Questions on Social Issues

How should bullying be handled in our Lutheran schools?

There is no place for bullying in our schools or in society. Those who are guilty of such behavior in our schools need to be called to repentance. Speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) means having difficult conversations with people who may be guilty of bullying and who are responsible for making our schools safe for students. I encourage you to have these conversations.

Beyond this reminder, I can point you to some resources on the topic of bullying. This link will take you to an article that addresses bullying from the perspective of a teenager. This link provides you with information on bullying from the perspective of a Christian parent and a Christian counselor. The counselor is with Christian Family Solutions, an agency within WELS, and is available for making presentations to schools on the subject of bullying.

I have a sibling who is planning to get married to a same-sex partner. I have been invited to the ceremony. Out of concern for the truth and clear testimony to God's Word, should I even attend? What would be the best thing to do out of Christian love?

We learn from Romans 14:14, 23 how dangerous it is to act contrary to our conscience. So, if you are convinced that it would be wrong for you even to attend the ceremony, then it would be wrong for you. On the other hand, you might be convinced that you can, in good conscience, attend the ceremony without supporting same-sex marriage.

It goes without saying that your attendance or absence from the ceremony is not the most important matter here. More important is what you communicate to your sibling about your presence or absence.

If you choose to attend the ceremony, you can explain that you will do so because of your love for your sibling, not because you agree with your sibling’s actions. If you choose not to attend, you can explain that you wrestled with how to show Christian love and also how to stand up for the truths of Scripture, and you settled on not attending the ceremony.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose not to attend the ceremony, there could be long-term complications in your relationship with your sibling; the opportunities for future Christian conversations with your sibling could be jeopardized. You will have to weigh your attendance at a ceremony with, potentially, many more years of contact with your sibling.

Christians will arrive at different conclusions to questions like yours. Their conscientious considerations account for the differences. God bless you in your decision.

I am interested in how to more openly discuss with my daughter who says that she is a lesbian on how it is not right in God's ways. She shuts herself down to us most of the time and says that we do not love her. We have tried to make it known to her that we do still love her but we are not able to accept her lifestyle.

“Tell the truth, actively love, point to a loving Father, offer hope, affirm gender.” Those are the headings of an article that can give you some guidance in speaking with your daughter. The article is one of many good resources you will find on the website of Christian Life Resources, a WELS-affiliated ministry. Perhaps you can share the resources with your daughter and agree to have a conversation on the contents of the resources.

When you speak with your daughter, do let her know again and again that you are pointing her to what God says in the Bible because you love God and you love her. If you and I did not love God or our family members, we would have little reason to be concerned about what our family members did in life. But because we love God and our family, we will “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) when we see family members deviating from God’s will.

As you speak with your daughter, do be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak” (James 1:19). You will earn the “right” to speak with your daughter as she observes you listening to her.

Beyond the online resources linked above, your pastor can be another valuable resource. He may have materials for you to read and share with your daughter. He can also minister to you as you reach out to your daughter.

Finally, as you are no doubt doing, keep going to God in prayer, asking him to work in your daughter’s heart through his powerful word. Prayer is “powerful and effective” (James 5:16) because God is all-powerful.

God bless you and your family.

I have been reading about antinatalism a lot lately, and have found many Christians who believe in it. I found this quite shocking. They say that it is a good thing not to have children because they would probably go to hell anyways. What is a Lutheran response to this?

A common definition for antinatalism is “a philosophy that assigns a negative value to birth.” People who hold to that philosophy believe that it is morally wrong to have children. A Lutheran response to this position is a scriptural response. The Bible clearly teaches that children are blessings from a loving God (Psalm 127, 128). As can happen with other blessings from God, sinful people reject what God says about children and replace his declaration with their own thoughts.

The rationale for rejecting God’s blessings of children—“because they would probably go to hell anyways”—illustrates a dark view toward life. In Baptism, God has provided the means by which he can work in the hearts of little ones and bring them into his family. Through the gospel in word and sacrament, God can nurture and strengthen Christian faith so that people can finish this life in saving faith and enjoy his eternal love (Revelation 2:10).

Christians certainly recognize the power of Satan (Ephesians 6:12), the corruptness of the sinful nature (Romans 7:18) and the ungodly influences of the sinful world (1 John 2:15-16), but they also recognize and trust in the power of God (Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:12).

God grant you wisdom and strength to testify about the blessings of children as you have opportunity.

If women are prohibited from congregational voting because that constitutes exercising authority over men, does the WELS prohibit or discourage women voting in national or local elections for the same reason? If not, why not? Why are women prohibited from exercising authority over men through voting in congregational votes, but not in secular votes?

While the Bible makes direct application of the principles of the one leading (head) and the one yielding (helper) in marriage and the church, it does not do so regarding life in society—where the majority of people do not recognize or follow scriptural principles. That means that when it comes to a matter such as voting in national or local elections, Christian women will reach decisions on the basis of conscience and reason.

The October 15, 2019 Together newsletter contained this information: “Another major decision of the COP was to accept the work of a committee that has produced a restatement of our synod’s doctrinal position on the God-given roles of man and women. ‘Male and Female in God’s Word’ does not represent any change in our synod’s position; rather it is intended to clarify and expand on several aspects of the issue that are not fully addressed in the current WELS doctrinal statement. An accompanying Bible study has also been produced. These materials will be made available later this fall for study and discussion at pastor and teacher conferences and in congregations. Input and questions will be sought during the next year, and the statement will be presented to the synod convention for approval in 2021.”

This link will take you to that document. Pages 12-18 especially address the general nature of your questions.

What is WELS' stance on homosexuality? Do they ordain homosexual pastors?

Elsewhere on this website you will find a “Statement on homosexuality.” The excerpts below illustrate our scriptural approach to the subject.

“Scripture declares that homosexuality is a sin, which is contrary to God’s intention in creating man and woman. Sinful resistance to the revealed will of God is a factor in this sin. People may become slaves to this sin (Romans 1:18-31, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

“Many factors contribute to individual acts of sin: the sinful nature we are born with, the weaknesses of our bodies, evil influences in our environment, temptations and encouragement from other sinners, and our own sinful choice join together to lead us into sin. All of these factors contribute to homosexual sin. The proportionate role of these various factors may vary from case to case.

“We must warn the impenitent that homosexuality, like all sins, excludes people from eternal life (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The church, therefore, must not, bless same-sex marriages or unions, since these are contrary to the will of God. The church must not place into nor retain in the public ministry of the Word people who defend, condone, or persist in words or actions that are contrary to God’s law.

“We are happy to assure the repentant who are struggling against this sin that they have complete forgiveness through the blood of Christ. When Christ died for all of the sins of the whole world, he gained forgiveness for homosexual deeds, for homosexual desires, and for the inborn sinful nature that produces these sins (1 Corinthians 6:11).

This link will enable you to read the entire document. As the document states, WELS does not ordain homosexual pastors.

The Bible speaks of women covering their heads in worship or prayer to show honor to their husbands and avoid offending the angels present in our worship services. Why doesn't WELS go by that instruction to the church by the Holy Spirit?

The short answer is that we are not the Christian congregation in Corinth in the first century A.D.

1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul was speaking of a custom or practice that existed in the city of Corinth. The practice included women having long hair or wearing head coverings and men having short hair or not covering their heads. In the everyday, pagan culture of Corinth, men and women adorned themselves this way because they recognized the different roles of men and women. They came to that recognition not on the basis of Scripture, which they rejected, but from the natural differences that they observed between men and women.

The directive in 1 Corinthians 11 was that the Christian women in Corinth not be social renegades by disregarding what their heathen counterparts were doing, but be living examples of biblical principles regarding men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3). By mirroring cultural practices that were occasioned by the natural knowledge of God and conscience, the Christian women of Corinth could reinforce that knowledge and display their faith so others could be positively influenced (Matthew 5:16).

In 1 Corinthians 11:16, the apostle Paul identified the head coverings of the Christian women in Corinth as a “practice” or custom: “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” In the original Greek, “other” is really “such.” The apostle explains that the hair/head covering situation in Corinth was a local practice and not compulsory for all Christian women of all time. That explanation also includes men and what was said about their long hair.

A local practice or custom is far different from a universal principle from God, binding all women of all time to do the same. Because the Bible limits the instruction of head coverings to the women of Corinth in the first century by calling this a “practice,” women of other places and times are not bound to follow that instruction.

If you were to stop dialysis at age of 88, would that be committing suicide?

This is a question that you really want to address to your pastor. We want to recognize that life is a gift from God (Psalm 139:13-14) and that he alone (Psalm 31:15; 90:3)—or his representatives in the government (Romans 13:4)—has the right to end a person’s life. Since God forbids the illicit taking of human life (Exodus 20:13), we do not want to do anything that has the specific purpose of shortening life.

Christian Life Resources, a WELS-affiliated ministry, has numerous resources that can be helpful for you and your pastor.

Again, do contact your pastor and share with him your questions and concerns. God bless you.

With all the news about gun violence and gun laws, and keeping in mind what the Fifth Commandment says about not murdering, I am confused. If someone threatens my family, friends, or my own life, is it acceptable in God’s eyes if the last resort means I have to take the person’s life who is doing the threatening? For example, what if someone breaks into my house, or if I am in a Walmart and another mass shooter walks in?

The Hebrew word in the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17) prohibits murder—the illegal and inappropriate ending of human life—and does not forbid all taking of life. So, for example, governments can rightly implement capital punishment (Romans 13:4) if they so choose.

What about individuals who want to protect themselves and their families, you wonder? Some Christians look to Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:17 as absolute directives not to resist physical threats. In their context though the verses advocate love toward others instead of seeking revenge.

Others look to sections of Scripture like Proverbs 24:11-12 and Luke 22:35-38 as the basis for defending oneself and one’s family from physical threats.

Protecting our own life (self-defense) could result in the death of another person. That is not murder. Exodus 22:2-3 illustrates the law God gave his people of Israel regarding defending oneself from a thief.

Will WELS officially ever be able to say why a person should not vote for this or that person?

Current law prohibits churches from campaigning for a candidate. The WELS Tax Manual includes this information for our churches: “Under the IRC [Internal Revenue Code], all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the exempt organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.”

Could the current law be reversed at some point in the future? Possibly, but churches would want to be careful that they do not bind the consciences of their members. Our churches can teach good citizenship (Romans 13:1-7), which includes an encouragement to vote without endorsing specific candidates.

My wife and I have slightly varying views on politics in light of God’s word. We recently had a discussion about how we should think about universal healthcare in the US. She tends to agree with it citing Christ’s command to take care of the poor and she says that individuals like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, who have more money than they can possibly use in this lifetime, should have to give over a larger portion of their wealth to the state to support those that are less fortunate. I of course understand Christ’s commands to take care of the poor, but I see this as a command directed to us as individual Christians, apart from the kingdom of the state. Could you please provide scriptural guidance on how to align our thinking on this issue? Thanks.

The church and state have different responsibilities. I can point you to the following information from This We Believe: a statement of belief of our church body.

“We believe that God has given the church and the state their own distinct responsibilities. To the church the Lord has assigned the responsibility of calling sinners to repentance, of proclaiming forgiveness through the cross of Christ, and of encouraging believers in their Christian living. The purpose is to lead the elect of God to eternal salvation through faith in Christ. To the state the Lord has assigned the duty of keeping good order and peace, of punishing the wrongdoer, and of arranging all civil matters in society (Romans 13:3,4). The purpose is ‘that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (1 Timothy 2:2)…

“We believe the proper relation is preserved between the church and the state only when each remains within its divinely assigned sphere and uses its divinely entrusted means. The church should not exercise civil authority nor interfere with the state as the state carries out its responsibilities. The state should not become a messenger of the gospel nor interfere with the church in its preaching mission. The church should not attempt to use the civil law and force to lead people to Christ. The state should not seek to govern by means of the gospel. On the other hand, the church and the state may cooperate in an endeavor as long as each remains within its assigned place and uses its entrusted means.

“We believe that Christians are citizens of both realms and serve God by faithfully fulfilling their duties in both (Romans 13:6,7).”

In our individual lives as “citizens of both realms,” we will seek to love God and our neighbor. The Bible instructs Christians: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

If the government tells us we cannot meet in God's House (church) because of social distancing or any other reason, must we not follow God rather than man? I have searched the website and see nothing about the current situation.

Within a few hours of submitting your question, the WELS Conference of Presidents released the following question and answer.

How will congregations handle government restrictions on public gatherings?

Various governmental bodies have either advised or mandated that no public meetings with more than 50 people be held. Additional restrictions may be imposed in the future. Some may be asking the question, “Is this a time when we should obey God rather than men?”

A couple things should be remembered.

1. The Fourth and Fifth Commandments apply in a situation like this. We are to obey and respect the governing authorities as they carry out their God-given responsibilities, and we are to do all we can to protect our neighbors and keep them from harm.

2. At the same time God certainly desires that Christian gather together regularly for worship.

3. In limiting the size of worship gatherings, the government is not attempting to deny our freedom of religion. Rather, government authorities have issued mandates that they believe will protect citizens from harm.

4. Since all of these biblical principles are valid, it is legitimate for our congregations to strive to comply with governmental regulations on the one hand and, on the other, to find alternate means to enable God’s people to be fed with Word and sacrament.

