Determining what is wrong (sinful) can sometimes be difficult. Here’s a story to illustrate:
I grew up in a family that went to church every Sunday morning and evening and many Wednesdays. Then, in about 1964, we started going to Dallas Cowboys football games on Sunday. This often required missing some church time. Looking back now, those family memories are some of my favorites.
Meals, church, and football games were the three things we did as a family, but only at the football games did we really talk, celebrate, and suffer with each other. At church, we didn’t talk to each other. At the dinner table, Dad and my sister argued while Mom and I ate, listened, and offered occasional un-expert commentary.
I’m not sure why my parents broke church tradition and began attending the football games, but it primarily had to do with my mother becoming a Cowboys fan because she was a distant cousin of Don Meredith.
Dad, I think, did a very good thing for our family in taking us out of church to cheer for the pre-championship Cowboys. He gave us something exciting coupled with togetherness and memories.
Was it a sin? Were we forsaking the assembling together of the faithful? Were we violating the Sabbath? Technically, yes. But it seems more complex than that simple verdict, because it did serve a genuine function in nurturing our togetherness as a family in the midst of a time when generations were being torn apart. It made our family stronger, better. And the Bible definitely affirms the importance of family.
This part of my personal story informs how I think about church attendance to this day. I have been a Bible study teacher on Sunday morning for most of my adult life, but it never really bothered me when members of the group missed class in order to do something with their families. In a world of busy-ness, they were staying connected to their kids, who needed them desperately.
There were others, however, whom I feared sent their children a different message, a very bad message. They seldom attended church. They were doing things with their families, primarily youth sports, but it seemed to be different than those who missed occasional Sundays. I feared they were sending their kids a signal that God and church are unimportant; it’s a sideshow.
This reflects the challenges of Christian living in a complex society that is different from the one in which Scripture emerged. If we try to oversimplify and say a behavior is right or wrong, good or bad, we may miss a greater good that is affirmed in Scripture.
All of this is to say that it is tough making godly decisions day in and day out. None of us do it perfectly. We need prayer, Scripture, ministers, and Christian friends to help us honestly look at our life choices and see how we are stacking up in light of the revelation of Christ.
I don’t know if my parents did wrong in taking us to Cowboys football games. I’m sure some people, especially at the time, think it was wrong. One thing is certain, my parents taught me that church participation is important and that family togetherness is a priority, as well. And that sounds pretty biblical.