When I was about ten or 11, my mom marched me past the shelves of Sweet Valley Twins books in the teen section of the library and led me to the literary classics section with Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Jane Austen. She waved her hands over the greats and said, “These. You can read these.” And I did. I devoured them. I fell in love with them. I studied them in college. I taught them to high schoolers. To this day if you say Macbeth to me I’ll light up like a teenage girl in love and 15 minutes later you’ll emerge from a lecture on soliloquies.
Later, when I was 12 or 13, we visited my great-uncle Henry’s farm, something we did only infrequently. He walked us around to see the cows in the fields and we took a tour of the old farm house with Aunt Mary and creaked along the floor boards from room to room.
Aunt Mary discovered that day that I was a bookworm. So, in her enthusiasm to share her own love of reading with me, she handed me a pile of books that she had finished and was eager to pass along to someone else.
I thought I had received a great treasure that day!
And then I opened one book and learned what a Harlequin romance novel was. She probably didn’t even realize how young I was and how those books weren’t really a good fit for me.
To this day, I don’t read romance novels. Not the ones you can buy from the racks at the grocery story. Not the Christian ones where the girl loves God and falls in love with a guy that loves God. Not any.
Sure I have opinions on the matter. I have principles guiding my decision that God has laid on my heart, all of the whys and wherefores that make that particular genre off-limits for me.
But, do I think the eleventh commandment is Thou Shalt Not Read Romance Novels?
Do I think you are doomed for all time if you like a good clean Christian romance?
Maybe God has told you that other things are off-limits. Something you eat, watch, read, or do that isn’t clearly wrong or covered under a Biblical commandment, but that God has personally convicted you about.
God has given us so much freedom and yet that doesn’t mean anything goes. Paul 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” (1 Corinthians 10:23).
This principle covers more than just what shows we watch on TV or what books line our bookshelves at home. Some of us God has called to be stay-at-home moms and some to work outside the home. Some to have large families. Some to be one-and-done. Some to adopt. Some to home school. Some to choose public schools.
What happens when I impose on you the calling God has given me? Then we have explosive battles of criticism and condemnation. We have legalism where we add mandates to Scripture and make everyone else obey the instructions God personally designed for us.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “At first, Jesus Christ through His Spirit has to restrain you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you. Yet, see that you don’t use your restrictions to criticize someone else.”
How then do we navigate these explosive relationships where even the most innocent remark or most God-directed decision becomes the atomic bomb in the next World War Women?
Allow for the Calling of Others
But, there’s another side to the story. We also need to let others do what they are called to do.
What if we allowed for differences, not just in opinion, but in calling? Not differences in doctrinal truth or the very clear mandates in Scripture, but differences in style, taste, gifting, personality, ability and weaknesses.
In Genesis 26:2, God told Isaac, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.”
Decades later, God said to Jacob, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there” (Genesis 46:3).
Don’t go to Egypt. Do go to Egypt.
Does it seem like God can’t make up His mind?
But consider that Isaac and Jacob were different people, in different circumstances at different times. God’s calling for each of them was uniquely appropriate.
What if Jacob had never traveled to Egypt because he felt that God’s command to Isaac must carry over to him, as well? He would never have seen his long-lost son, Joseph, again. No reconciliation. No 400 years of the Israelites in Egypt. No slavery—yes—-but also no deliverance. It’s highly possible that Jacob and his remaining sons would have died off in obscurity as the result of famine.
Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Peaceful relationships in this world aren’t always possible and that’s the ugly truth of it all.
But, we need to do everything we can to cultivate peace even in disputed territories where landmines of personal opinion dot the fields. Sometimes that means we stay-at-home moms need to go out of our way to encourage the working moms we know, to pray for them, to help them out if they need it and not to exclude them from our activities and friendships.
Sometimes that means letting petty jealousies and misinterpreted comments and too-sensitive feelings fall to the ground and instead choose—sometimes it’s a difficult choice—-but choose not to be offended. Choose to put on thick skin. Choose to let comments pass by unanswered.
Sometimes we need to keep some opinions to ourselves. We must put down the protest signs and banners about issues that God doesn’t clearly address in Scripture.
If God has told you to go to Egypt, then go. Pack up your bags and take the first plane out of here because you need to live in obedience to God. But don’t condemn those who are boarding a different plane also in obedience to Him.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.