5. Recognize that this is an extraordinary opportunity to let our light shine as congregations and their members look for ways to serve the people in their communities in Christian love.

Is theater-going sinful? A Methodist is telling me that theater-going is sinful.

It depends what movies are playing. There is plenty of objectionable content in movies today: sex outside marriage, violence, abusive behavior—just to name a few. We do well to keep our distance from such “entertainment.” Scripture clearly teaches that sinful thoughts are every much deserving of God’s condemnation as sinful words and actions (Matthew 5:21-22, 28; 1 John 3:15).

Because what we read and watch and listen to affects us, there is good reason to implement this biblical instruction: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Condemning and banning all theater-going puts all movies into the same category. That is not an accurate assessment and is an attack on Christian freedom.

In the late 19th century, 65 percent of German Confessional Lutherans voted Democrat. Why is this? Nowadays, most Confessional Lutherans vote Republican because of issues like abortion.

I do not have access to any demographics on voter registration or voting activity of confessional Lutherans, so I cannot address your question specifically.

In general, Christians can face challenges when they vote. There are moral issues on which candidates take a stand in varying degrees. Sometimes Christians might find themselves in a position in which they seem to be voting for the lesser of two evils—looking to vote for the candidate who will have a lesser negative impact on society.

What Christians—and all voters—want to keep in mind is that their votes empower individuals to act in their behalf. With that in mind, Christians want to exercise their civic responsibility of voting and also utilize their divine privilege of praying for those in positions of power and authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Is it okay to drink wine that is mixed with myrrh for flavor? I have heard that it tastes great, though I have heard some say you should not drink it because Jesus denied it when he was on the cross. I have heard others say you can drink it because there are are no dietary guidelines in the New Testament, and the reason Jesus denied it is because it would have taken away his suffering on the cross.

There are no New Testament ceremonial laws. Colossians 2:16 states: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” When it comes to diet, sanctified common sense and the desire to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) guide Christians.

Your closing thoughts about Jesus on the cross are correct. Previously, I offered this commentary: “Myrrh had the properties of dulling the senses and making a crucifixion victim more cooperative and less likely to put up any resistance as he was being fastened to a cross. When Jesus tasted the potion offered by the soldiers, he rejected it. He refused to reach the culmination of his messianic mission in a stupor; he was going to drink the cup of suffering for the world’s sins fully alert and in command of his senses. That meant he would refuse to drink what was in the soldiers’ cup.” (When Christ Walked Among Us)

At some point later, expressed his thirst—fulfilling prophecy (Psalm 22:15)—and then received wine vinegar, without myrrh, to be able to speak loudly and clearly the message the world needed to hear: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Is it okay for a Christian to celebrate their 21st birthday with alcoholic beverages, provided they do so in moderation?

“Moderation” is an important word in your question. The Bible does not forbid the use of alcoholic beverages. It forbids the abuse of alcoholic beverages (Proverbs 23:20, 31-33; Ephesians 5:18).

A 21st birthday—or any birthday—is an opportunity to thank God for another year of grace. We want to express that gratitude with consistent Christian attitudes and behavior.

I am going to a Christian Business Round Table tomorrow morning. The Topic for discussion is, "Lessons Learned When Trust is Broken & What it Takes to Rebuild." Attendance will be men of several different denominations. One gentleman is from India with a Hindu background and, I might add, seemingly a new Christian. I want to participate in this discussion from a WELS standpoint and am simply seeking a few good talking points whereas I may be able to respond appropriately during the conversation. Thank you in advance.

I apologize if this response is too late for you to use at your meeting, but there is a little lag time between submitting questions and providing responses. Perhaps what follows can be of help in the future.

From a Christian perspective, we would say that if trust has been broken by sin, then confession and absolution are in order (James 5:16; Luke 17:3-4). Forgiving those who sin against us and confess their sins to us is not optional; God requires it (Matthew 6:14-15).

Forgiving someone who has sinned against us does not mean that we condone the sin or that the hurt is not real. Forgiving someone who has sinned against us does not automatically mean that trust has been restored. In the case of a husband who has sinned against God and his wife by unfaithfulness, he will need to regain the trust of his wife through his words and behavior. Honesty, integrity, Christian love and Christian living will go a long way in rebuilding trust in human relationships.

Martin Luther’s explanation to the first commandment is “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” When we fail to trust God, we violate his will. Accordingly, we confess that sin to him. We have God’s own word that such confession is not meaningless: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). And more than forgiving, God does not remember our sins (Jeremiah 31:34). Our forgiving God wants us to trust him (John 14:1).

I hope thoughts like these can be helpful for you at some point.

How do you answer someone who believes that the earth is flat?

I imagine you could best respond by asking the person the reasons for holding to that position. The Bible does not support that view.

It could be that people imagine the world to be flat from reading passages like Isaiah 11:12 (“He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.) and Revelation 7:1 (After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.).

In his word, however, God often uses language to come down to our level so that we can understand him and his ways better. The “four quarters” and “four winds” match up with the four directions (Luke 13:29). In the Bible God even used the terminology of people’s understanding of his creation (cf. Joshua and the sun standing still, Joshua 10:1-15).

You may find helpful resources from Lutheran Science Institute to formulate your answer.

Should a Lutheran become a volunteer firefighter?

“Should” they? That course of action is up to individuals. “Can” they? That course of action is certainly available to Christians. Community service like that meets a need and provides opportunity for Christians to let their light shine (Matthew 5:16).

Hi, I see a lot of upside down crosses these days: tattoos on people, posts on social media, drawings on kids' notebooks, etc. I know its origin is biblical, but it doesn't seem like people are using it that way in our world today. Is it supposed to be anti-Christian? Satanic? That's what it feels like to me. I Googled this question and all sorts of conflicting answers popped up, ranging from it's not satanic at all, to that's exactly what it is, to everything in between. What's does our synod teach on this? When I see it--and I see it more and more these days--it gives me the creeps. Thanks so much.

There are references in non-canonical literature to the manner in which the apostle Peter became a martyr for the faith: being crucified upside down. As a result, an upside down cross became one of the symbols in church liturgical arts for that apostle.

Over the years, Satanists have used the image of an upside down cross for their own purposes, but their official symbol is the Sigil of Baphomet.

With these different meanings in use, you would really need to ask the person who uses an upside down cross what meaning that symbol has for him or her. We do not have any official teaching on this subject.

What is the church's position on the "Boycott Israel" movement? I understand that the ELCA has joined the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).

Our church body does not take official positions on movements like the one you referenced. Individuals are free to manage their resources in accordance with their Christian convictions and consciences.

With all the media attention on the government's policy of separating illegal immigrant children from their parents, I am hearing a lot of non-Christians quoting the Bible, particularly passages about kindness and compassion. I feel these passages are often quoted out of context. These discussions are coming up because the attorney general said the Bible supports the government's policy of separating families. I also feel that was taken out of context. What is the appropriate response, in terms of the Bible, to both sides of this political debate?

A recent question addressed the same subject matter. Let me pass along a summary of thoughts.

Scripture certainly instructs us to love all people. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). We do good to people by addressing their physical needs and especially their spiritual needs. We do good to all people while obeying the laws established by governmental authorities.

Romans 13 teaches that governmental authorities rule as representatives of God. As in the church and home, some people in governmental positions represent God faithfully, while others do not. The laws that governmental authorities pass may be popular or unpopular, but we need to obey them unless they conflict with God’s word (Acts 5:29). If there are laws we do not like, we can let our thoughts be known and propose changes to our legislators.

The question you ask has us think of compassion on one side of us and the fourth commandment on the other side. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). Christians will seek to love God and their neighbors, and obey God and his representatives.

Seeking a Christian perspective on illegal immigration, I started with Ephesians 2:19, from there progressed to Leviticus 24:22. I also added Romans 13. I feel I understand the compassion and love we are to extend. How is Christian love for the alien among us square with authority of government? I see this as accepting the alien as a member of the Kingdom but not of the country. I see the church as the giver of compassion and love, doing all we can for the spiritual and earthly needs for aliens among us, yet understanding they are in our country illegally and are subject to the authority of the government (punishment). Is my understanding correct, or where am I in error?

While the first two passages you listed do speak of aliens, they are not applicable to current events in our country. Ephesians 2:19 describes the status that Gentile believers enjoy in God’s sight: they are members of God’s family. Leviticus 24:22 is part of the civil law code that governed the Old Testament people of Israel.

Romans 13 has application to our current events because the timeless truth is that governmental authorities rule as representatives of God. The laws they establish may be popular or unpopular, but we need to obey them unless they conflict with God’s word (Acts 5:29). In our country, there are avenues for proposing changes to existing legislation.

Scripture certainly instructs us to love all people. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). The good we want to do to all people is that which addresses their physical needs and especially their spiritual needs. We do good to people while obeying the laws established by governmental authorities.

You are correct in understanding that the church’s primary responsibility is for people’s spiritual welfare, while the government’s responsibility is our physical welfare and well-being.

What are your thoughts on Qanon? More importantly what about a WELS member who believes in Qanon?

As I strive to provide answers and responses based on Scripture—and not pass along personal opinions—I need to respectfully decline providing you with the kind of response you may have been seeking.

What is our (WELS) official position on Critical Race Theory?

You will find “official position” statements of our church body here. Those statements do not address the subject of your inquiry.

Why doesn’t WELS promote The Chosen series on the life and ministry of Jesus?

Not promoting that series is consistent with our church body’s policy of not taking an official position on books, movies or television shows. Occasionally, Forward in Christ offers reviews of books published by Northwestern Publishing House.

How do I respond to a family member’s gay wedding invite?

Romans 14:14, 23 teaches us not to act contrary to our conscience. If you are convinced that it would be wrong for you even to attend the ceremony, then it would be wrong for you. On the other hand, you might be convinced that you can, in good conscience, attend the ceremony.

Your attendance or absence from the ceremony is not the most important matter here. More important is what you communicate to your family member about your presence or absence.

If you choose to attend, you can explain that you came because you love your family member, not because you agree with same-sex marriages.

On the other hand, if you choose not to attend, you can explain to your family member that you thought through how best to show love to him or her and also stand up for the truths of Scripture, and you settled on not attending.

The decision on what to do with the wedding invitation is entirely yours. Most important is what you communicate to your family member regarding your decision. Speak the truth in love to your family member (Ephesians 4:15), provide Christian witness and example, and keep your relative in your prayers. God bless you.

I'm wondering if WELS is fine with having acupuncture done. I understand that hypnosis is not something that a person should do but I'm also wondering about acupuncture. I can't find it in the question section. Thank you.

You are correct. There have been no previous questions on the subject of acupuncture. But thank you for checking first.

It looks like little has been written on the subject in our circles. That literature contains cautions about New Age thinking that the practitioner could try to share with the person receiving treatment.

While I am not in a position to endorse fully this assessment of acupuncture, the information illustrates how a confessional Lutheran church body views the practice.

How do I explain the dangers of smoking and God’s plan for us to a friend in a godly way? I’m a WELS Lutheran, and have a Christian (Methodist) friend who smokes. After seeing what a relative of mine who smoked went through (gangrene, multiple amputations, necrotizing fasciitis, and eventually death), I’ve tried to explain to her the dangers of smoking. She tried cutting back, and for a while was doing well, but eventually fell back into the habit. A year after my relative passed away, we got talking about the issue once, and by then, I could tell that she couldn’t help but give up on quitting, as she asked me something to the tune of, “If God knows when we’re all going to die, anyway, what’s the point in quitting?” I couldn’t even answer that, as inside, my heart broke for her. I saw someone who would rather just give in and suffer any possible effects, than tough it out. I’ll always be a friend to her, even if she’s a smoker until her dying day, but I’d just hate to see her possibly suffer the same horrible effects that my relative and millions of others have gone through.

I commend you for your loving care and concern for your friend. You want what is best your friend and that includes her physical well-being.

You could point your friend to the Fifth Commandment. That commandment has the purpose of protecting life. The application of that commandment to our lives means that we take care of our bodies as best we can. This care addresses subjects such as diet, exercise and anything that can be harmful to our bodies.

There is more than God’s law that addresses the care we give our bodies. The Bible’s teaching of stewardship covers every area of our lives. Everything that we have and are belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Faithful stewardship, management, of God’s blessings includes our very bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19). This means that we will not want to do anything that could shorten our lives. We live with that mindset because we entrust ourselves to the loving care of God (Psalm 31:15).

God’s blessings to you—and your friend—as you seek to work for the good of her body and soul.

I've asked this question twice in the past with disappointing responses. Why doesn't WELS have an official statement regarding "Global Warming"? The same scientists who tells us that global warming is destroying the earth also tell us that the world is billions of years old, the universe was created by the "big bang,” and that all life on earth evolved from a single celled organism from a puddle of mud. That's not what we as WELS Christians believe or confess in the Apostles' or Nicene Creed. So why are you so afraid to take a stance regarding "global warming"? I was taught and believe that God controls everything, including all of the weather...good, bad and otherwise. Didn't God question Job and ask him if he knew where the storehouses were for the thunder and lightning, rain and snow? I don't think God said that he reserves the hail for times of trouble, unless "global warming" interrupts his plans. Does the WELS support the doctrine of man-made global warming?

I am sorry, but you may be disappointed with this response as well. A “doctrine of man-made global warming” is not a biblical doctrine. The subject matter is not one that Scripture addresses.

