Tuesday, May 25, 2010

To Split or Not to Split?

Quoting C.F.W. Walther in discussion at the East District Convention in 1868:

Yet one must be careful in dealing with those whose consciences are still captive in adiaphora. For example, if a Puritan, apprised of our doctrine, wanted to forbid me to do an incidental task on Sunday because [in his judgment] I would be sinning against the Third Commandment and would be damned, then, to avoid being resubjected to the slavish yoke of the Old Testament Sabbath law, from which Christ has, after all, freed me with sour labor, I would have to perform this incidental task precisely on Sunday as a witness against him. But if I see that he is an upright Christian, only caught up in his erring conscience, then I would have to guard myself earnestly against giving him offense and first try to enlighten him with words. Only if he were revealed as an obstinate person or even would blaspheme, would I have a cord of wood delivered and start splitting wood with gusto [on Sunday], in order to show him by [this] action that I am sure of my ground also in [my] heart.

So, in order not to give offense to one who is weak, we must avoid doing many things that we would otherwise be completely free [to do]. For whereas we are free in faith and conscience, we must nevertheless according to love make ourselves servants to all people, but only in order, by all possible means, to save some. Whoever does it for another reason—fear of men or to please them, fear of affliction, or to get along better in the world—he denies the freedom to which Christ has brought him and thereby [denies] Christ Himself. (brackets in original)

C.F.W. Walther, Essays for the Church, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1992) 189.

photo credit: John Collier, Jr.


Preachrboy said...

Wise words from Walther, indeed. Sometimes it's hard to know, however, who is weak and who is obstinate.

Ingrid Schlueter said...

This is the constant challenge because I work with and know Christian friends from across the denominational spectrum, from anabaptist pietist mennonites to you name it. I manage to offend all of them with regularity. I was invited to an independent Baptist church to speak on adoption, and thought I had dressed conservatively enough. (Not wanting to offend anyone who doesn't believe in "pants." When I got there, I realized I had no doubt offended them all by wearing earrings and having short hair. Their thing was long hair and no make-up, etc. It makes you crazy trying to keep up with it all. I try not to offend people who have certain beliefs, but trying to figure out who is weaker (some of these people have been Christians for decades) and who is just off the rails into legalism is not a simple thing. And in any event, I never succeed in pleasing everyone anyway, and I don't want that to be my goal. Thanks for posting this.

Scott Diekmann said...

It is a tightrope we walk at times, avoiding offense where we should, and on the flip side, defending Christian liberty where it's warranted. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
Galatians 5:1 NIV