Weddings of Worldly Acquaintances
OFTEN it happens that Christians are invited to attend and even participate in weddings of worldly relatives and acquaintances that are conducted in buildings dedicated to false religious worship. In this event, what decision will you make? Will you attend, or not? Is it wrong to participate in such a wedding ceremony? How would you determine the matter?
Christians realize that the Bible draws a sharp distinction between true worship and false. They know that God does not approve of religious organizations that do not adhere strictly to the teachings of his Word. Therefore, they do not share in any way in the services of such organizations. Rather, they heed the Scriptural counsel: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? . . . Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? . . . ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.”’—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
However, in regard to a wedding, in most countries it is basically a civil ceremony, although often conducted by a clergyman. The clergyman who legalizes the marriage receives his authority to marry people from the State. In view of this, a Christian may reason that there is no direct Scriptural command prohibiting him from attending and participating, regardless of whether the wedding is in the building of a false religious organization or not. This is correct; however, there are other factors that a Christian will want to consider.
When a wedding ceremony is conducted in a religious building under the oversight of a clergyman, it is usually very closely linked with that religion’s worship. For instance, there may be singing and prayers offered, and in some instances those in attendance may be expected to kneel or perform some other religious acts. In view of what the Bible says, a Christian could not conscientiously join in the prayers offered to a triune god or in any way have a part in the religious exercises of an organization that misrepresents the true God Jehovah and his teachings. What would this situation mean?
It would mean that a Christian, particularly one participating as a member of the bridal party, would find himself very closely associated with what the Bible shows to be false worship. He would be out of place at such a wedding, perhaps conspicuously so. Everyone else may be performing religious exercises in which it would be an act of apostasy for him to share. (John 4:24) The clergyman, the bride and groom and others in attendance may be embarrassed and even angered by what seems to them the Christian’s extreme disrespect. Under the emotional pressure of the moment can one be sure that he would not compromise? Would he weaken under such pressure and do something that would merit God’s disapproval? Would he be able to determine what actions and movements actually involve false worship so as to avoid them?
A Christian will, therefore, want to consider carefully the advisability of participating in such a function. He certainly does not want to do anything that will endanger his relationship with Jehovah God. So he will have to decide: Is sharing in a wedding under the supervision of a false religious organization in keeping with God’s command to “flee from idolatry”? Does it harmonize with the injunction: “‘Get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing’”? A mature Christian does not want to see how close he can come to participating in false worship; rather, he wants to keep as far away as possible from any influence or associations that may endanger his relationship with God.—1 Cor. 10:14; 2 Cor. 6:17.
TO PLEASE OTHERS
But a dedicated Christian may reason that accepting an invitation to the wedding of a close worldly acquaintance will help to maintain friendly relations with that person. On the other hand, refusal to attend and participate in the wedding may create hard feelings and make it impossible any longer to talk to that one about the truth of God’s Word.
Of course, it is the purpose of Christians to help worldly acquaintances to become free from unbiblical teachings, but will participating in their weddings really serve to that end? Even if you feel that there is no danger that you will compromise, will your steadfastness at the wedding in refusing to have any part in the religious exercises contribute to the pleasantness of the occasion for them and their worldly guests? May not your conduct, rather, mar the occasion for them and cause embarrassment? It would be proper to explain these possibilities to your worldly relative or acquaintance in advance.
Likely an honest, straightforward explanation of your feelings and beliefs will not offend, but, rather, will create respect and a much firmer basis for continued Bible discussions. For example, should a close worldly relative or acquaintance ask you to participate as “maid of honor” or “best man” at his religious wedding, you may tell him how honored you feel that he should want you to be so closely connected with this important moment of his life. But then you might explain in words to this effect:
‘Since the Bible draws such a sharp distinction between true religion and false, I have reservations about attending weddings officiated at by clergymen who, as I believe, are not teaching the truths of God’s Word. Such clergymen pray to a triune god, and since I can pray only to Jehovah God, I could not participate in the prayers or in any of the religious symbolisms or exercises at your wedding. I do wish you happiness, but I am afraid that my presence might only be a source of embarrassment to you, your minister and others in attendance.’
Such an explanation will show your acquaintance that not only is your religion the most important matter in your life, but you are concerned about his feelings as well. He will probably agree that in the interest of all concerned it would be best that you were not so closely connected with his wedding. At the same time a fine opening is left for further explanation as to the importance of practicing a form of worship that is in harmony with God’s Word. One’s Bible-trained conscience may allow one to be an observer at such a wedding, but one would have to bear the responsibility for one’s actions.—Gal. 6:5.
POSITION OF PARENTS
Dedicated Christian parents want to see their children worship Jehovah, but sometimes youths decide they want to marry worldly acquaintances. Then what? While children are under the jurisdiction of parents, the parents could not consent to their marrying a person who is not dedicated to God. If the boy or girl insists on marrying an unbeliever, he would have to do it when he reaches the legal age, on his own, without the sanction or approval of the parents. Parents dedicated to Jehovah must make it crystal clear that they disapprove of allowing their children to marry those not dedicated to God. The Scriptural principles here are clear: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Marry “only in the Lord.”—2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Cor. 7:39.
At the same time, neither will parents allow their minor children to make the final decision as to participating in or attending the wedding of a worldly acquaintance. Rather, parents will assume their God-given responsibility and make the decision for their children, determining what will be in the best interest of their spiritual welfare.—Eph. 6:1-4; Isa. 38:19.
But should children reach legal age and desire their parents to share in their wedding conducted under the auspices and in the edifice of a false religious organization, what then? Should parents agree to participate? Well, do the parents approve of such a wedding to a worldly acquaintance in a place of false worship? Do the parents approve of that form of worship? If not, does it seem consistent that the parents should actively participate in the wedding, perhaps with the father giving the daughter away? Parents want to be loving and tender with their children, but, at the same time, they do not want to be inconsistent—teaching their children one thing, and then later in life participating in that which they counseled against. This is not the way to elevate true worship in the minds of one’s children. As to whether the parents will attend such a wedding as quiet observers, this too they must personally decide.
Another thing that sometimes has to be decided is whether to accept an invitation to the wedding reception of a worldly acquaintance. This affair may be quite divorced from religious ritual, but are the associations upbuilding? Will there be heavy drinking, smoking, sexy dancing and other behavior unbecoming a Christian? If so, is there good reason for a Christian to be there?—1 Cor. 15:33.
At worldly receptions special honor and attention are often given the bride. They toast her, they line up to kiss her, and in some places they even pay to dance with her. Stop and think. Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8, 9 and Romans 1:24, 25. Is it in harmony with God’s principles thus to highly honor a creature, exalting a woman? What will you do? Join with the crowd, or refrain? Such a worldly atmosphere is certainly not a good one, though the Christian wife of an unbeliever may find that it is not always possible to avoid such surroundings.
If other members of the Christian congregation learn that you have attended a worldly religious wedding and reception, what effect will it have upon them? Is there a possibility that some might be stumbled by what may appear to them as a compromise of faith? Will their respect for you as a servant of God be undermined? This should be considered, for it may well affect your position in the congregation. But the decision is one that you must make.
As long as this old system of things exists, Christians, who are endeavoring to live in harmony with God’s Word, will have to make decisions relative to their association with it. It is not always easy to decide what to do, but a prayerful consideration of Jehovah’s direction through his Word and organization will help us to make straight paths for our feet.—Ps. 25:4, 5; Prov. 3:5, 6.