The Bible does speak of disasters (for example, Matthew 24:7), and there are passages that speak in a general way about our stewardship of God’s creation (Genesis 1 and 2). Since the Bible does not address the subject matter of your question, you will not find a statement from WELS regarding it.

When there are biblical doctrines involved, you will find official statements of our church body in the “Doctrinal Statements” section of this website.

I have a question about the keeping of inner vows and promises made to God. Before I become a WELS church member, I attended very fundamentalist churches. During this time, I vowed to God that I would not play cards. The fundamentalist churches look down on all card playing due to its past associations with gambling. I made this vow because I really enjoyed card games, but was made to feel that it was an evil activity. Now, I have come to realize this was a legalistic understanding that I had, kind of like the Pharisees who added extra rules not found in the Scriptures. I would like to be able to enjoy non-gambling card games with my family as a way to build our family relationships. My question is, am I bound under this vow I made to God, or may I confess it as sinful and foolish, made in an incorrect understanding, and be at liberty to enjoy playing cards with my family? I feel that Jesus' teaching in Mathew 5 indicates we should avoid vows, and I feel that this vow was foolish. Can I be released from it? Thank you for your counsel.

It sounds like you made a promise to refrain from an activity that you called sinful but God did not. Now that you see things differently, and correctly, it is not wrong for you to engage in that activity.

Christian freedom is precious (Galatians 5:1). We do not want others to take away our freedom, nor do we want to deprive it of ourselves.

Since prayer is conversation with God, share your thoughts with God about your former and present thoughts regarding card playing. Then, live in the peace and freedom Christ won for you.

What are the WELS' views on Q Anon? My pastor's wife is very active on social media and seems to retweet many conspiracies that seem to be unfounded. I've read articles and listen to podcasts that all of this is a disinformation campaign that has taken root among evangelicals and tends to distract them for actual worldly events.

There are no official church statements on a subject like this. Individuals are free to form opinions, and our church body does not direct people how to think about news items. You may want to contact your pastor’s wife to seek clarification of her views.

I have non-denominational extended family who believe Romans 13:1 tells us God “chooses” who wins elections. Is it correct to assume “established” implies “chosen”? I’ve always thought God is foreknowing, and allows those elected to lead, but the election of leaders was a freedom he gives people.

You have a correct understanding of that verse. When it comes to worldly matters like elections, God provides a great deal of freedom for people. He lets them think about different options and then cast votes for the candidates of their preference. God certainly knows the outcomes of elections and he will use those outcomes according to his wisdom and will for the good of his Church.

Romans 13:1 teaches that God has established all governmental authority. Governmental authority is not the result of human reasoning or societal experimentation. Governmental authority is God’s work.

Romans 13:1 teaches that people in positions of governmental authority are God’s servants (Romans 13:4). This does not mean that all people in positions of authority represent God faithfully; there are some good servants and bad servants.

When the apostle Paul penned the inspired letter to the Christians in Rome, Nero was the Roman emperor. He was definitely no friend of Christians; his atrocities against them are well documented. Yet, the directives of “be subject” (Romans 13:1) and “submit” (Romans 13:5) applied even to him—not because his life or actions generated respect, but because he filled a seat of authority God had established. People today still fill seats of authority that God has established.

A few weeks ago, I thought a friend of mine came out as bisexual. Today on her Snapchat, she posted something about her pride flags coming. I want to say something to her, but I'm not sure what to say or how to go about it. I know what the Bible says about confronting people on their sins, but I don't know how to start the conversation. Can I please get some advice?

“How do you respond to a close friend or family member who is struggling with homosexuality? Reply the same way you would reply to anyone who is struggling with any sin or defending it. Tell the truth – God’s truth.”

Those opening lines are from an article titled “When Someone Says, I’m Homosexual.” The article will give you some good things to think about when it comes starting the kinds of conversations you have in mind.

In addition to that article, you will find other helpful materials from Christian Life Resources for starting and maintaining conversations with others in the subject matters you mentioned.

God bless your conversations!

Martin Luther College (MLC) has been teaching Critical Race Theory. Has this become an official position of WELS? I'm looking for a straight answer, not rationalization. I feel terrible about the Synod having been possibly compromised.

While I teach at the college you mention, I thought it would be best if the President of the college provided the response. Here is his response to your question and concern.

“Critical Race Theory is ‘taught’ at MLC only in regard to making students aware of its assumptions and presuppositions. In keeping with what Paul urges in 2 Corinthians 10:5 (‘Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ’), such study helps our students analyze this theory in light of Scripture. It is no different from how we ‘teach’ evolution at MLC. Our students need to be aware of such human theories so that they can analyze them thoughtfully and biblically in light of the gospel.”

Is it permissible to attend a twelve-step program such as AA or FA (Food Addicts)?

As a church body, we have concerns about the religious aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). In step number 2 of The Twelve Steps, there is acknowledgement of a “Power greater than ourselves.” Participants in AA are free to define who or what that Power is. In step number 3 there is reference to “God as we understood him.” Participants in AA are free to define God however they understand him. Step number 11 uses the same wording: “God, as we understood him.” Once again, participants in AA are free to understand God however they like.

As Christians, we know that is not like selecting an answer for a multiple choice question where all the choices are equally valid. In the Bible God explains clearly who he is. He is a Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AA fails to provide clear testimony to the truth of God’s Word. And while AA provides opportunities for Christians to state their beliefs, circumstances can be such where Christian witness is absent much more than present.

Joint prayer at AA meetings is another concern. Scripture directs us to refrain from activities like prayer when we are with others who do not share a common belief (Romans 16:17).

In light of all this, WELS members have been able to participate in AA by not taking part in joint prayer. In addition, they have recognized the concerns in the three steps mentioned previously and have not, by their words and actions, endorsed the idea that people may define God however they want.

No doubt you can see that we need to be cautious if we are considering utilizing AA. A conversation with one’s pastor about the experiences can be very helpful. Finally, be aware that Christian Family Solutions is able to provide help without the concerns of AA that have been mentioned.

Food Addicts (FA) adapts AA’s Twelve Steps and includes similar references to “God” in their Twelve Steps. In FA’s “Twelve Traditions” there is this statement: “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority —a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience.” As group participants are left to define God, cautions similar to AA are in place.

So far, throughout this pandemic and civil unrest, I have not heard our churches or synod call for its members to appeal for God's mercy to take this virus away by: petitioning God through daily prayer and repentance, and even fasting. There have been no special services on-line or in person to address this current horrendous situation. I am sure many Christians are doing this on their own at home, but where is the leadership? We have sermons and services on-line, but very few prayers re: Covid-19. This is very troublesome to me. Because I do not usually go to the WELS website, I may have missed something.

If you do not usually visit the WELS website, then you have missed devotions and prayers that have addressed contemporary issues. Let me provide a few examples.

Already back on March 16, 2020, the WELS Together newsletter listed spiritual resources that individuals could use in their personal lives.

The website offers numerous devotions for individuals and families. This devotion from April 20, 2020 addressed the fears that can accompany a pandemic.

You will find prayers on the website that cover a wide variety of circumstances in life. The prayer titled “In Time of Need” speaks to today’s concerns.

Your concern for emphasizing repentance is definitely appropriate. Jesus spoke of the importance of repentance (Luke 13:1-5). Repentance is not to be a seasonal or occasional activity. It is ongoing. Martin Luther recognized that when he wrote in the first of his 95 Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Finally, I do not know if you are aware of WELS’ presence on Facebook. This is a prayer that was posted on May 25, 2020: “Almighty Father, strong to save, we pray that you would look upon America in mercy. We confess our shortcomings as a nation and our failures as a people.
The fault lies not only with some who have no regard for you. We, your very own people, share the blame for thoughts and actions that violate your code of conduct. And yet, you have not abandoned us. Your Word still echoes across our land. We still have the freedom to worship you in spirit and in truth. We pray that you continue to allow us to bask in the splendor of your Word. You have visited our nation and our world with a virus that causes alarm and death.
We add this to the list of reasons why we need to remember that apart from you is neither hope nor life. This is a day on which we remember loss. This is a day when we remember you as the one who restores blessings that have been lost. As we consider the long list of people who have lost their lives in defense of our country, we thank you that they have not died in vain.
You have blessed their efforts to keep us as a free nation. Now bless us with your continued presence as we strive to serve you in this freedom. For the sake of your Son, bless all those who serve you by serving our country. Amen.”

I would like to know what is the church’s position on immigration? Many people use Leviticus 19:34 as a justification for immigration. What is the church’s position on it?

There is no official church position on immigration to which I can point you.

Leviticus 19:34 is part of the civil law code that governed the Old Testament people of Israel. As New Testament followers of the Lord, God’s moral law to love all people is applicable to our lives today. We see that directive to love all people reflected in Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:25-37).

You might be interested to know that German immigrants were a vital part of the origin of our church body in 1850. That historical background can help explain the lack of an official position on the subject of immigration.

I have not read through all the questions so I'm not sure if this question has been posed yet. My husband and I are struggling with how to respond to all of the things going on in the world right now. Covid and Protests and so on. He thinks it is all political, and what they are telling us is a lot of lies. He feels we need to stand up for what God would want and not just listen to what the government tells us to do. I know I am supposed to listen to authority. I am so confused and need some guidance on all of this. Can you offer any answers.

I don’t know if I can provide any answers, but I will offer some perspective. The Bible tells us that we are living in the last days (Hebrews 1:2). The Bible’s description of the last days is not pretty: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). There is no limit to who might possess those attributes: those who are governed and those who are in positions of governmental authority. Because of the sinful nature in all people, the potential for abusing governmental authority and unlawfully resisting governmental authority is always present.

Might some people in positions of governmental authority abuse their power? Certainly. History provides plenty of examples of that kind of behavior. Yet, the Bible gives this instruction: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right…honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17). Interestingly enough, the emperor when Peter wrote those words was Nero. He has name recognition with the persecution of Christians. By no means did Nero deserve respect or honor because of his sinful actions. On the other hand, Nero occupied a position of honor. He was in that position because of God’s allowance (Romans 13:1-7).

Today there might also be individuals in governmental positions whose personal behavior does not generate respect. Still, they fill positions of honor, and we are to render obedience unless their directives conflict with God’s (Acts 5:29).

The combination of unfaithful governmental authorities and disobedient citizens can produce chaos in life. As Christians, our comfort is that “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3). God will carry out his will in spite of powerful or weak people who oppose him (Psalm 2:1-4). As Christians, our comfort is that God is working in history for the good of his Church (Romans 8:28).

So, where does this leave us? As Christians, we recognize that God’s Fourth Commandment requires our obedience toward his representatives in the government—as well as in the home and the church. We acknowledge that God’s representatives are imperfect, as are the people they serve. We see the need for praying for governmental authorities at all levels. We realize that we can voice our concerns to governmental authorities, seeking change in laws and policies.

The Bible reminds you and me: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). With all that has happened so far this year, I think we would agree that it is a good thing this world is not our permanent residence. We look forward to a perfect and glorious eternity with our Savior-God. For that reason, Christians throughout the ages have said, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

While I know WELS tends to remain silent on anything political, I am wondering if WELS has looked into the organization Black Lives Matter. Thank you for your time.

The silence on the synod’s part that you acknowledged is applicable to your question. We trust that the members of our church body are equipped to evaluate organizations of any kind to determine any involvement on their part.

Through the office of our church body’s president, WELS recently issued a statement addressing the unrest in our country. The statement included these thoughts: “We ask God’s forgiveness for our own lack of love and compassion for our neighbors and for taking for granted the peace and freedom that God has provided to us. We ask God to confirm in us the conviction that racism in any form is contrary to the Christian faith and inconsistent with the love that God expects us to have for all. We pray for a government and for institutions that strive to see to it that all people are treated with equality and justice.”

At its meeting in October, the Conference of Presidents will be discussing these issues and how they might be addressed in keeping with biblical principles and our mission. Your question will be part of that discussion.

There is a documentary called Caesar's Messiah. It is destroying people's faith. It shows how the Roman elite invented Jesus and Christianity. There is a lot of proof stated. Is this true?

It is not true. The documentary and the book upon which it was based are complete fiction.

If you are interested in reading a book about Jesus the Messiah that is based on the Bible, I can certainly recommend this one that is available from Northwestern Publishing House.

I have given some thought of supporting St. Jude Hospital. This is a way that I can help children that are sick and can be healed from cancer. We are told to take care of the sick. I know that Jude was one of the disciples. What is your thought on supporting this cause?

Supporting this cause is an individual’s choice. While the hospital’s name is religious, the hospital has no religious affiliation that could create biblical church fellowship concerns.

You are correct about the importance of taking care of and being concerned about those who are sick. The Bible instructs us to do that (Matthew 25:36-40). God bless your care for the sick.

How is voting not more than a guessing game of who God has decided already to put in? I was shocked after a conservative judge said gays could take pride in a ruling redefining sex. God must somehow be behind this decision since God’s permissive will is still his will. So, what do you think God is doing? I know he will work it out for our good, but do you have any ideas besides that? And it kind of makes no sense to vote, does it, because God really does the picking? It seems voting puts our trust in our ability to pick, because God’s will may be way different than who we want in or think will be best in God’s plan of salvation. Thanks for reading this.

