and taught over the years in our "conservative holiness" churches. I am happy to answer (as best I can) any questions any reader might have, but I want to make sure you understand my intent.

When I attend these conventions, and as I observe the world of Facebook and blogging--where I'm connected with many CHM friends--I am often put to pondering for days on end over what is happening to the people who have been a part of my heritage. Often, my heart is heavy.

There is much confusion in our midst. Of course, this is true of the world at large, but the bigger world is not my focus here. So, the confusion... there is a slow. melting. away. Many of the youth of yesterday are gone. They have dissolved their relationships with most of the people I saw this week. They have moved into myriad other relationships, organizations, worldviews, and belief systems.

I sat in my chair one service this week when an old man slowly made his way to the platform. He was honored for his years of dedicated service to the cause of Christ. He has children, and though I don't know all of them, I wondered what this old saint was thinking about as he made the long walk to the front to be honored by his fellow believers. I don't believe his children were there. One I know would not be able to minister to the people at this convention anymore. He made a choice that would forever remove his ability to influence or help this crowd of over three thousand souls.

You see, the people from my heritage decided years ago that it would be helpful to them if they took the Apostle Paul's admonition seriously when he told young Timothy to instruct the people under his influence not to adorn themselves with gold and pearls and expensive clothing. So, my people taught generation after generation that this was a valuable admonition. It has become something by which we are identified. It is just one thing that helps us focus on what really matters, the eternal things. (I could say much more about this issue and issues like it, but once again, that is not the focus of this post.)

As I sat watching the scene, tears filled my eyes and dripped down my cheek. A question came to my mind, a question for those who have decided that their parents, their grandparents, and the many leaders of the CHM who taught them values like this were wrong. The question keeps coming back, and it haunts me.

"Was it worth it? Just to have a piece of metal wrapped around one of your fingers? When you get to the end of this short life and you look into forever and into the face of Jesus, do you really think having that piece of metal, at the expense of losing an influence over thousands of needy souls--for we're all needy; we need each other--will you think then that it was worth it?"

Things look so different when we get a glimpse of eternity. A lot of the confusion just falls away. The picture comes into focus and we realize exactly what we need to do.

Please understand my intent here. It is not to hurt anyone or put anyone down. It is to try to get the many who have made choices like this to re-think their decisions. I long to see them regain their place of influence. We need them. We need their gifts and talents, their expertise and motivation. And those who might be considering going the same direction, I pray you will consider, "is it really worth it?"

I pray this helps someone.

18 comments:

  1. Thank You Laura! I have pondered that very thought so many times, "Is it worth it?" But you said it so much better than I ever could!! As much as I enjoy IHC, and other church conventions, etc, sometimes I come away so sad at the changes I see in people!
    Blessings to you!!
    Beth

    ReplyDelete
  2. Only an American can ask these questions. If it's an American issue, my question is, "have we been right" in our interpretation of the Scripture? You see, the tradition of men means nothing. The sure meaning of Scripture is essential. To alienate others over a band of metal may be as sinful as alienating oneself from a questionable heritage. WHSillings

    ReplyDelete
  3. I believe the verse you are referencing is 1 Tim 2:9 which also discusses braided hair. Is that part not taken seriously by the CHM? If you genuinely believe what you have stated in this post, then I would think that you would have to ask yourself "is it worth it?" in regards to the braided hair that is often worn by women of the CHM. Just curious.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Metal Wearer, If you study the original context of that verse, it is broided hair. They would take fancy items and braid them into their hair to make more of a show, a decoration if you will. A simple braid is very neat and pleasing to the eye, but broided hair is an "attention grabber." I Tim 2:9-10 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

    Laura, Many times my husband and I have asked ourselves this question. It seems when a person that was raised in the CHM leaves their love for the Lord, the wedding ring is the first thing to show up. Almost in defiance of the way they were raised. It is not long before the rest of the standards they were raised with are gone also.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for your comments, Beth and Nicki. I appreciate hearing from you.

    Bro. Sillings, thank you also for sharing your perspective. With all due respect, I must admit I find your response puzzling. I’m having some trouble following your line of thought. You ask the question "have we been right?".

    OK, that’s a fair question, however, that is not what this post is about. The point I tried to make is not to rehash the rightness or wrongness of this issue, it is the willingness of people to trash relationships of a lifetime, and what I am asking is, is putting that band of metal on worth it? You note that "the tradition of men means nothing." OK, then I'm sure you would agree that the tradition to wear a wedding ring means nothing as well. So that observation is not that helpful. The last sentence sounds more like..., well, let's just put it this way. I am not a legalist. I've not accused anybody here of sin. I’ve simply asked the question, is it worth it? Do you find that question uncomfortable?

