An Issues, Etc. podcast that I recently listened to included a comment from a listener concerned about the equating of Christianity with a certain political philosophy. He specifically objected to what he felt was an insistence by some in the recent presidential election that the only reasonable way for Christians to vote was for the McCain/Palin ticket. I liked program host Pastor Wilken's answer a lot. He said that while Issues, Etc. is a program that is pro-life, pro-family, and pro-marriage, it does not endorse any one candidate or political party. The business of Issues, Etc. is the proclamation of Law and Gospel, so it concerns itself with those issues on which one can read the Bible and pronounce, "Thus sayeth the Lord." Political parties and candidates take stands on all sorts of issues to which God's Word does not speak directly. Thus, said Pastor Wilken, Issues, Etc. does not presume to do so either.
Listening to this made me think of the whole question of world view and how it is informed by my faith and in turn informs the choices I make. My vote for the McCain/Palin ticket in the recent election was certainly influenced by my faith, since my faith is so much a part of who I am. Likewise, our faith is a factor in other decisions that my husband and I make, such as how we choose to rear our children. But that doesn't mean we look to the Bible for explicit instructions on whom to vote for or how to teach and discipline our children.
I therefore get uncomfortable when fellow Christians purport to know what is the right choice for other Christians on issues for which God's Word is not obviously prescriptive. I'm not talking about things like the Commandments and Articles of Faith. Our Lord is clear about what sin is and about our need for a Saviour. He is clear that there is only one path to salvation and that it runs through the body and blood of His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. But there are all kinds of decisions in our lives that He grants us freedom to make. And while we may very well (and should) base those decisions on what we believe to be most in line with the living out of our faith, we should not presume to tell other Christians that our choices should be theirs. As much as I believe in homeschooling, I would never tell a non-homeschooling friend that the way she has chosen to educate her children is an indicator of a less mature or committed faith. Homeschooling is a left-hand, not a right-hand kingdom, issue. And while I believe the choice to homeschool is one way that I as a parent am fulfilling my calling to my children ("Fathers [and mothers], do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord"--Ephesians 6:5), I don't believe it is the one and only right way to do that. I just think that at this point in time it is best for our family.
Likewise, I would never presume to tell Christians who have elected to use non-abortifacient birth control that their choice somehow indicates a lack of trust in the plans that God has for them or an effort to usurp those plans. Yes, God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply," but He did not tell them how or on what schedule to do so. Yes, he said, "Thou shalt not murder," but barrier or rhythm birth control methods and natural family planning do not put an end to a human life; they merely prevent conception. And an all-powerful God can certainly work around them! I respect those Christians who have decided to embrace "perpetual parturition" (like the charming, brilliant, and breathtakingly witty ladies whose thoughts I love to read over at the Concordian Sisters blog), and I say more power to them. We need more little Christians--and particularly Lutherans--running around! But I also think there are families for whom non-abortifacient family planning is the way in which they can best fulfill their calling to perform their own parental roles and to bring up their children in the way of the Lord.
Homeschooling is the lifestyle that my husband and I have chosen, and we have chosen it because we believe in it passionately. We will gladly share that passion with others and encourage them to consider making the same choice, because it is the best way we have found to nurture our family and bring up our children in the faith. But we would never say to those who do not home school their own children that their choice is standing athwart God's purposes and that somehow they are not following His will for their lives. It is not our place to claim to know God's will on such a matter.
Likewise, I have great respect for those men and women who have chosen a lifestyle that places the number and timing of children entirely in God's hands. I love to see large families. I grew up in one myself. And since those who have chosen this path must certainly believe in its merits, I am not offended to hear them sing its praises. But what does offend me is the attitude of some who have disavowed any sort of birth control that they are more trusting of God because they are taking no steps to manage their child-bearing years. There are those for whom another baby is a kind of tempting of fate or testing of God akin to jumping off a building and trusting God to save them. If every fiber of their being is saying "No, I'm not ready for this," then who am I to say otherwise? Maybe the mental or physical condition of the mother or father is such that the well-being of parent and/or child would be a huge question mark. Maybe there are difficult financial or logistical issues--not issues of comfort or luxury, but issues of how to feed and clothe and educate another child. Maybe there are aging parents whose care would be compromised if the caregiver had another baby. Yes, children are a blessing. But for some families the blessings that have already come their way are such that they demand an extra measure of care. And perhaps there are burdens in the mix that lead the man and woman contemplating another child to use their God-given discernment to decide that it might just be God's plan for them to hold off on a new blessing so that they can attend to the needs of those who are already before them.