What can help sort things out is keeping in mind that there is a great difference between God’s foreknowledge and people’s actions. God certainly knows everything that is going to take place, but that is quite different from God pre-determining people’s actions—which he does not do. There is a difference between foreknowing and predetermining. God gives people a great deal of freedom to make decisions regarding their earthly life and circumstances. Electing governmental officials is one of those areas of freedom.

Regardless of how people use their freedom in electing governmental officials, God will certainly carry out his good and gracious will; he will do everything for the good of his Church. Beyond that, we cannot pretend to know which specific good things God might bring from individual actions like a judicial opinion.

Voting is a civic responsibility and privilege. If you choose not to vote in an election, you really forfeit your say and provide the potential for others to impact your life because of the votes they cast and the outcome of an election.

Rather than using Scripture as their guide, governments operate on the basis of human reason and human law. As there can be weaknesses with those sources, it is not surprising to be disappointed by governments and governmental officials. That is why it is so important to carry out this instruction: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

The King of kings, Jesus, will never disappoint us.

God tells us in the fourth commandment that we are to respect our governmental authorities that he places over us. I know this for a fact and have believed it all my life. However, certain recent events have raised significant doubts within me about this teaching, primarily because I do not believe that an appropriate punishment for attempting to use counterfeit money is getting beaten severely and then choked to death in the streets. I am also aware of several other passages from God's Word that all seem to command the same thing when interpreted in a modern sense, which is don't be a racist. (Matthew 22:36-40, Galatians 3:28, and John 3:16 to name a few). My question is this: is a government with policies, implicit or not, that directly affect a certain racial group or people worthy of the respect outlined within the Fourth Commandment? Along with this, if I am deeply unsatisfied with an issue that might affect me or others, how do I protest it without breaking the fourth commandment?

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right…honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17).

What is remarkable about those words is their historical context. The individual who filled the role of Roman emperor at the time of Peter’s writing was none other than Nero—cruel, Christian-hating Nero. By no means did Nero deserve respect or honor because of his sinful actions. On the other hand, Nero occupied a position of honor. He was in that position because of God’s allowance (Romans 13:1-7). Nero’s personal behavior did not remove the instruction to “honor” from Peter’s words.

Nero is an example of a person who did not represent God well. According to the Fourth Commandment, God has representatives in the home, the church and the government. Some of those representatives represent God well; others do not. If a parent does not represent God well, that does not mean all parents fail to represent God the way he wants. If a pastor does not represent God well, that does not mean all pastors are failures at representing God the way he wants. If a government official does not represent God well, that does not mean all government officials fail to represent God the way he wants.

If you are deeply unsatisfied with an issue that might affect you or others, there are legal and peaceful ways for you to express your dissatisfaction and seek remedies. Some of those ways include peaceful assemblies, petitions and letters to representatives. Above all, you have prayer as a powerful resource to bring about change. Consider this instruction, again written during the time of Emperor Nero: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Here is such a prayer: “Lord of all nations, I praise you for the blessings you have showered on my country. Guide and guard your representatives in government as they care for the needs of all citizens. Give them wisdom to rule our society with honesty and justice, that we may have peace in our lives and opportunities to witness to your love. Amen.” (Christian Worship, 136)

Should WELS congregations accept government money for payroll expenses etc. during this Coronavirus pandemic? Is this ethical? I was taught that with government money comes government control.

A very recent question addressed this subject matter.

Part of the response to that question stated: “Each WELS congregation had the responsibility of determining whether or not to participate in that program.” The program referenced is the Paycheck Protection Program.

You can read the question and the entire response here.

With all the government restrictions going on with COVID-19, I was wondering why we are allowing the government to tell us when we can or cannot worship together again in our places of worship (in other words, our physical gatherings) and not just going to worship together anyway? I also understand that God has instituted the government and we should obey them, however, I feel like this is an instance of, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Many Christians share your frustration. King David expressed the child of God’s joy in worshiping in God’s house: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). It is disappointing not to be able to act on that joy because of the present circumstances.

As Christians, we seek to obey God’s law as a way of expressing our gratitude to him for our free and full salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 3:17). We use his word faithfully and worship him, as we are able (the Third Commandment). We honor his representatives in government (the Fourth Commandment). We help our neighbor (the Fifth Commandment).

Government mandated restrictions and limitations on public worship bring those three commandments to the forefront. The context of Acts 5:29 is the suppression of the gospel message. As stated by government officials in our country, the current restrictions and limitations on public worship result from concern for people’s physical health and welfare. As disappointing as it is not to have our regular public worship life, we still have the freedom to worship with others through technology and to read our Bibles. In addition, we can honor God by honoring his representatives in government and caring for our neighbor.

There is nothing new with Christians honoring God’s representatives in government during difficult times. There were challenging and dangerous conditions for Christians in the Roman Empire in the first century A.D., and yet consider what God had his apostles write: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). Those are timely words, as are these: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

God speed the day when we think of Psalm 122:1 (“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”) and our reaction is: “It’s time! Let’s go!”

What does the Bible have to say about gain-of-function viral-vector research for HIV vaccines? Is it a moral activity that Christians should support, since it's meant to help other people? Or is it an immoral activity that Christians should oppose, because (1) It's meant to enable homosexual and promiscuous life-styles; (2) 30 years of failed HIV research has caused immense suffering on macaque monkeys and other animals; (3) Some of the failed HIV vaccine trials have actually caused HIV infections in previously healthy humans?

The Bible does not specifically address the research you mention in your question. That means that we need to look to the Bible for other information that can be applicable. God’s law and God’s gospel are always good starting points for examining life’s issues.

The message of God’s law is that God demands perfection (Matthew 5:48) and threatens punishment for anything less than perfection (Ezekiel 18:20). God’s law condemns all people as sinners (Romans 3:23).

The message of God’s gospel is that God loves sinners (John 3:16) and has provided forgiveness for all sins through Jesus Christ his Son (2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2).

When the Holy Spirit changes hearts and lives and connects people to Jesus Christ in saving faith, then Christians desire to distance themselves from sin and live life God’s way (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Christians seek to say “no” to sin and “yes” to godly living (Titus 2:12). Christians also seek to be “salt” and “light” in their daily lives to encourage others to glorify God by their lives (Matthew 5:13-16).

So, when it comes to vaccines like those you mentioned, Christians will recognize the “sin enabling” problem associated with them. Then, again, Christians can understand that the preservation of people’s time of grace can furnish necessary opportunities to repent of sin and to look to Jesus Christ in faith as their Savior from sin. As God does not desire the death of sinners (Ezekiel 19:23), neither do Christians.

Medical research that causes “immense suffering” in animals does raise serious and legitimate questions. Motive becomes paramount in trying to arrive at satisfactory conclusions.

Your questions lead us to look ahead to that time when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Faced with Matthew 25:31-46, why are conservative Christians (WELS) so opposed to social welfare programs?

The premise behind the question is one with which I cannot agree.  It is not accurate to say that conservative Christians, such as the members of our synod, are “opposed to social welfare programs.”  That may be the view of individuals (of whom I am unaware), but it is certainly not a synod-wide stance.

The section of Scripture cited speaks of Jesus, the Judge on the last day, supplying evidence for his verdict of people’s hearts.  In the case of his sheep, Jesus details the good works that were evidence of the saving faith that was in their hearts.  In the case of the goats, Jesus mentions the lack of good works that reflected the absence of saving faith in their hearts.  Certainly, Christians—individually and collectively—are interested in carrying out the biblical injunction:  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).

What is the WELS position on tattoos and body piercings?

Our position would be the position of Scripture for New Testament followers of the Lord. With that in mind, there is no general scriptural prohibition of tattoos or body piercings. People sometimes cite Leviticus 19:28 as support for God’s will against such practices. The context of that passage, however, shows that it was meant only for Old Testament Israel. When the people of Israel entered the promised land of Canaan, God did not want his people imitating the idolatrous practices of the people in the land. Rather than being a fifth commandment issue, the prohibition in that verse was clearly a first commandment issue.

Since New Testament followers of the Lord are not bound by the instruction in Leviticus 19:28, they can exercise their Christian freedom in this area of life.

The apostle Paul provided general guidance for Christian freedom when he wrote: “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).

As Christians seek to be “salt” and “light” to the unbelieving world, they will try to make decisions—even in this area—that best represent the Christian faith. As Christians seek to build up and encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), they will try to make decisions with fellow Christians in mind.

So, could I ever give an unqualified approval of a body marking? Sure. It’s figurative in nature, but the Lord told his people through the prophet Isaiah: “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16). That’s a beautiful picture of God telling us that we are always in his thoughts and on his mind.

Should religious war--past, present, and future--be regretted as a lamentable consequence of sin, or is it a necessary evil? How should I answer to someone who considers the church's violent history a stumbling block? I have been talking with some non-Christian friends about our beliefs, and they cite the entry to Canaan, the Crusades, and the post-Reformation religious wars as reasons to not follow God. They say that Christianity cannot be a "religion of peace" when so many have waged war in God's name. Contrarily, some of my Christian friends argue religious war is necessary, especially given the current times. My readings about the Crusades and the post-Reformation wars do not agree on the primary motivations (religion, politics, or a mix of both), so it's hard to refute them, and simply glossing them over or "letting bygones be bygones" doesn't satisfy any of us. The Bible seems conflicted about the nature of religious war; in the Old Testament it was justified and commanded by God, but the New Testament is less condoning. What should I tell them?

“The entry to Canaan” is in a category of war all by itself. God explained to Moses (Deuteronomy 20) and Joshua (Joshua 1) that the Israelites were to conquer the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 34). God is free to do as he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Whatever God does is right (Deuteronomy 32:4).

God is a just judge. On the last day he will sentence unbelievers, body and soul, to hell (Matthew 25:41-46). As a just judge, God can carry out judgment against unbelievers in this life, as he did with the heathen people who were inhabiting the land of Canaan.

The Crusades are in an entirely different category. Pope Urban II called for a crusade in 1095 A.D. in response to a call for help from the emperor of the Byzantine Empire. The stated reason for help was that holy places in the land of Israel had fallen into the hands of Muslims who were also threatening to invade the Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, the Crusades provided opportunities for many wrong attitudes and actions: work righteousness, power grabs, greed, the merciless slaughter of Muslims, Jews and others whom the church deemed to be heretics—just to list a few.

The Crusades and other religious wars involving Christians are regrettable. Understandably, they do not provide others with an attraction to the Christian faith and life. What they do furnish are opportunities for Christians today to explain to others that the Christian Church has always consisted of sinful people, but people who stand holy and blameless in the sight of God through the faith he gave them in the Savior who lived and died for them.

While God has given governments the authority to wage wars to defend their citizens (Romans 13), he instructs his people to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44) and live at peace with others as best they can (Romans 12:18). God has given governments authority to protect their people from their enemies. God has given his Church the mandate to proclaim his saving word to people who are his natural enemies because of sin and unbelief.

Is it biblically incorrect to work for a union such as teamsters or labor unions?

The Bible does not address the subject of labor unions. It does speak of treating workers fairly (e.g., James 5:4).

As with any organization to which you might belong, concerns about how an organization represents you in society and uses your financial resources would be fitting. If you disagree with that representation and your conscience is bothered, re-examining your association with the organization would also be appropriate.

Who is the Synod endorsing for U.S. president? I have a friend whose church endorses a candidate and gives its church members information to post on social media. Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.

WELS does not endorse any candidate for political office. Doing so would be a violation of the Internal Revenue Code and jeopardize the synod’s tax-exempt status.

What we do is teach and encourage responsible citizenship. That includes exercising the right to vote in accordance with one’s conscience.

Romans 13:1-7 is foundational for understanding proper civic attitudes: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

I have a few questions/needing advice for the recent decision of Target making their bathrooms transgender. I believe Target is liberal. Is it wrong for me to shop there since I don't support the transgender/gays/lesbians? By me shopping there, does it show to others that I support their decision on transgender bathrooms? Also, I recently had a friend say some harsh words stating that Christians are complaining too much about other people (meaning transgender people). My friend thinks we use God as an excuse to be hateful and stupid. Yes, we are sinners too. I just always feel like we as Christians cannot state how we feel about gays/lesbians etc., as we immediately get shot down, but those who do support that can say what they want and not get shot down for saying what they believe.

It is wrong for you to shop there—or anywhere else—if that is the message of your conscience. It is important for Christians to act in faith, not doubt (Romans 14:23).

I Corinthians 8 can also provide some guidance. The situation in ancient Corinth is that Christians were divided over the appropriateness of buying meat that had a track record of being associated with pagan worship practices. The apostle Paul’s instruction to those Christians was that buying such meat did not mean supporting false religions; buying and eating the meat could be done without any indictment of their actions. Still, if people’s consciences told them it was wrong to make such a purchase, then it was wrong for them.

Personal boycotting of a business can guide actions that conform to conscience. Boycotting by many people can catch the attention of business owners and executives and lead them to examine their ways of doing business.

While boycotting may change actions, our concern—and God’s concern—is about changing hearts. That kind of change is not brought about by altering our spending habits but by sharing the powerful word of God (Hebrews 4:12), through which the Holy Spirit can lead people to confess their sins and profess faith in Jesus Christ.