    You refer to the issue as American (vs. British, I suppose) BTW is there a British CHM? Seems their wisdom on issues has been less than successful.)

    MetalWearer,
    You too miss my point. There is no generally held value among the CHM folks with regard to braided hair. As I reminded Mr. Sillings, the point of my post is not whether or not these issues are right or wrong, it is about trashing relationships and whether or not it is worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would then ask about the headbands, bows, ribbons, and barrettes (decorations) that are worn in the hair of CHM women and young girls...

    FYI - the Greek word for 'broided' is 'plegma'..which means "1)what is woven, plaited, or twisted together, 2)a web, plait, braid." Sounds like a braid to me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Laura, I would have to say, if someone would "trash" a relationship just because the other person is wearing a piece of metal on their finger...then that relationship must not have meant much to begin with. How superficial.

    ReplyDelete
  8. OK, MetalWearer,

    Yes, I guess that is true. It’s all in the words, isn't it? If you can control the sound bites you can control most people.

    But what is the reality here? Is the accurate depiction "someone is trashing a relationship 'just because' the other person is wearing a piece of metal on his finger?" Or is "someone trashing a relationship 'just because' the other person is NOT wearing a piece of metal,” OR is it about a willingness to walk away from shared values, from a lifetime of shared experiences. After having struggled together against the forces of the flesh, the world, and the devil, is this about severing relationships that once mattered?
    If this is what it’s about, is it worth it? Or are these things of no value to you?

    ReplyDelete
  9. To WH, RE: "To alienate others over a band of metal may be as sinful as alienating oneself from a questionable heritage." I see that Metal Wearer agreed with your flawed logic, suggesting that those who stay with the standing policy are trashing relationships with those who leave.

    The question is, “who is alienating whom?" or “Who is trashing whom?”

    When a group of people has a set of values, and one says “I no longer agree with the group” it is the one leaving doing the rejecting, not the ones remaining. Unless you have absolute knowledge of God’s mind, any heritage is “questionable” and thus (by your line of reasoning} you cannot draw any lines at all lest you alienate someone from a “questionable” heritage.

    Further, I don’t think anyone enacted a policy concerning wedding rings at IHC in order to alienate anyone. I suspect they were trying to create a policy that was more or less a “high road” on a questionable issue, doing their best to honor the teaching of Paul and Peter. Throughout history, humans have had a tendency to seek self-worth in the flesh instead of from God’s assessment of their worth; in the flesh, they have adorned themselves with things to draw attention. I suspect that the apostles were aiming at this. I don’t know whether it is sin or not, of course the original post had nothing to do with sin. The post was about choosing to indulge your preferences—perhaps honor a widely held tradition of wearing wedding rings?—and reject (alienate yourself from) the people who, if you grew up in the CHM, introduced you to Christ. People who may have demonstrated a lifelong willingness to reject even questionable things “of the world.” People who love and care about you, and in some cases may now sincerely be in anguish of heart and soul for fear that you are now headed for hell. (I am not taking their position, just relaying it.)

    That would be the price you paid for your preference.

    So the question I see in the original post remains: If you were once a part of the CHM and did not wear a ring, what do you gain by putting on the ring? Was it worth the price?

    ReplyDelete
  10. To Anonymous "So the question I see in the original post remains: If you were once a part of the CHM and did not wear a ring, what do you gain by putting on the ring? Was it worth the price?"
    That is EXACTLY what I read also. I wish I could get into the mind of some people and really ask them "Why? What benefit is it to you to begin wearing a ring, when for years you haven't?" We have a family in our church that were saved out of the world. They had attended our church years before, and then moved away. While they were away they got saved and then moved back to our church. They attended here for a few years and then moved to care for a family member. When they came back they both had put their wedding rings back on. For years they hadn't wore them, and I just don't understand what the need to return to them was.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I rarely do this, but I'll chime in here. My own family has alienated me because I have made different personal choices in my life according to what I believe is right. It is very hurtful when other Christians do not believe that I am close enough to God to be able to determine what He has for me, and that they need to tell me what God is saying to me. Yes, I need the support and encouragement of other Christians, and there are areas that are absolutely clear. But in areas that are left to interpretation and translation of certain passages of scripture, and areas that are only held because of tradition, I believe we need to have the grace to accept differences.

