This is a really important topic, especially for new Christians who are trying to work out how to live out their Christian life whilst continuing to live with a society or community. It may be that most others are not Christians and do not understand the reasons why Christians do or do not do some things that are normal to everyone else in the society or community.
Funerals and marriages are two of the main ceremonies and rituals, which every one of every religion would or could be involved with. Besides these two, there are other rituals and ceremonies, which may be specific to some religions and not to others.
The most important thing to know is whether the ritual or ceremony has any spiritual significance, and as Christians this can sometimes be hard to know or decide upon.
- The first step.
If you are faced with the problem of knowing whether or not a ceremony of ritual is acceptable to be involved with, the very first thing you need to do is ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to do, and to help you understand whether it is right or not to be involved.
- The second step.
The next thing to do would be to ask people, who are Christians, around you. Maybe the person who led you to become a Christian or the church leader or pastor.
- The third step.
See what the Bible says. In the Old Testament, there are many stories, guidelines or pieces of advice that would help us to understand this question. When God led the children of Israel through the wilderness and then into the Promised Land, he told them NOT to worship God in the way the local communities and peoples around them did, because these worshiped idols and did many practices which God did not approve of. See e.g. Deuteronomy 12:29-31.
Sadly, sometimes God’s people ignored His advice and then found themselves being punished by God because of their disobedience (see e.g. Ezekiel 5:11).
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul explains clearly what being involved in foreign religions means. 1 Corinthians 10:20 says: “What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons”.
This is the key issue and most important thing we need to avoid.
Three questions to ask yourself
When we think about being involved in ceremonies, we need to think about the various aspects of the ceremony and ritual and ask ourselves some questions.
- Has this ceremony anything to do with idols? Processions or ceremonies where an idol plays and important part should be avoided.
- Does this ceremony honour spirits, demons, or anything other than God? Is it calling on spirits or demons for help? Then avoid it.
- Is this ceremony a mixture of spiritual and normal things i.e. weddings and funerals? Think of a ceremony that honors the person who has died, but also worships their spirit or involves rituals like burning incense or chants for the dead. It is acceptable to honor the life of someone who has died, and for that we can be involved. But do not take part in anything that would have a non-Christian religious significance. If it is a wedding ceremony, giving your blessing or encouragement to the couple is acceptable. But where there are rituals or ceremonies calling on ancestors or spirits for a blessing, then avoid it.
Being involved in non- Christian ceremonies
If you follow these steps and have considered the possibilities, and are as sure as you can be that there is no religious, spiritual or demonic involvement, then it is acceptable to be involved. It is important, especially for new Christians, no to cut themselves off from absolutely every social or community event. Otherwise it would be impossible to share the gospel with friends and family, as you would be considered an outsider who has betrayed and rejected their old life.
Use wisdom, humility and grace in all your decisions and try to show love and respect to everyone around you, asking God to guide you in your decision-making.