And when we do share God’s word and live the Christian faith, we can encounter opposition and rejection, as you indicated. One of the ironies of our world is that the people who insist on tolerance become intolerant of Christians. Those people do not see their actions as being inconsistent; they often say that the intolerance of Christians (in their opinion) gives them reason to match that intolerance.

So what can Christians do in times like these? Continue to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to others. The truth of God’s word includes his law that condemns sinners and his gospel that embraces sinners. Continue to let your light shine (Matthew 5:16) in daily actions. When others condemn you for your words and actions, recognize that opposition as the Christian cross—and then bear it gladly (Luke 9:23) and follow in faith the One who bore the cross for all.

What should be our Christian response to the plans to bring Syrian refugees into the US?

My response really will not address the “should” of your question, but will instead remind Christians what they can do with a scenario like this in mind.  That approach will underscore the gospel motivation of our actions.

Christians can pray that world leaders and our own country’s leaders govern with wisdom and compassion, balancing national security concerns with humanitarian concerns. Scripture directs us to pray for governmental authorities:  “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Christians can ask themselves what opportunities this mass migration of people provides for carrying out the instruction to “do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10).  Will the “doing good” take the form of making a financial gift to a reputable charitable organization that can channel aid to refugees?  Will the “doing good” take the form of praying for the refugees?  The verses from 1 Timothy cited above continue with the thought that, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  Will the “doing good” take the form of personally expressing Christian love and kindness to a refugee who is resettled in that Christian’s community?

Christians can be reminded that this resettlement of refugees in our country is yet another example of the world coming to our backdoor, enabling us to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) with greater ease in the lives of those refugees who are not Christian.

While the resettlement of the Syrian refugees is fraught with international, national and political overtones, a Christian response will view the refugees as people—people for whom Jesus Christ also lived, died and rose again; people who, like us, have been given a time of grace to be brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ.

And with regard to the violence from which the refugees are fleeing, Christians can pray that God “foils the plans” of nations and individuals (Psalm 33:10) who intend to harm others.  Christians can pray for their conversion as well.

Is speeding a sin?

Sin is a matter of breaking the law (1 John 3:4).  That applies to the laws God or his representatives in government have established.  Exceeding posted speed limits is breaking the law.

That truth can be obscured because law enforcement officers often disregard speeding that exceeds the posted speed limit by only a few miles per hour.  That can leave motorists wondering if there are two different speed limits.  But it really is a matter of enforcing or not enforcing a law, isn’t it?

Whether Christians find themselves behind the steering wheel of a car or in front of a computer screen, there are ongoing opportunities to honor God with our acts of obedience or disobey him with lawlessness.  Thankfully, there is good news for sinners.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

I recently attended a rotary meeting and after singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" they said a quick prayer thanking God for their bread. I have searched the history or Rotary and looked at their mottos and their beginnings and find nothing to hint a faith-based organization. If it's a matter of refraining from praying I can do that, but I don't want to unknowingly join an organizations that treats all religions the same. Is Rotary a faith-based organization?

Rotary is a civic and not a faith-based organization.  That makes membership in it possible for conscientious, biblically-minded Christians.  What civic organizations will sometimes do is inject a religious element into their meeting format.  That was the case with the invocation prayer in the meeting you attended.  As you respectfully refrain from joining in those prayers, you will no doubt have opportunity “to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).  God bless your Christian witness in every phase of life.

If my sons are in Boy Scouts and we are also members of WELS, will we be excommunicated?

Excommunication is the church’s solemn declaration that a person has put himself or herself “outside the communion” or fellowship of believers by an impenitent attitude that leaves no room for saving faith (Matthew 18:15-20).

Rather than asking the question you did (which presumes remaining in the organization and not leaving it after understanding the problems), I would suggest asking these questions:  “How can I best bring up my children ‘in the training and instruction of the Lord’?”  (Ephesians 6:4)  “How can I best teach my children to confess that Jesus Christ is ‘the way and the truth and the life’ and that ‘no one comes to the Father except through [him]’?”  (John 14:6)  “How can I best teach my children that only Christians can do things that are pleasing to God?” (Romans 14:23)

I would encourage you to discuss these and other questions with your pastor.  Such a conversation will reveal the inconsistent and contradictory witness of Jesus Christ that results from membership in a Christian congregation and any organization that teaches people can do their duty to God regardless of how they define God and what religion they call their own.  God bless that conversation!

My friend says rock music is not Christian-like and none is suitable for listening to because of its sexual connotations. While I can see a lot of music could have been conceived with sex being a catalyst, I can't believe only Christian music (and no Christian rock is allowed either according to her) is acceptable. I believe that music genres can appeal to many types of people and we shouldn't judge a genre because we don't like it. I believe Christian rock can be acceptable just as some rock and roll, blues, and swing, and any other music can be acceptable. Does all music have to be praise to God to be acceptable? Is all rock and roll truly evil? What does WELS believe about music?

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That instruction becomes a guiding principle in life, especially when it comes to adiaphora—those things which God has neither commanded nor forbidden.

Since God has not provided in the Bible a list of acceptable and unacceptable music genres, we are left to apply biblical principles. One of those principles is 1 Corinthians 10:31. Another principle is Philippians 4:8. Music in general can be performed to the glory of God when musicians use their God-given talents with right motives to offer entertainment that is pure. Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4 also provide guidance on what words—spoken or sung—are to come out of our mouths. Sexually explicit or suggestive language in rock, country or any other music genre misses the mark of being pleasing to God. Rather than condemning an entire genre of music, musicians and their music need to be evaluated individually.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). Certainly, music that edifies our faith is most important, but there is room in our lives for other genres of music that provide worthwhile entertainment. We find that room in the verse that follows: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).


My daughter's exposure to climate change ideas in college has led her to question whether it's responsible to have any children (who will each have a "carbon footprint"). I hate to think that we should refuse God's gift of children because of climate change fears. Can you shed any light on this?

More than any other people in the world, Christians have reason to care for the environment. That is because we recognize “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (Psalm 24:1-2). We care for God’s creation because it belongs to him and because it is God’s directive for us to do so (Genesis 1:28).

Still, concern—real or imagined—for the environment needs to be balanced by the fact that the Creator of the universe is the Preserver of the universe. People are not in control of this world. God is. Review Job 38-41 to renew your appreciation for God’s control of the universe he created.

With God in control, and with his pronouncement that children are blessings from him (Psalm 127:3-5), there is no reason to refuse God’s gift of children for environmental concerns. The observation of the psalmist still rings true today: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15-16). As redeemed children of God, we seek to manage all of God’s blessings faithfully, while recognizing and trusting that God ultimately rules all things in his perfect wisdom and love (1 Chronicles 29:10-13).




I was always taught to stand respectfully during the playing of the National Anthem. Now days it seems like people, particularly these professional athletes, disrespect the anthem, the American flag, and our military to “protest.” I’m worried this mentality is going to trickle down to our kids. What can we tell our children God says about respecting government, authority and the U.S., even when you don’t agree with something that is happening in the country?

The Bible is very clear in regard to respecting government and authority. The Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to write these words: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).

When Paul wrote those words, Nero was the Roman emperor. He was the highest governing authority in the Roman Empire. Nero was no friend of Christians. His atrocities against Christians are well documented. Yet, the directive of “be subject” applied even to him.

Paul was not God’s lone voice in instructing Christians to submit to governing authorities. Consider what the apostle Peter wrote: “ Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right…Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17).

Honor Nero? Yes, not because he generated respect by his life or actions, but because he filled an office and seat of authority that God had established. The fourth commandment explains that God has representatives in governmental positions. While people filling those positions may not represent God faithfully and accurately, God wants Christians to respect those positions of authority.

Of course, none of this meant that Christians needed to obey a person like Nero when he issued commands that contradicted God’s word. If Christians were caught in the crossfire of conflicting commands, it was important for them to implement the principle of Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

So what does this mean for Christian youth in 21st century America? The fourth commandment still applies. God still has his representatives in the home, the church and the government. God still looks for Christians—young and old—to respect his representatives and to submit to governing authorities.

What can Christian youth do when they do not agree with what is happening in our country? They can work toward positive change. They can contact appropriate people who are in a position to bring about such change. They can be positive examples of love, respect and impartiality in their daily lives. Can they follow the example of some professional athletes by kneeling during the national anthem? There is no law forbidding that. But one wonders how much support they will raise for their cause by doing that.

The use of a national anthem and any customs related to it certainly fits in the category of adiaphora: those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. Christians of all ages will seek to use their Christian freedom in ways that best benefit others. A person has good reason to wonder what the greater benefit might be when there is a kneeling posture during the singing of the national anthem—especially when the song is regularly preceded by the announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, to honor America…” When people ignore that announcement, it follows logically that they are dishonoring America.

No country is perfect. The citizens of any and every country are sinners. Sadly, the effects of sin will always permeate society. Kneeling during a song will not change hearts. Kneeling in prayer is a different story. Christians of all ages would do well to follow the instructions the apostle Paul first gave to Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

When hearts are changed through the word of God, then there are blessings—for people personally and the land in which they live. As Christians of all ages live godly lives and testify to others about their Lord, may the truth of the psalm writer find application in our country: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Is religious freedom vs. equality under the law as in the Kim Davis situation an issue whereby we must obey God rather than men, or is the believer subject to obey the law when elected to uphold the law?

The situation you are referencing is a good reminder of how challenging it can be when Christians live in two kingdoms:  the church and the state.  While God’s word guides life in the church, natural law and human reason are to guide life in the state.  Sometimes the state enacts laws that are contrary to natural law and human reason.  What then?  Is the state, the government, still God’s servant (Romans 13)?  Yes, but not a very faithful servant.  God requires our respect of and obedience toward government officials not necessarily because they deserve respect and obedience by their actions but because governing authorities owe their existence to God, serving as his representatives.

Christians who want to serve in the state can do so—even when laws run contrary to God’s word—by recognizing that the state operates on different principles than the church.  Moses recognized that.  As the leader of the church, he penned under inspiration of the Holy Spirit the establishment of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:20-24).  As the leader of the state, he wrote certificates of divorce (Matthew 19:3-9) that served to preserve order among Israelite society.  A Christian judge might find himself in a similar situation:  being in full agreement with the Bible’s teachings of marriage and divorce (perhaps even taking part in a congregational vote on excommunication related to an unscriptural divorce), yet granting an unscriptural divorce in his court.  Such actions on his part are not hypocritical; they reflect his involvement as a member of the two kingdoms of church and state that operate with different guiding principles.

In the situation you referenced, we are not talking about a judge issuing a final decree of divorce for unscriptural reasons but a county clerk refusing to issue marriage certificates to people whose union is not biblical.  While same-sex marriage is ungodly, it is legal in our country.  Christians who find themselves in a situation where they are legally bound to issue marriage certificates to people of the same sex can take the approach of Moses or the Christian judge mentioned above, or they may take a different approach because of reasons of conscience.

Here is where approaches will differ among Christians as they explore various options.  One of the options available for the person cited in your question is to seek a different vocation where conscience would not be disturbed.  Even though she was elected to her position, she is not forced to continue in her office against her will.  It would be very understandable if she resigned for reasons of conscience.  It would also be understandable if she followed a different course of action for reasons of conscience and suffered whatever consequences might follow.

The bottom line is that there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to the question you posed.  Christians will prayerfully seek to determine how they can best serve and honor God as citizens of both kingdoms, recognizing the principles that guide each kingdom and applying them as faithfully as they can to their situations.

Gun ownership. To what extent might a believer in Christ defend himself against the physical threats to himself or his loved ones in this world today?

It is the “to what extent” phrase of your question that requires individual and conscientious application of biblical principles.

Some Christians look to Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:17 as absolute directives not to resist physical threats.  In their context though the verses advocate love toward others instead of seeking revenge.

Others look to sections of Scripture like Proverbs 24:11-12 and Luke 22:35-38 as the basis for defending oneself and one’s family from physical threats.  The second reference does inform us that the disciples were lightly armed.  John 18:10-11 describes Peter’s wrongful use of one of those weapons as he tried to interfere with the Lord’s humble submission to his Father’s will.  The positive emphasis of the Fourth Commandment “to help and befriend [our neighbor] in every bodily need” can find application in defending oneself and one’s family with a weapon.

But, again, it’s the “to what extent” phrase that individual Christians will need to address.  There are governmental laws controlling the purchase and usage of guns.  There are legally-mandated gun-free zones and right to carry laws.  Christians will seek to recognize and honor Fourth Commandment and Fifth Commandment principles and navigate through life showing love to God and others.

In an age where homosexuality has gained acceptance among many, there is also more consideration for changing one's sex. What does the Bible say about such surgery and practices?

I would anticipate that in the future more will be written in our circles on this topic.  At the present time, I can refer you to a report that addresses your question and related questions.  The report is “Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria in Christian Perspective,” and was produced by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.  The report can certainly serve as a starting point in addressing your question.  Of special note is the “Pastoral Care for Gender Identity Confusion” section in the report.

Your question highlights yet another situation and circumstance in our day and age to which Christians can apply God’s law and gospel to all involved.

With all the changes of how people dress throughout history and more recently within the last 50 years of how women dress more like men, what is the view of men dressing like women? Is it OK for women to dress like men as it appears it is socially acceptable in society and when attending church? Is it OK for men to dress like women? Didn't the men and women in biblical times dress similarly? This question is in regard to cross dressing only without being involved in homosexual activities.

