Is the Religion of Your Parents the Right One for You?
How can you determine this? Is it proper to change your religion?
“MY PARENTS did not approve of our new religion,” the young man explained, “and they did not hide their disapproval. My mother offered hundreds of prayers to try to make us return, as she sincerely believed that we had strayed into error.”
The young man speaking was raised as a member of one of the prominent religions of Christendom. Recently, however, he and his wife had begun a serious study of the Bible, and what they learned caused them to change their religion. Was this proper? Is it right to leave the religion of one’s parents? Is there a Scriptural precedent for making such a move? Let us see.
CHANGING ONE’S RELIGION
The patriarch Abraham is held forth in the Bible as an exemplary man of God. He is called “Jehovah’s friend,” and also is identified as “the father of all those having faith while in uncircumcision.” (Jas. 2:23; Rom. 4:11) Did you realize that this outstanding man left the religion of his parents?
His father Terah lived near the southernmost tip of the famous Euphrates River in the Chaldean city of Ur. In that place idolatry was commonly practiced, and Terah apparently participated in idolatrous worship. Many years later the Israelite leader Joshua indicated this when he called the attention of the people to their ancestors, and said: “It was on the other side of the River [Euphrates] that your forefathers dwelt a long time ago, Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they used to serve other gods. . . . remove the gods that your forefathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt, and serve Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:2, 14.
So Joshua urged that the people forsake the religion of their forefather Terah. Rather, they should imitate the faith of his son Abraham, who rendered exclusive devotion to the true God Jehovah. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham had taken the initiative and broken the idols of his father.
Another person who forsook her parents’ religion and became a worshiper of Jehovah was Rahab. She was the Canaanite who concealed the Israelite spies, and received high commendation in the Scriptures for her faith. (Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:25) Rahab explained to the spies what it was that prompted her to change her religion:
“We have heard how Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea from before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, namely, Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. . . . Jehovah your God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. And now, please, swear to me by Jehovah that, because I have exercised loving-kindness toward you, you also will certainly exercise loving-kindness toward the household of my father. . . . and you must deliver our souls from death.”—Josh. 2:9-13.
Rahab could perceive from the miraculous rescue of the Israelites out of Egypt that Jehovah is indeed “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath”! The gods worshiped by her parents were incapable of accomplishing such wondrous deeds. Therefore, Rahab became a worshiper of Jehovah and was rewarded with the privilege of becoming an ancestress of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.—Matt. 1:1, 5.
Rahab’s daughter-in-law Ruth also left the worship of her parents, and was similarly blessed. Due to famine in the land of Judah, Naomi, her husband and two sons moved to the land of Moab, where her sons married Moabite women, one of whom was Ruth. In time, Naomi’s husband and sons died, leaving three widows. Naomi decided to return home to Judah, and so told her daughters-in-law: “Go, return, each one to the house of her mother.” One of the girls did go, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi.—Ruth 1:1-14.
At this Naomi said to Ruth: “‘Look! Your widowed sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods. Return with your widowed sister-in-law.’ And Ruth proceeded to say: ‘Do not plead with me to abandon you, to turn back from accompanying you; for where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:15-17) Ruth chose to worship Jehovah along with Naomi, rather than return to her people and worship their gods. In time, Ruth married Boaz the son of Rahab, and thus was blessed with becoming the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestress of Jesus Christ.—Ruth 4:18-22.
In the first century also, many persons left the religion of their parents in order to become true worshipers of Jehovah God. The apostle Peter spoke approvingly of such persons, saying: “You were delivered from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers.” (1 Pet. 1:18) The forefathers that Peter referred to had followed Jewish religious traditions, but sincere Jews needed to leave such traditions and change their religion in order to gain God’s approval.
The apostle Paul is a Jew who did this. He writes: “I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age in my race, as I was far more zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Gal. 1:14) Paul was “a son of Pharisees,” and apparently had been raised by his parents as a member of that Jewish religious sect. (Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:5) But when he learned that the system of religious traditions practiced by the Pharisees was not approved by God, he did not hesitate to change his religion and become a Christian, even though this may have deeply grieved his Jewish parents.
REASON FOR THE CHANGE
In these instances the change of religion was not for mere convenience. It was not made for selfish reasons, such as to please a prospective marriage mate, for prestige, or to enhance one’s social standing or business prospects. To the contrary, Abraham’s worship of the true God Jehovah undoubtedly made him unpopular among the idol worshipers of the Mesopotamian city of Ur. Rahab’s conversion to Jehovah’s worship and her protection of the Israelite spies was done at the risk of her life. Also, Ruth’s choice to serve Jehovah meant that she had to abandon her own country and people. And Paul’s leaving the religion of his parents to become a Christian resulted in his suffering much persecution and hardship.—2 Cor. 11:23-27.
The change of religion by these persons was certainly not a matter of personal convenience! Rather, it was made on the basis of accurate knowledge concerning God and his purposes. They had taken in reliable information that demonstrated clearly that the way their parents worshiped was not pleasing to the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth. It is not improper to leave your parents’ religion if its teachings are found to be out of harmony with God’s Word the Bible. Instead, it is the courageous and right thing to do. And although such a change may be difficult to make, ultimately it brings beneficial results.
