Craig: I was at a function last night and was talking with one of the other women. She mentioned that her pastor (a nice, young man) is in need of some rest and relaxation and just needs to get away to listen to the voice of God. He has chosen to go to a monastery, does this sound right to you?
I was told he will not be participating in any of the
services there, but just using their facilities. I question this
practice. I know the Catholic church has beautiful retreat centers, but
are we as "born again Christians" to avail ourselves to these
facilities. Perhaps I'm all wet, but it just seems off base. Are
there any verses in the Bible that would address enjoying the facilities of a
off-base religion but not participating in their practices??
In trying to assess your question, and then formulate a reasonable and rational reply, I really had to go to prayer. Not actually “being there” it’s very difficult to form a judgment about this issue. We know as believers in Jesus Christ that we are “in the world” but we are not “of the world.” Just how this applies must be applied on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, or else we end up playing the role of ‘holy spirit’ to others, and end up becoming legalistic. I know that’s not your heart in this matter, it’s just a principle to factor in to the equation.
I’m really glad you asked about this topic, and there are numerous New Testament scripture passages that address the issue of using the ‘things’ of the world, as opposed to living our lives as those who follow the ‘ways of the world.’ There are two primary and easy to understand scripture texts that will prove very helpful to you, not only in this circumstance, but for the rest of your life (1 Corinthians 5:8-13 & 1 Corinthians 8:1-13). These will also help you to mentor and disciple other Christian sisters as they mature. Read the texts listed below in a verse-by-verse format, and my comments are sandwiched in between. As you read along, I have made specific applications to your situation alongside general precepts taught in each context.
8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. NIV
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is written to a primarily Jewish-convert base; carefully read the Book of Acts, and you will find ample proof of this. Many pastors and teachers err when they teach that the Corinthian church was mostly Gentile (Greek) converts. The fact is, most every new church founded at the beginning of the apostle’s ministry involved Jewish converts. Corinth however also had many Greek proselytes that had converted to Judaism prior to their conversion to the gospel of Christ. This meant the first Corinthian church was comprised of Jewish converts to Christ, and Greek proselytes to Judaism, now converted to faith in Jesus. There were also Greek converts to Christ that came from very idolatrous backgrounds.
This caused two big problems for the apostle Paul. First, those Jewish converts that were dogmatic in defense of the continued practice of the Old Testament ‘Law’ with its numerous ordinances, such as circumcision, Levitical and Deuteronomic codes & its dietary laws about eating clean meat and refusing to eat unclean meat. The Jewish converts still celebrated Passover, and worried about the yeast that some believers had in their homes. Paul teaches the heart of the matter, and likens spiritual yeast to malice and hypocrisy. The undefiled bread we are to seek is “the bread of sincerity and truth.”
The other major problem was helping Greek converts adapt to life as a Christian, since this faith was founded on the Old Testament law and the prophets. They faced a major deficit in that they were unfamiliar with the scriptures and how they were applied to their relationship with God, Christ and their Christian brethren.
9-10 I wrote you in my previous letter not to associate closely and habitually with unchaste (impure) people. 10 Not meaning of course that you must altogether shun the immoral people of this world, or the greedy graspers and cheats and thieves or idolaters, since otherwise you would need to get out of the world and human society altogether! 11 But now I write to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of Christian brother if he is known to be guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God, or is a person with a foul tongue railing, abusing, reviling, slandering, or is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber. No you must not so much as eat with such a person. AMP
This scripture passage has an application to your inquiry. We must ask ourselves what is at risk here. The issue Paul addresses is association with CHRISTIANS that say one thing, but their actions and words are tainted by immorality or greed, idolatry or a foul tongue, railing, abusing, reviling, slandering, or someone that is a drunkard or a swindler or a robber.
In this circumstance you inquired about, the Catholic Church ,monastery facilities do in fact house activities of a false religion but the same could be said of public schools, Freemason halls and even many Christian church edifices that use icons such as a cross. I am not personally stumbled by the use of the cross as a symbol, many believers are. While the Roman Catholic church itself is not a Christian church, it isn’t the buildings that make it a false religion, any more than a building where Christians meet makes it a “church.” In fact, truth be known, New Testament scripture clearly teaches that NO manmade building is to be considered the place where God is worshipped.
Acts 7:48-50 “However, the Most High does not dwell in houses and temples made with hands; as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What kind of house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest? Was it not My hand that made all these things?’” [Isaiah 66:1,2.] AMP
Acts 17:24-29 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone — an image made by man's design and skill.’” NIV
It’s the people who are or are not affiliated with the truth of salvation or the scripture. The facilities are nothing more than concrete, lumber and other building materials. It may be spiritually healthier for this young pastor to use these Catholic monastery facilities than it is for you and me to watch TBN with its promulgation of the prosperity gospel on TV! According to this scripture passage, associating with hypocrites in your own church or mine may be more detrimental than using the Catholic facilities to catch some rest.. Just a thought.