In Deuteronomy 22:5 God had instructed Old Testament Israel:  “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.”  The People’s Bible Commentary on Deuteronomy provides a good explanation of that command and a response to your question.

“While this law might sound like a blanket prohibition against wearing any clothing ordinarily worn by the opposite sex, some commentators have seen a deeper meaning here.  There was a connection between cross-dressing and some features of Canaanite fertility religion.  Worship directed to Astarte, the twin sister of Baal, sometimes featured men masquerading in women’s clothing and women appearing in men’s clothing.  Homosexuality was also associated with Baal worship.

“The New Testament contains no hard-and-fast regulations for the kind of clothing God wants his people to wear, but it does include general principles for people of all times.  Peter told women, ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment.’  Such outward adornment will take various forms and styles in different cultures.  ‘Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight’ (1 Peter 3:4).  Paul urged women to ‘dress modestly, with decency and propriety’ (1 Timothy 2:9).  Paul told the Corinthians that ‘every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.  And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head’ (1 Corinthians 11:4, 5).  The details of the Corinthian custom aren’t entirely clear to us, but God wants the customs among any group of people faithfully to reflect the roles he’s designed for men and women.

“Styles change from one time and place to another; it’s impossible to dictate a specific dress code for all the rest of human history.  God wants men and women to appreciate the dignity of their own sex, instead of assuming the appearance or preferring the role of the opposite sex” (pp. 197-198).

To those thoughts I would add the reminder of what Christian freedom is all about.  In areas of Christian freedom I am mindful of what is in the best interests of others and how my actions might negatively affect them.  While Christian freedom means that I can pursue a course of action, Christian freedom also means I have the right not to do something.

Is there a simple answer for why many "mainline" Christian denominations, including the largest Lutheran body in this country, either remain silent or now actually officially teach morality contrary to Scripture, e.g., abortion can be tolerated, homosexual marriage? Assuming congregation members are aware of and understand what's being taught, are they truly Christians? What about the leadership?

Much can be attributed to a denial of the authority of Scripture.  The clergy of the churches reflected in your question are trained in the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation.  That method rejects the verbal inspiration of the Bible and opens the door for people to say that the Bible contains mistakes, inaccuracies and contradictions.  That method rejects the idea that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels that bear their names.  That method leads people to look at Bible passages that are not popular today and say, “It would not be loving to take these words literally, so let’s see how the Spirit of God might lead us to understand and apply these words differently in our day and age.”  You can see that it is people’s wrong attitudes toward Scripture that lead to false doctrine and the approval of sinful actions.

You and I can judge actions—and we are to do that by lining up people’s actions against God’s word—but we cannot and dare not try to judge hearts.  God alone knows whether or not there is saving faith in people’s hearts.

What you and I can do is testify to others about God’s Word:  that all of it is true (John 17:17), that all of Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) and that the words the human biblical authors wrote were the words they received from God (1 Corinthians 2:13).

Can homosexuals go to heaven and are practicing Christians supposed to love them?

A distinction needs to be made in answering your question.  “Homosexuals” can refer to Christians who struggle with temptation to engage in same-sex sins.  These individuals recognize the sinfulness of thoughts and actions that run contrary to God’s word that spells out that sexual relations are for men and women in marriage (Hebrews 13:4).  They fight against those temptations.  They confess their sins when they fall into temptation.  They look to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins and strength to fight temptation better in the future.

In contrast to these individuals are “homosexuals” who deny, ignore and rationalize their same-sex sins.  They see no need to confess sins in this regard.  It is people with this impenitent attitude that the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote:  “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  You notice that it is not a particular sin that characterizes people as “wicked” and bars them from the kingdom of God.  It is impenitence.

Are Christians supposed to love homosexuals?  Yes.  Christians are to love people no matter what their characterizing sin might be.  Why?  Because it is pretty loveless to recognize the spiritual danger people are in by their sins and impenitence, and say nothing.  If we love people, we will have every reason to point them to God’s law so they can recognize and confess their sins, and point them to God’s gospel so they can enjoy forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus who came into the world “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

I am looking towards Alcoholics Anonymous to help overcome a drinking problem. What is your opinion on AA? Would it be beneficial for a Christian to go to this group or not? Thank you

As a church body, we have concerns about the religious aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  In step number 2 of The Twelve Steps, there is acknowledgement of a “Power greater than ourselves.”  Participants in AA are free to define who or what that Power is.

In step number 3 there is reference to “God as we understood him.”  Participants in AA are free to define God however they understand him.

Step number 11 uses the same wording:  “God, as we understood him.”  Once again, participants in AA are free to understand God however they like.

As Christians, we know that is not like selecting an answer for a multiple choice question where all the choices are equally valid.   In the Bible God explains clearly who he is.  He is a Triune God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AA certainly fails to provide clear testimony to the truth of God’s Word.  And while AA provides opportunities for Christians to state their beliefs, circumstances can be such where Christian witness is absent much more than present.

Joint prayer at AA meetings is another concern.  Scripture directs us to refrain from activities like prayer when we are with others who do not share a common belief (Romans 16:17).

In light of all this, WELS members have been able to participate in AA by not taking part in joint prayer.  In addition, they have recognized the concerns in the three steps mentioned previously and have not, by their words and actions, endorsed the idea that people may define God however they want.

No doubt you can see that we need to be cautious if we are considering utilizing AA.  Unlike the Scouting movement or lodges that require participation in their religious elements, AA does not demand that Christians compromise their faith.  They provide opportunities to do so, but Christians need to turn down those opportunities.  If you utilize AA, it would be good to debrief with your pastor, as you can, to steer clear of any issues that might impact your faith negatively.

Finally, be aware that WLCFS-Christian Family Solutions is able to provide the services you need without the concerns of AA that have been mentioned.  That would be my first recommendation to you.  God bless your efforts in overcoming this issue in your life.

Is abortion a sin?

The Holy Scriptures clearly teach that the living, yet unborn, are persons in the sight of God (Job 10:9-11, Psalm 139:13, Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41-44) and are under the protection of his commandment against murder (Exodus 20:13, Matthew 5:21, Genesis 9:6).

Therefore, abortion is a sin unless it is medically necessary in order to save the life of the mother. But even when a medical abortion appears needed to preserve a mother’s life, the Christian will always proceed with the intent to preserve all human life whenever possible.

It is the degenerating result of sin in our world that creates such dilemmas in our lives. But these challenges spur us to search God’s Word and to make decisions consistent with his will. In the very sad circumstance of having to choose to preserve one life rather than lose two lives, the weight of Scripture’s message telling us to protect life compels us to try to preserve both lives, or at least one life, whichever is possible.

All other reasons for abortion fail to reflect God’s high regard for human life and our responsibility to protect it.

Since the majority of abortions currently performed show disregard for God’s gift of life, we as Christians want to express concern and compassion for distressed, pregnant women by supporting the development of God-pleasing alternatives to abortion programs.

Is it against God's plan for mothers to work outside the home? I am the mother of two children. I have been financially supporting our family since we have been married. My husband now has a pretty good job but makes about half of what I do. I always felt like God wanted me to stay home and take care of our children; however, I have never been able to do this. Is it okay for moms to work?

Neither you nor I will be able to find a Scripture passage that explicitly forbids mothers from working outside the home.  This is an area of Christian freedom and one in which a person’s conscience enters the picture as far as decision making is concerned.

What I can do is list some questions for you and your husband to consider.  My purpose in putting these questions in front of you is not to steer you to any particular course of action but to help you answer the question:  “Is it okay for moms to work?”

So, in regard to your employment and your husband’s employment, is materialism an issue?   Is income from your job needed or wanted?  Is your income a matter of sustaining a standard of living you have become accustomed to but is not necessary?  Are current and/or future family expenses driving your decision (e.g., children’s educational costs)?  How does your work impact your responsibilities as a mother and a wife?  Do you think it’s wrong for you to work outside the home?

The answers to those first five questions are important, but the answer to the last question is vitally important.  Scripture explains (Romans 14) that if we set up a law in our mind, even if God has not, we need to follow that course of action.  In this case, if a mom were to think that it is wrong to work outside the home, that person needs to follow the leading of her conscience.

Then again, another Christian could explain to that mom that there is no explicit scriptural prohibition of her working outside the home.  The mom’s thinking could then change, and the law she had established about outside employment would disappear—enabling her to do in good conscience what she had previously thought was wrong.

So, this is really is a matter for you and your husband to discuss, and for you to sort things out with your scripturally-tethered conscience.  In all things we want to act with sure conviction, not in doubt (Romans 14).

I do commend you for being sensitive to your conscience and desirous of doing what God says in his Word.  God bless your discussions—and your family.

Why do some people say that homosexuality was not in God's plan for us, and that it’s a sin. I ask this question because there are a lot of individuals, men and women, who say that they've always been attracted to the same sex since they were kids. If it is a sin as some have preached and stated, why would God allow that to happen if he knew us before he came to be as he states in Jeremiah 1:5?

We say that homosexuality is not in God’s plan for us and that it is a sin because that is what the Bible says. Jeremiah 1:5 is about God knowing his plan to call Jeremiah as his prophet. It says nothing about God approving every one as they are. Sin has made people into something God never intended them to be. The following statement summarizes our view on homosexuality on the basis of the Bible.

The dispute over whether homosexuality is an inborn disposition or a free choice, the national debate over the legalization of same-sex marriages, the conflict that is rising in many denominations over the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and the sharp disagreement about the blessing of same sex marriages by the church are among the current issues that may lead people to ask, “What is WELS’ stance on these issues?” WELS does not have an official statement on these issues, but our public teaching and practice is based on what the Bible teaches concerning homosexuality.

The best place to begin a discussion of the issue is with 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, because this passage emphasizes both the law and the gospel elements of addressing this issue.

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

On the basis of this and other passages of Scripture we must draw the following conclusions about homosexuality.

Scripture declares that homosexuality is a sin, which is contrary to God’s intention in creating man and woman. Sinful resistance to the revealed will of God is a factor in this sin. People may become slaves to this sin (Romans 1:18-31, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Many factors contribute to individual acts of sin: the sinful nature we are born with, the weaknesses of our bodies, evil influences in our environment, temptations and encouragement from other sinners, and our own sinful choice join together lead us into sin. All of these factors contribute to homosexual sin. The proportionate role of these various factors may very from case to case.

We must warn the impenitent that homosexuality, like all sins, excludes people from eternal life (1 Cor 6:9-10).

We are happy to assure the repentant who are struggling against this sin that they have complete forgiveness through the blood of Christ. When Christ died for all of the sins of the whole world, he gained forgiveness for homosexual deeds, for homosexual desires, and for the inborn sinful nature which produces these sins (1 Cor 6:11).

We should sympathize with all who are struggling against this sin, remembering that we too have “pet sins” which may have a strong hold on us. We warn against a “selective morality” which harshly condemns homosexuality or other sins which we observe in others while treating those sins which are present in our own lives more lightly (Mt 7:1-5). We should be impartial and unbiased in warning against all sins.

We all look forward to the resurrection of the body. Then all the weaknesses of body and soul which now lead us into sin will disappear forever. Then all of us will be able to serve God perfectly and purely in everything we do.

Note on Homosexuality as Innate or Chosen:

Some advocates of legal and religious tolerance of homosexuality claim that homosexuality has a genetic cause. Some reports claim that some homosexual men share a particular pattern in the X sex-chromosome which they received from their mother. Other researchers have claimed the existence of other types of biological similarities between homosexual men. These researchers acknowledge that their discovery cannot account for all homosexuality and may merely be associated with homosexuality rather than being a direct cause of it. Most researchers conclude that the origins of homosexuality are complex and varied and may never be fully understood.

How should we evaluate such claims in the light of the biblical teaching of sin? Is homosexuality a free choice or an inborn tendency?

Like many such either-or questions, this question poses a false dilemma. Every sin is both a choice of the will and the expression of an inborn tendency to sin. Our sinful will is guilty of consent whenever we sin in thought, word, or deed. As a result of our sinful nature we take pleasure in our sins and defend them. This universal tendency is apparent also in the efforts of gay rights activists to condone their homosexuality and to deny that anything is wrong with it.

Although the consent of our sinful will is present in every sin, it is also true that we are born as slaves of sin. We may also yield to a particular sin so often that we no longer control the sin, but the sin controls us. We may find ourselves yielding to sin even when we don’t want to.

Sin infects both our body and our soul. The body we now have is not the perfect body which God created for Adam and Eve. It has been contaminated by the effects of sin. There is no reason to maintain that the specific effects of sin have been identical in each one of us or that we are all equally susceptible to every sin. Our individual degree of susceptibility to some specific sins may be due in part to differences in our bodies. Abuse of alcohol and a hot temper are just two examples of sins which may be affected by the chemistry of our bodies. Few would deny that the pressure to sexual sin is greater at 18 than it is at 8 or at 88 and that a primary reason for this is the changing chemistry of our bodies. It may well be that a person’s susceptibility to homosexuality or to certain other sins depends in part on bodily differences.

Even though the weakness of our own body may be one factor which leads us to sin, God holds us responsible for all of our sins, even those sins which enslave us and those sins which we are not aware of. We need God’s forgiveness even for those sinful desires which we resist and do not act upon. These desires too are sin. (Read Romans 7 for a treatment of slavery to sin).

What can I say to younger children about transgender issues?