BENEFITS OF THE CHANGE
True, at the outset one’s parents may be distressed, and even hostile. But remember: Jesus Christ warned that taking up true Christian worship would cause a division in some households. Yet, rather than encourage one to try to preserve peace by continuing to embrace false religious teachings and practices, Jesus said: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me.”—Matt. 10:34-37.
To refrain from true worship simply to please one’s parents or grandparents is wrong. It will not truly benefit them, or you either. Real love is shown to them by being willing to put up with their disapproval, or even abuse, so that they may have the best possible opportunity to learn the truths from God’s Word and come in line for the everlasting blessings that Jehovah God holds out to those that serve him.
Abraham’s faithful course apparently had such beneficial effects upon his father Terah and other relatives. For when God directed Abraham to leave Mesopotamia with its bad environment of Babylonish false worship, his relatives, including Terah, went along with him.—Acts 7:1-4.
Evidently the conduct of Terah’s righteous son so impressed Abraham’s close relatives that some of them eventually joined Abraham in true worship. What a grand reward for faithfully adhering to the religion approved by God!—Gen. 24:4, 50, 51.
The young couple mentioned at the beginning of this article also were richly blessed for remaining firm in their decision to change their religion. Although this change was greatly opposed by their parents, the young man explains:
“Every time my mother visited us we would talk among ourselves of the truths we had learned from God’s Word—about the name of God, how to pray to him, the condition of the dead, and so forth. By our constantly talking of the good things that we had learned, she began to think and to compare. This was progress, as throughout all her life she had never doubted that the priests had the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Now she was asking herself: ‘Why do they never mention the name Jehovah? Why do they keep the Bible to themselves? Why do they say that the soul is immortal since the Bible says it can die?’”—Ezek. 18:4; Isa. 53:12.
Finally, the mother expressed a desire to learn about the things of which she heard her children speak. “You can imagine our joy,” her son writes, “when one day our patience was rewarded by her asking us to talk to her about the Bible and Jehovah, saying: ‘I am beginning to believe that the Catholics do not have all the truth after all.’ Now, a few months later, my mother zealously shares Bible truths she has learned with others. So do my two sisters. Soon they plan to join my wife and me by symbolizing their dedication to serve Jehovah God by being baptized.”
How happy and united Bible truths have made this family! The mother is truly grateful that her children did not unquestioningly follow the religion in which they had been reared. It was not the right religion for any of them. It should cause you to consider: Is the religion of your parents the right one for you?
THE RIGHT RELIGION FOR YOU
How can you determine this? If your parents are sincere, devoted people who live clean lives and attend religious services regularly, is this proof that their religion is the right one for you? One might understandably think so, but note that the apostle Paul indicates more is necessary.
When writing to the young man Timothy from confinement in prison, he observed that his mother and grandmother were exemplary women of faith. (2 Tim. 1:5) They lived clean, moral lives. But they did more. Note from Paul’s following admonition to Timothy what identified the religion of Timothy’s mother as the right one for Timothy too: “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them [from his mother and grandmother] and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 Tim. 3:14, 15.
Did you observe that Timothy’s mother taught him the “holy writings”? The inspired writings of God’s Word that were available during Timothy’s infancy were the thirty-nine books of the Hebrew Scriptures. In 41 C.E. the Gospel of Matthew was written, and about 47-48 C.E. the apostle Paul set out on his first missionary tour, at which time no doubt Lois and Eunice were contacted and became Christian believers. From that time on these faithful women could instruct Timothy in the Scriptures regarding “faith in connection with Christ Jesus.” Their religion equipped them to do so.
Does the religion of your parents prepare them to do this? Can they turn directly to the Bible to answer questions about God, his Son, Christ Jesus, God’s purposes and about what is proper conduct, as could Timothy’s mother and grandmother? If not, it should cause you to question seriously whether their religion is the right one for you. For the true religion equips its adherents to provide this vital instruction.
It is not sufficient merely to feel that your parents’ religion is the right one for you. Unless you can prove the correctness of their beliefs from the Scriptures, no amount of religious fervor or sincerity will make them right. It is foolish to conclude: “If my religion is good enough for father and mother, it is good enough for me.” What would have happened if Rahab had reasoned that way, and relied upon the gods of her parents and continued to worship them? Why, they would have all suffered destruction with the rest of those in Jericho! As it was, because of her bold stand in favor of the true God Jehovah, “Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers . . . and all who belonged to her, Joshua preserved alive.”—Josh. 6:23-25.
In this day, too, all false religion faces a condemnatory judgment. Therefore, search the Scriptures! Examine your religion carefully in the light of their teachings. Abandon false religion, as the Bible commands: “Get out from among them, and separate yourselves.” (2 Cor. 6:17) Find the religion that takes the Bible seriously and that equips each of its adherents to be a minister of God. This is the religion for you. Enjoy God’s protection and blessing by accepting it.