    We recently felt like we couldn't continue supporting the church we were then attending. It wasn't that their (unwritten) rules offended us, but that they earnestly believe that every "true saint" has to follow the same rules, whether they are personally convicted in that area or not, for the sake of unity. The preacher took on the role of the Holy Spirit and sincerely believed it was up to him to "set the standard" for the congregation. The "saints" were expected to submit to his authority meekly and without question. My wife and I agreed that we could easily go back to being more conservative (like we were raised-- with no TV, no jewelry, whatever else we've "compromised" on) if we felt like that's what God wanted us to do... but to do it just because another human expected it of us was just dumb. I mean, in that case, what DO you say when someone asks you, "Why do you have this certain rule?" I don't think a reply of, "Well, I don't really believe it's necessary, but our preacher requires it..." or even worse, "Oh, that's just the way we've always done it..." That is SO cliquish and basically says, "If you want to be a part of OUR church you have to change to fit in." How is THAT influential?? We all MUST have the confidence in other Christians that they are each listening to, and obeying, God to the best of their ability. We personally want to fellowship with other Christians who have a deep personal relationship with Christ, but that does not mean that we will all be alike, and have the same personal conviction, and interpret scripture exactly the same. God created us as individuals. If He wanted us to all be just alike, I think He would have created us that way. A former pastor mentioned not too long ago that God usually gives us personal convictions for our areas of weakness. When I stopped to think about that, I realized he was right. That really helped me to understand why not everyone is convicted of the same things.

    ReplyDelete
  12. That is one of the saddest statements I've heard (and I hear it often), "My own family has alienated me. . ." I really believe there are some deeper problems when the church can't love and show care and respect for people even if they don't agree with each other.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Personally, I can say that no, it is not about severing relationships. It is about reading the Bible and praying that God gives you direction on what He wants - rather than blindly following the heritage of your friends so that they will accept you. I think it's safe to say that the majority of people who leave/stray from the CHM and are seen wearing wedding rings are not doing so with the purpose of severing relationships. I think it's sad that you feel that relationships have to be "severed" if a former CHM person is wearing a wedding ring. Christians shouldn't make other Christians choose between keeping "friends" and doing what they believe to be right before God. If doing what you believe to be right means that you lose "friendships"...then I would say, yes it is worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Regina Lavy BakerApril 22, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Even being raised in the CHM and having chosen to wear a wedding band, I still fail to understand your question 'was it worth it?' I have felt no alienation from my family (although we did discuss at length with both sets of parents about our decision), friends or acquaintances. Besides the relatively few churches who would not now ask my husband to speak at their services due to his wedding band, there has been nothing lost so perhaps you can understand why I cannot relate to the topic at issue. We attend IHC in Dayton each year and still speak with friends and acquaintances as we always have. Your original blog post causes me to think that perhaps you are speaking about or to someone that reads your blog that you know personally without actually addressing the person directly.
    As my attempt to answer your question as related in the above paragraph "...at the expense of losing an influence over thousands of needy souls..." I feel that wedding band or not, I would have no influence over them as I am in no position of leadership within the CHM. This leads me to believe you are talking about someone who has or once had some influence in the CHM so perhaps you can see why I believe you have a specific person in mind. If so, perhaps sitting down and relaying your feelings to the person would help alleviate your questions?
    I personally don't know you so I hope you don't mind me posing my own questions. Feel free to refrain from answering them if you wish. To summarize, I have felt no backlash or alienation because of my decision to wear a wedding band so I can't really relate to the question at hand. (and in case you wondered, yes, Barbara Baker is my mother-in-law and she is a wonderful woman of God whom I hold in high regard not only for her own example but for the love and respect she has shown me even though we disagree on some issues including the wedding band.)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have another packed day today, and won't be able to spend much time on this, but I wanted you all to know I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts and concerns. I am thinking about what you have shared and will do my best to respond (as time allows) to as many of you as possible. Blessings to each of you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi, There is much that could be said here. My observation has been that those who do not stay in line with the CHM "standards" are excluded by the CHM. Some have made these decisions lightly, others have done it with much soul seeking and bible study. But I'm sure many would have stayed connected if accepted.
    I was reading the blog of a Jewish christian recently. He brought up the subject of the lack of modest dress among christian believers. Another "can of worms" for us. He, by the way is not coming from the CHM perspective. He got many and varied responses. Some called him legalistic for suggesting a standard. His response was this " having a standard is not legalism. Trusting in your standard is legalism. In my opinion, the CHM at some point started putting their trust in their standards.
    I love the CHM and see value in conservatism but I understand why many have made the choices that get them ostracized by the CHM.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Laura, I have been finding your posts thought-provoking. You're making me think outside the box.

    As I read others' comments and justification for their changes, I can't help but keep wanting to ask: "Even if you have studied carefully and decided something is 'lawful' does that mean you have to do it?" Paul said no! In multiple places he said we should restrain our chosen behavior in deference to the relationships we have with other believers.

    I think you are onto something pretty important. Keep studying and sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.E.T., I don't remember seeing your comment back in 2012, but I just read it this morning and was so encouraged. Knowing someone really got my point means a lot to me. Thank you for sharing your response. I appreciate it deeply.

      Delete