A simple message to children could go along these lines: God’s creation was initially perfect (Genesis 1:31). That included people—the crown of his creation. God created man and woman. God blessed Adam and Eve and gave them the ability to have children: boys and girls. The entrance of sin into the world greatly affected people and the world in which they live. People were no longer perfect, people no longer had a perfect relationship with God and with one another, and people encountered problems in life. One of the problems of sin is that people can become confused about who they are or dissatisfied with who they are. All sin needs to be identified, recognized and confessed. The wonderful message of the Bible is that God does not turn away broken people (Matthew 12:20). Jesus came into the world to save people from their sins (Luke 19:10). When people confess their sins to God, he freely forgives (1 John 1:9).

In your conversations on this topic with younger people, keep the focus on sin and grace—and the help for all problems that people can obtain from God. Such conversations also provide opportunities to encourage children to pray for others. God bless your conversations!

Are members of the WELS allowed to listen to Christian Radio if it is hosted by members of other churches?

We do not tell the members of our church body what they can and cannot listen to on radio or watch on TV. We trust that they will recognize what is spiritually beneficial to them or harmful for them (Philippians 4:8).

When it comes to “Christian radio,” there is a need to be on the lookout especially for decision theology, denial of the sacraments and false views of end time events.

Recently there was a news story about a bakery owned by Christians taken to court because they would not provide service for a wedding cake to a gay couple getting married. While every situation might be different, I was curious if that is how a Christian should behave. Didn't they miss out on an opportunity to show Christian love and speak truth while still providing a service? You wouldn't know someone is gay when it's a birthday cake. Aren't we supposed to love our neighbor? What is the correct biblical approach to social issues like these?

Christians do want to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) on all occasions. The truth Christians speak might contain a message of law. The truth Christians speak might contain a message of gospel. When it comes to marriage, Christians lovingly share the biblical truth that God designed marriage to be the union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:22-24; Matthew 19:5-6; Romans 7:2).

When Christians operate businesses, they interact with and provide services for many different people. Their transactions with non-Christian churches are not endorsements of those churches’ doctrines. When they sell their products to individuals who self-identify with unscriptural practices or ways of living, they are not approving or sanctioning the actions of those individuals. If that were the case, then Christian bakers would need potential customers to fill out an application form so they would not be guilty of sanctioning heterosexual couples living together before marriage or unscriptural divorces by making cakes for weddings involving those people.

Certainly a Christian will want to consider the role of conscience in this regard. If a Christian’s conscience says that it would be sinful to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, the Christian will want to refrain from sinning against his or her conscience (Romans 14:23). At the same time, that Christian will want to be aware of the potential legal liabilities that may result from withholding services from a customer.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 is helpful in providing direction for Christians’ interactions with unbelievers: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” Those words come in the context of the apostle Paul directing the Christians in Corinth to take action with a church member who was impenitent over an incestuous relationship. The apostle instructed the Corinthians to do what Jesus said in Matthew 18: “If your brother or sister sins…” Church discipline involves those who profess to be within the church. We have no specific instructions from God on addressing personal sins in the lives of those outside the church.

Certainly, those words from 1 Corinthians 5 do not mean that we close our eyes and ears to what is going on in the world. What those words do mean is that the church does not have the responsibility or divine mandate to discipline people who are not part of the church.

So, where does this leave us? Yes, we want to love our neighbor, but because there is no manual that spells out in detail how best to live a life of neighborly love, Christians will wrestle with decisions in the questions you asked. They will seek to arrive at decisions that agree with biblical principles and that do not violate consciences. They will also seek to refrain from judging the motives of fellow Christians who arrive at different decisions.

I've read the archived answers to WELS opposition to Scouting. Are there any new findings or factual changes in Scouting that make our past opposition no longer applicable? Can a student be confirmed into the church if he/she is a member of the Scouts?

I am not aware of any changes in Scouting that have removed reasons for our concern. The oath of doing one’s duty to God—however God is defined—remains. In fact, recently-updated Scouting requirements place even more emphasis on the oath. The FAQ available through this link explains that emphasis.

The Scouting oath is a first commandment issue. The oath conflicts with the promises Lutherans make on their confirmation day. As Lutheran Christians, we desire to testify by our words and actions that there is only one true God (Isaiah 45:21; 1 Corinthians 8:4) and there is only one Savior from sin: Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

Any changes in our practice would begin with the Conference of Presidents appointing a committee to examine Scouting requirements.

RE: Today's Online Devotion 12-28-17 Once again, I am puzzled, confused, and troubled when reading Romans 13: 1-5. In particular the words, "For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong." History is littered with governments and leaders who abused the innocent or otherwise are peaceably going about their business doing what is right, and the peoples rising up to throw off the yoke of oppression. Certainly our own United States nation was formed from a rebellion against established authority. Yet, on the Sunday near the 4th of July, I don't hear sermons or prayers condemning the actions of our forefathers, but rather, (rightfully) giving thanks for our country and government. It seems like we are preaching and teaching out of both sides of our mouths. While we certainly acknowledge our governmental leaders, past and present, are sinful and flawed human beings capable of error and mistakes, I think in general we say our country has always tried to do "good" in the general sense, given the particulars of any given point in time. I would like to think Paul was qualifying the type of government God wants us to obey. If we were to read the morning news and find out that the people of North Korea were rising up in an attempt to overthrow the regime, would we pray for the rebellion to be quashed, or would we rather see it as God's hand at work? I think the latter. I would welcome your response. Thanks!

Rather than with only a celebratory attitude, there is reason to look back at the formation of our country with some concern. Was the Revolution justified? There was not agreement among Christians—then or now. Not all the actions of the colonists can be lumped together into a category of “right” or “wrong.” There was mob violence in some areas that was clearly sinful disobedience. In other places there were well-established and recognized colonial governments that objected to what they saw as illegitimate interference in their jurisdiction. It is well documented that Lutherans who lived in this country at that time were divided in their loyalties.

In Romans 13, the apostle Paul was not qualifying the type of government God wants us to obey. When Paul wrote of being “subject to the governing authorities” (verse 1), and when the apostle Peter wrote of submitting to and honoring the emperor (1 Peter 2), Nero was emperor. He was definitely no friend of Christians; his atrocities against them are well documented. Yet, the directives of “be subject” and “honor” applied even to him—not because his life or actions generated respect, but because he filled a seat of authority God had established.

Paul’s point in the verse you cited is that God’s design for governmental authorities is that they punish those who break laws and protect those who keep laws. When citizens abide by the laws of the land, there is no need to fear governmental authorities. For example, if people have not broken any laws, there is no need to be afraid of a passing police car as they walk down a sidewalk.  On the other hand, those who are lawbreakers have reason to fear governmental authorities.

God’s fourth commandment speaks of his representatives in government, in the church and in the home. Not all those who represent God in those three areas do so in ways that God wants. Still, God instructs people to honor and obey his representatives, unless they command a course of action that is contrary to what God says in his word (Acts 5:29). I hope this provides some help.

Is it right or wrong to encourage members of our church to register to vote and participate in the election process? This encouragement would not include suggestions or recommendations regarding how to vote on any particular issue or candidate. Please include Bible references regarding your response. Thanks!

It is certainly proper to encourage members of our churches to register to vote and participate in the election process. What our churches cannot do, as you indicated, is endorse any candidate for political office. Doing so would be a violation of the Internal Revenue Code.

Participating in the election process is part of responsible citizenship. While the Bible does not address your topic specifically, passages like Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 speak of proper civic attitudes.

Can a WELS member participate in a fraternity or sorority?

WELS does not have a formal position that addresses these organizations as a group. What we do is direct people interested in these organizations to ask questions like the following: What kind of activities does the group sponsor? Are its activities appropriate for Christians? Are its goals focused on self, or do they include service to others? What is the group’s attitudes towards those who are not part of the group? What are its motives for its activities or service? Are there any activities that conflict with biblical principles of fellowship? The counsel of a local pastor can be invaluable for students interested in these organizations.

I recently learned that some vaccines are made from aborted baby tissue. Should we opt out of receiving these shots for our child?

Christian Life Resources, an organization within WELS, provides valuable information on many life issues.

Vaccinations is one of the topics that organization covers.

This link will take you to an area of their website where you can find resources on the subject of vaccinations. Should you desire further information, you will find a “Contact Us” tab on their website.

If I understand correctly and if I lived in gangland Chicago, the gang would be my nearest government authority and, when the police were around, they would be. So God has put these odd, different governments over me. And I should do what they each want unless they want me to sin against God or go against my conscience. Correct ?

We would not recognize gangs as legitimate governmental authorities. Gangs tend to compete with legitimate governmental authorities. The location you mentioned has lawful authorities in place.

When it comes to governmental authority instituted by God (Romans 13:1), we render obedience unless that government commands us to disobey God (Acts 5:29).

Since God set up both, which government, local or Washington, are we to obey when they differ? Seems to me the smart thing to do is obey the one that can do immediate harm and worry about the other later. Would that be correct?

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). We are to obey all governmental authority, at all levels, unless government authorities intend to force us to sin and go against God’s word (Acts 5:29).

If we disagree with laws—federal, state or local—there are peaceful options available to us to voice our concerns and seek legislative change.

Do you still have a question about doctrine section? My question is about how to explain Halloween to my 7-year-old granddaughter who asked if the day is another of Jesus', like Easter and Christmas are. I know it's a pagan one, and we were on our way to Treat O Trunk at our church.

Yes, there is still a question and answer section about doctrine and Christian living. That section is in the same area where you submitted your question.

The following is a past response to a question regarding the explanation of Halloween.

“All Hallows Evening was a special night because it preceded All Saints Day, an important festival in the medieval church.

“All Saints Day may have been placed on November 1 because this was the New Year’s Day for the Celts of the British Isles. The Celtic festival Sambain on October 31 was concerned with the return of the souls of the dead. The connection of elements of witchcraft or the occult with October 31 thus was in competition with All Hallows Evening and All Saints Day, not a part of it. In countries in which Christianity and superstition co-existed, however, elements of the two often became entangled.

“Standard encyclopedias say that Halloween became a secular holiday in America. It apparently was introduced by the Irish and other immigrants. The emphasis is now on costumes and trick or treat, with the treat always given and the trick seldom played.

“Halloween now is a secular holiday that descended from both heathen and medieval observances. It has often had unsavory elements such as occult symbols and vandalism associated with it. The question then is whether these elements have been sufficiently detached from Halloween, and it has become a secular holiday that can be observed without offensive features. There certainly has been a concerted effort to make it so. Many public schools ban certain types of costumes that are considered too gross or offensive. Secular groups such as UNICEF have tried to replace the emphasis on getting treats for oneself with a concern for raising money to help the needy.

“The fact that some people celebrate Halloween in offensive ways does not in itself rule out the holiday. If this were so, we could not celebrate New Year’s Eve or even Christmas. The fact that Halloween occupies the same day as a heathen holiday is not unique. Many Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter in a sense compete with heathen holidays since both were associated with key points of the astronomical calendar. This is also true of the Old Testament holidays prescribed by God. Some of our Christmas and Easter customs have some similarity to heathen customs just as the Old Testament sacrifices had many points of similarity with those of the heathen. Some Christian holidays have become more secularized even while they remain important festivals of the church year (Christmas). Other minor religious festivals have almost entirely lost their religious connotation (Valentines Day). For most people St. Patrick’s Day has become more of an Irish ethnic fest than a religious holiday.

“Whether or not Lutheran Christians should participate in holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween is a question of judgment. Such holidays may have different meaning and different customs attached to them in different times and places. Whether Lutheran Christians should or should not participate depends on the meaning of the holiday in the context in which they live and on the impression which their participation will give to others. Naturally, they should refrain from objectionable practices if they participate. They are some good arguments that can be made against Halloween, but individuals should be convinced in their own consciences of what is best for them to do and should be cautious about judging others who may have a different opinion.”

There has been much recent focus on race and inequality in our society. One of the popular topics of the day is the concept of "white privilege." There have been numerous high profile allegations of police unjust treatment of African Americans. Currently, Americans are engaged in a battle over the proper etiquette for respecting the flag and our national anthem. How can we talk about these issues with friends and family in a biblical way?

You ask a timely question. Certainly, the issues you mentioned have led to changing tones and rising volume levels in personal conversations and online forums. I can pass along some biblical principles that can guide Christians in their conversations with others.

Recognize that God’s love is boundless. The apostle Peter eventually came to realize that God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34).

Because God’s love is boundless, the makeup of his church is diverse. Another apostle, John, understood that clearly from one of the visions God granted him (Revelation 7:9-10).

The God of boundless love instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). Jesus made it clear that our neighbor is our fellow human being (Luke 10:25-37).

We show love to others by giving them proper respect (1 Peter 2:17). We show love to others when we live life unselfishly, putting the interests of others before our own (Philippians 2:3-4).

If we have sinned against others by unkind words and actions, we confess our sins to them and God (James 5:16; Jeremiah 3:13).

If others have sinned against us and confessed their sins to us, we are obligated to forgive them (Matthew 18:21-35).

Regarding the national anthem protests, this link will direct you to a “Light for our path” column that recently addressed this issue.

May God lead us all to treat others and communicate with them in love and respect.

In a society that stresses equality between men and women, why do most confessional Lutherans and other conservative churches choose to limit leadership and authority roles in congregations to men?