12-13 What business of mine is it and what right have I to judge outsiders? Is it not those inside the church upon whom you are to pass disciplinary judgment passing censuring sentence on them as the facts require? 13 God alone sits in judgment on those who are outside. Drive out that wicked one from among you expel him from your church. AMP
Summarizing this passage, the underlying principle is that we cannot escape the world’s influences, neither should we seek to be acquainted with the ways of the world. Please don’t misunderstand me here; I realize that certain buildings have all type of occult activity taking place, and that sometimes Christians can put themselves at risk being in the vicinity. On the other hand, how do we know whether or not this is the case? I doubt it, but I’m not God either. God may have some poor Catholic soul that needs salvation and He is using this event to put the right believer in his or her path. Now on to the last passage.
8:1-4 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.
3 But the man who loves God is known by God. 4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.
What Paul is saying or not saying must be explained. He is not doubting that idols exist, but that an idol is little more than a chunk of carved wood, or stone that pagans use to symbolize the evil spirits they worship. His letter gives insight to an abiding principle however, and that is the matter of conscience. The marketplaces in Corinth were inundated with idolatry, and it was common for merchants, whose religious idolatry was merely a pretense for their own brand of hypocrisy. They would offer up a piece of meat to the “god” as a “token” sacrifice, then when they had finished worshipping the deity, take the meat to their shop, and sell it to whomever, Jew, Christian, philosopher, whomever wanted to buy it.
Being that the first Corinthian church assembly consisted of mostly Jewish converts to Christ, they were strict monotheists, and any form of idolatry was avoided. Still other converts to Christ DID come from pagan idolatry, and were extremely aware of what transpired before the meat got to market. The affect was basically the same on both of these groups, and Paul tries to ease their worries without compromising their convictions; this was delicate business.
Paul’s admonition is also for the purpose of disarming unwarranted legalism. To the mature believer, buying meat that was sacrificed to idols was of little consequence, since it was meat, and food provided by God. It was literally impossible to buy meat in Corinth without having it pass thru the hands of idolaters. On the other hand, some weaker, less mature believers were being severely stumbled when observing other believers purchasing meat, knowing it was likely at any given point from farm to market to be “devoted” by a pagan merchant to his or her “god.”
The underlying principle applicable here is simple. The idol is nothing in and of itself, and one’s knowledge of it as associated with and not with an idol should always be used with love as the motivation. When we say “love” it refers to the royal law, to love one’s neighbor as he or she loves himself or herself. . In your present circumstance, weigh all the factors and ask yourself if this is a matter of individual conscience, or if someone is genuinely stumbled to the point of causing their faith to falter. We know the Catholic church facilities are nothing in and of themselves, so use the various principles, and determine which application fits.
8:5-8 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
Here again Paul instructs the Corinthian believers to use their knowledge and maturity wisely. If in the company of a Christian that does not eat unclean meat, such as pork, or shellfish, and their convictions are so strong, that eating unclean meat in front of them would cause them great distress, or even stumble them, then the precept is love them and treat them as you wish to be treated, giving due consideration to the weakness and immaturity of their faith.
If this pastor decides to use the Catholic facilities, as it is not a problem of conscience for him, I see no problem myself. On the other hand, if unknowingly his uses the Catholic facilities and this causes some other Christian(s) to stumble, because they too are going to use the same facilities, this is an issue that warrants consideration and discussion. Let’s say five believers are going to use the Catholic facilities, but two of them have recently, or not so recently come out of a heavily-influenced Roman Catholic background, it would be wrong and sinful to disregard their hearts and feelings. In this case, other facilities should be sought, but done so with the same considerations for all.
8:9-13 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. NIV
You can see that Paul’s heart was governed by God’s love by his willingness to forego eating ANY meat whatsoever, if his doing so caused his brother or sister for whom Christ died to stumble as a result. However, it must be reinforced that Paul’s life warranted more public and church scrutiny BECAUSE of his position and role as a teacher in the body of Christ. Teachers are held to a higher standard of accountability, as they ought to be, since what they say, do and teach can influence someone’s eternal outcome.
James 3:1-2 Not many of you should become teachers, self-constituted censors and reprovers of others, my brethren, for you know that we teachers will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation. For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things. And if anyone does not offend in speech; never says the wrong things, he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature. AMP
I hope this has proven beneficial to you, and gives you a framework to use you liberty, discretion and God’s love in how you treat the brothers and sisters you know in Jesus Christ.
God bless you,
Craigo (my nickname)
Craig Bluemel - The Bible Answer Stand Ministry (www.bibleanswerstand.org) 1 Peter 3:15 Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.