Questions on The Church Building and Manners
There seems to be an opinion among same people that the church building is to be used exclusively for religious purposes. According to this opinion any form of “eating or drinking” in the church itself is positively sinful. Can you find any Scriptural support for this contention? Will you also express your opinion in respect to this matter?
Also, what do you think of smoking in church parlors?
Yes, indeed, there are people who have a notion that eating and drinking in church are positively sinful. Where they get that notion I don’t know. I cannot find any Scriptural support for this contention.
Does the foregoing mean that I would use the church building for just anything and everything? Not at all! I think we should use our church building primarily for divine worship and for religious purposes. That is self-evident. That’s the purpose of our church buildings. However, that does not exclude that we sometimes eat or drink in church. For example at the occasion of a social gathering of the societies, a classical meeting, a wedding, etc. etc. That is not desecrating anything.
I am afraid that this over-zealous attitude you mention in your question is similar to the attitude of those of whom we read in Scripture, that they were worried about outward things, about days, meats, vessels, etc. Actually that is still a little of the old leaven of Judaism. And Scripture must have nothing of it. Read e.g. Romans 14 on the question of “indifferent” things. Paul certainly could eat and drink to the glory of God, as a matter of faith, and I am sure he could do that in church too.
What I think about smoking in church parlors? I don’t think much of it. Not because it is sin as such, but I think it is filthy and messes up the church auditorium. We have to draw the limit somewhere, and we certainly do not want to make a pig-pen of the church. Let’s by all means keep the church auditorium a clean, neat-looking place.
How about smoking in the “basement” rooms? No principle objections. Also here it seems to me you’d have a hard time to prove from Scripture that you may not smoke in these meeting rooms. However, of late I have been in a few churches where they have signs all over the basement: “No Smoking”. Had we such a rule in our church I would not object, in fact I’d favor it. (I think all the janitors would too). It makes for neat, clean-looking rooms, floors, atmosphere. Yes, I know there is an old saying: “The thicker the tobacco smoke the more Reformed the atmosphere”. I don’t believe that. And I wouldn’t be against smoking in church parlors because I believe it to be sin, but as a matter of cleanliness, neatness, as something we can easily do without, at least while we have our meetings. On the other hand, I am very much afraid of an outward cleanliness and nicety, while spiritually we would decay and lose our precious Reformed heritage and the living Word of God as an actuality and a vital force in our life.
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“What have manners to do with Christianity? Is there any relationship between the two?”
We first better ask: “What are manners?” A manner is a mode of action, or distinctive style. Manners can be bad or they can be good, for the word “manner” means a way of acting, mode of procedure. A mannerly person is a person who shows good style, is polite. On the other hand a mannerless person is a person without proper style, behaviour, conduct, a person of rude manners.
It stands to reason one is taught manners, can cultivate manners. By way of training, habit, partly depending upon one’s native character and personality, one can and does acquire a customary way of acting, of normal behavior, habitual deportment. Training and environment have a lot to do with manners, whether they are good or bad. You don’t need to be a Christian to be mannerly.
Is there any relationship between manners and Christianity? There most definitely is. In the first place a Christian should cultivate good manners. Bad manners are definitely a sign and manifestation of sin, of the old man. And we must try to overcome bad manners in speech, action, conduct, behavior, etc.
However, I think with the Christian “manners” come under the rubric “sanctification”. In other words a Christian should not merely be mannerly because it is fitting, becoming, polite in Society, the Home, School, Church, etc., but the Christian must cultivate good manners as a matter of sanctification. He must also with respect to his manners fight the battle of faith. Says Scripture: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22, 23). If a Christian lives that way his manners are good. That does not necessarily mean that he is refined in all his actions (some people are naturally clumsy and awkward). But fundamentally he has good manners because he is a regenerated person, a spiritually sensitive soul. And as covenant young people we should cultivate good manners and become ever more gracious and proficient in them. Really good manners are more than a superficial politeness, which is sheer hypocrisy. Good, God-pleasing manners, are the fruits and manifestation of sanctification.