We do believe and teach that men and women enjoy equal status and importance before God. Both men and women were created in the perfect holiness of the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Although that was lost in the fall into sin when as both men and women we became equally sinful before God (Romans 3:23), yet in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us God has restored to us our position as his justified and holy children (Romans 3:24). As far as our status and importance before him as dearly loved children and heirs of heaven, whether we are female or male makes absolutely no difference (Galatians 3:26-29).

However, Scripture is also clear that while we are equal in status and importance before him, God has not made us duplicates or clones of each other in how we carry out our various God-given callings. Already in the perfection of the Garden of Eden he assigned unique callings or roles to the man and the woman when God made her to be helper suitable for the man and created her right from the man (Genesis 2:18ff). God gave to the man the unique calling of being a loving head and to his wife the unique calling of being a loving helper to him. In the New Testament, the inspired Apostle Paul assures us that these unique callings were indeed found already in the perfection of Eden when he writes, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Later Paul reminds us that what we read in Genesis 2 is indeed where this was established when he says, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9).

While man’s headship is intended by God to be lived out in loving servant humility like Christ for us (Ephesians 5:25), yet headship also includes the God-given authority to lead (Hebrews 13:17). That is why one part of the unique calling of helper is to respect and yield (submit) to that leadership (Ephesians 5:22).

In the church, one of the places that those charged with leadership in our congregations exercise such authority is in the voters’ assembly. There those charged with setting the direction of the congregation set that path in the debate and voting that takes place. Just as Paul reminds us that teaching the Word with authority is an expression of the headship principle (1 Timothy 2:12), so also it is an exercise of authority when the governing bodies of our congregations set the direction for that congregation.

Of course, wise heads know that God has given them helpers for a reason. The wisdom and insights, the questions and concerns of everyone in the congregation, men and women, are important. Especially when a woman may have no husband in her home, it is very important that the congregation look for ways to gain her input.

Does WELS stand out as different among other Lutheran church bodies in so honoring the principle of head and helper? Yes. But does that mean we are closed minded and old fashioned, or does that mean others have been more affected by the culture around them than they may know? The question is never what the culture demands, but what the Scriptures teach.

Is Habitat for Humanity a religious organization that we should avoid because donating to them would involve principles of fellowship?

Your question is one that was asked and answered in Forward in Christ eleven years ago (February 2006). Here are excerpts from that column:

“Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by former Alabama businessman Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda. Habitat calls itself a non-profit, ecumenical, Christian housing ministry. Fuller has also developed the theology of the hammer, which he explains in a book by the same name.

“Since it is the desire of Habitat to partner with churches, including WELS churches, to build and renovate homes, it is important to evaluate Habitat’s ministry before entering a partnership. There is no doubt that a concern for the poor can be a response to God’s love for us in Christ. The apostle John wrote, ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth’ (1 John 3:17,18).

“However, confessional Lutherans will have legitimate concerns about the theology and ministry of Habitat for Humanity. The first concern is that Habitat’s ministry is a social gospel ministry. Its highest priority is to improve people’s circumstances on this earth. Fuller credits Walter Rauschenbusch, who has been called ‘the father of the social gospel movement in America,’ with shaping his thinking. In his book, Fuller includes the following quotation from Rauschenbusch: ‘The non-ethical practices and beliefs in Christianity nearly all center on the winning of heaven and immortality. On the other hand, the kingdom of God can be established by nothing except righteous life and action.’ This concept of the kingdom of God conflicts with our confession that ‘God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word.’ (The Second Petition, Luther’s Small Catechism). It also raises questions about the nature of the church’s mission. Jesus said that his mission was ‘to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10). He gave us our mission when he commanded, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . . ‘ (Matthew 28:19,20).

“Another concern is Habitat’s desire to be an ecumenical organization, that is, an organization with ‘a concern to reunite the divided Christian family’ (p. 80). But this reuniting is not done on the basis of a careful study of the Scriptures. In his book, Fuller approvingly quotes the slogan, ‘Doctrine divides, service unites’ (p. 80). He says unity comes about when people of diverse religious beliefs work together to build homes for the poor. ‘Maybe, just maybe, God wants to use ‘the theology of the hammer’ as a means to draw his divergent family closer together’ (p. 79). This statement and others like it come close to making the building of homes for the poor a means of grace. Since devotions, prayers, and dedication services are common at Habitat sites, there is also the potential for involvement in expressions of church fellowship that are not based on agreement about what the Bible teaches.

“To register these concerns about Habitat for Humanity is not to say that we are free from caring for the poor. Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40). However, we want to help the poor in a way that enables us to remain clear about the church’s mission and about the importance of sound doctrine.”

Financial gifts to our Synod’s Christian Aid and Relief can provide humanitarian aid to people without the concerns that were listed in the column above.

Hello, I am interested in your thoughts regarding Rosa Parks. Do you believe she should have given up her seat? Also, what are your thoughts regarding civil disobedience in general? God's blessings.

As I refrain from offering personal opinions and speculation in these responses, I will direct my remarks to the general subject matter that is referenced in your second question.

In the Bible God tells us to submit to his representatives in government (Romans 13). We are to give them honor and respect and obedience. There can be exceptional behavior on our part if we face conflicting directives from God and the government. In cases like that, we obey God (Acts 5:29).

That passage from Acts guides our actions if the government compels us to go against God’s word, but what if the government enacts laws that are unjust but do not force sinful actions on our part? There are peaceful options available to us. First of all, we pray. We pray that God would bless his representatives in government with wisdom and love, to rule with justice and impartiality (1 Timothy 2:1-4). If we disagree with legislation, we are able to contact our legislators and relay our disagreement to those people who represent us.

Is there a place for civil disobedience? An answer you will hear in our circles is that, within limits and reason, there might be occasion for passive civil disobedience. That disobedience does not consist of violent resistance but peaceful inaction. The motive for that course of (in)action would be important. A noble motive could be one that seeks to protect other people from suffering injustice.

While Scripture is our guide in matters like this, we can benefit from God’s people who explain and apply Scripture, and so you might be interested in reading Martin Luther’s thoughts on civil disobedience in his work: “Can Soldiers Too Be Saved?”

Living as members of God’s kingdom and citizens of an earthly kingdom definitely presents challenges to us. While we have our eyes on God’s fourth commandment, honoring his representatives in all areas of life, we have our sights even higher—on God’s first commandment, loving him more than anyone or anything else. And as Christians, our greatest motive for doing that is to thank him for his forgiving love in Christ.

Does the WLS contribute to Lutheran Social Services?

If, by “WLS,” you meant Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, the answer is “no.” If you intended “WELS,” the answer is also “no.”

I have a friend who is encouraging her brother to "marry" his "partner." It's really weighing on me spiritually. How do I convince her that this is not the right path?

You may not be able to convince your friend, but God certainly can. He can do that through his word. What you want to do, then, is put your friend in touch with God’s word and let the Holy Spirit take over.

What you want your friend to understand first is that God’s word is truthful in whatever it says (John 17:17). Again, that is a conviction of the heart that only God can bring about. You can pray that God will convince your friend of the truth as she comes into contact with his word.

As far as resources are concerned, you might be interested in reading our church body’s statement on homosexuality. This link will take you to that statement. It contains Bible passages that could be shared with your friend.

Additionally, this link will take you to an article titled “Defending Traditional Marriage Is an Act of Love.” The article is from Christian Life Resources, an agency within WELS. You will find other resources on this topic at their web site as well. God bless your witnessing efforts!

Should a Christian support the death penalty?

God has given his representatives in government the right to exercise the death penalty if they so choose (Romans 13:4). Christians who live in a state or country where the government carries out capital punishment will want to recognize that their government has authority from God to punish criminals that way. Christians who live in a state or country where the government punishes by incarceration instead of the death penalty will want to recognize that their government has authority from God to punish criminals that way. While God allows for governments to punish criminals by means of the death penalty, he does not command that they do so. Governmental leaders can decide by law how, and to what degree, they will punish criminals.

Christians will abide by the laws of their state or country, unless such laws contradict God’s word (Acts 5:29).

Does the WELS church accept LGBT individuals as members? Are they able to take Communion?

As your question has been asked more than once, allow me to pass along a previous response:

“It depends on what the question implies. Could a church member experience homosexual feelings or temptation? The answer is yes. Our society loves to debate whether an inclination toward homosexuality is due to hereditary or environmental factors, but this is utterly beside the point. The devil, the world, and our inherited sinful nature assault each one of us in different ways. One believer struggles with gambling, another with alcohol, another with a quick temper, another with indifference toward those in need, etc. The fact that a person experiences temptation in one form and not in another does not put him or her out of the kingdom of God.

“Is it possible for a church member to stumble and fall into the sin of homosexuality? The answer again is yes. Scripture does not classify sinful actions into ‘sins that believers commit’ and ‘sins that only unbelievers commit.’ The fact that someone sinned sexually with a person of the same gender does not, all by itself, mean that the person isn’t a believer, any more than would an act of heterosexual immorality, drunkenness, reckless driving, or cheating on one’s taxes.

“Can a person remain a practicing homosexual in defiance of God’s Word and also be a believing member of the church? The answer is no. Believers agree that what God calls ‘sin’ is sin. They turn from their sin, receive God’s forgiveness, and battle against the sin in their lives with the help of God’s Holy Spirit.

“1 Corinthians 6:9,10 are perhaps the key passages on this subject in Scripture. First, note that it includes homosexuality in a catalogue of other sins, with no indication that it is any worse (or any less bad) than greed, slander, or cheating someone. Then, speaking to Christians, Paul says, ‘That is what some of you were’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). The past tense is significant.”

You might also be interested in reading this statement on homosexuality.

Based on man and woman roles posted on this web site, is it sinful for a person to vote for a woman president of the United States, as she would then be in authority over Christian men?

The answer to your question requires some background information.

While the Bible does provide specific applications of the loving head and loving helper principle (1 Corinthians 11:3) for the home (Ephesians 5) and the church (1 Timothy 2), it does not do that for settings in our sinful world. The principle still applies, but so do other principles—such as recognizing that government is to serve as a channel through which God gives people earthly blessings such as peace, protection and security.

Because Christians desire that government be a blessing, they will pray for governmental leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). They will exercise the privilege of voting for governmental officials whom, they believe, will act in the best interests of their country. This is where Christians can be confronted with different scriptural principles, and where they might arrive at different conclusions.

One Christian might think along these lines: “The male candidate would not be good for our country. More damage to the country and its citizens could take place if he were elected. I recognize the scriptural principle of head and helper—even though most people in society do not—but to me the scriptural principle of maintaining good government is paramount, so my vote this time is going to the female candidate.” So, no, it would not be sinful for a person to vote for a woman to be president of the United States. It would be sinful if a Christian cast a vote for the female candidate and by doing so went against the direction of conscience (Romans 14:23).

That’s why another Christian might think along these lines: “The female candidate would be better for our country, but to me the scriptural principle of loving head and loving helper is paramount, so I cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate.”

As citizens of God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ, we strive to be responsible and faithful citizens of our country. Your question illustrates some of the challenges Christians can face when election time draws near. Our confidence is this: in spite of the flaws in those who cast votes and those who receive votes, “Dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28).

Is Trail Life USA OK for a WELS youth member to join? Looking quickly at their web site I didn't see a pledge like the Boy Scouts' duty toward God.

As Trail Life USA (TLUSA) calls itself the “Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America,” the concerns we have about Scouting apply also to this group. TLUSA does have an oath; adult leaders sign a statement of faith. In addition, the organization has resources for “faith-building opportunities” and “spiritual growth options.”

On the FAQ page of TLUSA’s web site, there is this question and answer:

“How does faith factor into the program?

“As a Christ-centered organization, our faith is woven throughout the program without being necessarily ‘religious’ or ‘churchy.’ From faith-building options in the advancement program, outdoor worship, to more in-depth discipleship opportunities, adult and youth members receive Biblical instruction and training in Biblical faith. As iron sharpens iron, so too will boys sharpen the faith of their peers. Adult Christian leaders will guide youth in the development of their faith and moral decision-making, as well as sharpen the faith of their adult peers.”

While the organization allows customization of the program for particular denominations, its ecumenical nature is problematic.

As you may or may not know, many of our congregations participate in Lutheran Pioneers, an organization within our church body that offers many of the same benefits of Scouting, without the objectionable religious requirements. That is an organization we can encourage our youth to join.

I don't understand this idea that the United States is to protect Israel, not just because they are an ally, but because they are the " of God's eye." Can you please explain or recommend a book concerning this topic? Thank you.

Political interest in the modern nation of Israel can stem from misunderstandings of the Bible’s teachings of the end times. In particular, the false teaching of dispensational premillennialism looks for the modern nation of Israel to have a prominent role in end times events.

Quite simply, the Bible does not speak of the modern nation of Israel, nor does it add events to the simple timeline of the Lord’s visible return on the last day.

A book that sorts out biblical truth and error regarding the end times is appropriately titled End Times. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.

I am reading a book and in it the main character is trying to figure out his stance on stem cell research. This has me thinking about what I believe about stem cell research and I was wondering what the Bible and the WELS has to say on the issue. Thank you!

Christian Life Resources is an agency within WELS and provides information on the subject matter about which you inquired. This link will take you to the section of their web site where you can find numerous articles on stem cell research.