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Q Should we obey our church leaders or denomination even when we disagree with them?

A Only God deserves our unconditional obedience. Any human authority, church or otherwise, only warrants our conditional obedience—conditional to our obeying God (Acts 4:19 and 5:29). Yet even though God has the right to demand our obedience, God wants us to obey out of love. Jesus exemplifies this perfectly. He obeyed God the Father out of love, not simply out of duty (John 14:31a).

Loving obedience to God can guide us in discerning our obedience to human authorities: Does obeying this human command or law promote my love for God and neighbor? This leads to other discerning questions:

  • What is my true motive for wanting to obey or disobey the human authority? Do I obey to love God and neighbor, to gain favor, or out of fear? Do I disobey out of love for God and neighbor, or out of arrogant pride or self-serving motives?
  • Does this act of obedience lead to righteousness and harmony with my faith? (Rom.1:5 and 6:16)
  • Does this act of obedience serve truth, justice, shalom, and life?

There are no clear-cut rules telling us when we should follow our consciences (Rom.14:5) and when we should submit to our leaders (Heb.13:17). But a whole life of discipleship to God will shape our hearts and renew our minds so that we can discern God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will in all circumstances (Rom.12:2).

If the disagreement is over a morally inconsequential matter (for example, choice of paint colors for the sanctuary), then we should exercise Christian maturity, civility, and humility. Refusal to submit to our leaders on such matters reveals more about our own spiritual immaturity and selfishness than anything else.

—Shiao Chong
Shiao Chong is campus minister at York
University, Toronto.


Q What is the current stance of the CRC on the use of birth control in marriage? Does the CRC have a position on masturbation?

A Our current stance on birth control, adopted by Synod 2003, “declares that a married couple’s decision whether or not to use birth control to prevent the conception of a baby is a private, disputable matter; urges married couples to consider the size of their families prayerfully before God; and encourages couples, in their family planning, to be motivated by a desire to glorify God and to further his kingdom and not by selfish reasons or fear of the future” (Acts of Synod 2003, p. 648).

Our denomination does not have a position on masturbation. Rev. Lewis Smedes, a Christian Reformed minister who was professor of theology and philosophy of religion at Fuller Theological Seminary, addresses that subject in Chapters 7 and 10 of his book Sex for

Christians (Eerdmans, 1994). You may find his comments helpful.

—George Vander Weit

George Vander Weit is pastor of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.


Q I’m an ordained pastor. I hate my work, and I know I’m not doing a great job. I just want out. Am I forsaking my office if I quit?

A Do you know why you hate your work? What would need to change in your ministry in order for you to continue? Have you shared your struggle with trusted friends and a professional counselor? Have you prayed about this and invited others to pray with and for you?

If you have already considered or acted on these and other suggestions and still want out, then I would recommend that you honor the process your church has established for pastors who, for weighty reasons, wish to be released from the ordained ministry. You would not be forsaking your office if you acted in this way.

—Rick Williams

Rev. Rick Williams is pastor of Pullman Christian Reformed Church, Chicago.

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