Information Related to "Questions and Answers - Oct/Dec 2002"
Question: What should I do if kids make fun of me because of my religion?
Answer: The old adage of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" is simply not true. Words can hurt, and hurt very deeply. Any time someone makes fun of our beliefs or of us, we are hurt. Romans 13:10 says love does no harm to its neighbor, so those who are striving to live as God asks watch their words carefully so as not to hurt others.
However, not everyone lives that way of life. Jesus Christ realized most humans would not follow God's instruction and would indeed ridicule true followers of God. In fact, in Matthew 5:10-11, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake." Later He told us that since they treated Him badly, they would also treat us, His followers, badly. We also read in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
This is one of the hard parts of being a true follower of Jesus Christ, but He promises us that if we'll remain true to Him, He will bless us and eventually make those who mistreat us recognize how wrong they were (Revelation 3:9). In the meantime, God tells us not to be ashamed of what we believe (Mark 8:38). When we really know what we believe and why we believe it, explaining our beliefs becomes easier. So we have an incentive to study so we can clearly explain our beliefs. However if someone doesn't really want to know what we believe and is only trying to stir up trouble for us, perhaps it would be better to simply avoid that person as much as possible. Your parents and your minister may have more tips to help you with the specific situations you face.
Question: What does the Bible teach concerning abortion?
Answer: To answer this question, let's first consider some background material. Today, most people only look to their own human reason instead of the Bible for guidance in this area. As you may already know, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 (Roe vs. Wade) sparked a huge controversy. There is no issue since slavery that has so divided the population of the United States. The two opposing views on this issue are generally called "pro-life," meaning those who support the rights of the unborn, and "pro-choice" for those who say a woman should have control over her own body.
Many who favor allowing abortion have argued that abortions should be safe, legal and rare. Yet statistics show they are anything but rare. In the United States estimates of the number of babies aborted every day range from around 3,700 to over 4,000, amounting to nearly 1.5 million per year. Statistics also say that 93 percent of abortions occur not because of serious potential health problems or rape or incest, but because of social factors. The child is either unwanted or inconvenient.
The biggest area of debate in the abortion question is when life begins. Those who favor abortion might argue that it doesn't begin until sometime near birth, when the child could be viable on his own. Others point out that at the moment of conception a unique genetic package comes into existence that contains everything that person will become—from height, size of feet and color of eyes, to factors such as whether he is predisposed to contract diabetes by age 50.
Growth and development after conception are rapid. Within 18 days a new heartbeat is there. At around three weeks, eyes, a spinal cord and digestive system are forming. At around a month and a half, brain waves are detectable. By about two months, fingers and toes are beginning to show and by the 18th week, the fetus is moving and kicking.
While the Bible does not mention the word abortion, there are indications that God views the unborn as individuals. He told the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). God indicates He knew Jeremiah as a person and designated him for a special job extremely early in the gestation period. This implies "personhood" and God expressly forbids murder in the Sixth Commandment.
Additionally, Job said this about other people, "Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?" (Job 31:15). Job understood God to be at work in the process of human gestation in the womb.
God views human life as very valuable and the verses above indicate He views life as beginning at conception. So while He doesn't mention the modern issue of abortion in the Bible by name, these passages indicate that God would label abortion as a sin.
If you want to read more on the subject, you can read an article in our May/June 2000 Good News magazine titled, "The Abortion Quagmire: Who Will Speak for the Children?". We also have a Teen Bible Study Guide on this topic.
Question: How far can you go before you get married? Is it OK for a Christian teen to French kiss or "pet" (i.e. caress intimately) the one you love?
Answer: In our society, very poor examples are often set regarding relationships between men and women. Many in our society view premarital sex as "normal." As such, unmarried couples engage in the intimate activity that should be reserved for marriage. This includes passionate kissing and foreplay. This type of kissing and touching more often than not leads to intercourse. Of course, this is contrary to God's teaching. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 it says, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body." Clearly, in this verse, the apostle Paul is warning against the kind of intimate kissing and touching that can lead to sexual intercourse.
When it comes to dating, we encourage teenagers to not get romantically involved with someone of the opposite sex or have a "steady" boyfriend or girlfriend. Group dating and general social contact is much better for teens than pairing off with a specific individual. It is our general advice that one-on-one dating be reserved for the time people are ready (in respect to age, education and finances) to get married. In any event, the kind of passionate kissing and petting that you asked about should be reserved for marriage, where they can help build the special, intimate bond God designed.
An article titled, "Sex, Dating and You" by Tom Clark appeared in a previous edition of Youth United. This article addresses this subject in greater detail.
Question: How can we tell if a church is really the right one?
Answer: In answering this question, it is important to understand that the word church in the New Testament means a group of people and not a building. To prove whether a particular church (group of people) is part of God's Church, one must determine whether they are following God's instructions.
Jesus said His sheep (followers--those who would be part of His Church) hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). As such, members of God's Church imitate Jesus' example (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21) of keeping the Ten Commandments (John 14:15,21). Revelation 12:17 tells us that the dragon (a symbol for Satan) was angry with the woman (a symbol of the Church) and went to make war with the woman's descendants (Christians who will be living in the end time). The way these people are identified is by the fact that they keep the commandments of God.
While many people do not kill or steal, there are many more commandments and instructions from God in addition to not lying or stealing. More revealing is whether they keep the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) and the annual Holy Days (Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, etc.), as did Jesus and the New Testament Church.
Of course, these are just a few of the doctrines and practices of God's Church. For a more complete explanation of how to identify God's Church, read our free booklet, "The Church Jesus Built".
Question: What do people mean when they say that through the New Covenant, the law is written in our hearts? Some say that what we do should be based on what we feel in our hearts and that it is no longer necessary to keep the commandments. Further, some say that we only keep God's laws, such as observing the Sabbath and Holy Days, voluntarily.
Answer: What you are describing is the prevailing attitude among most people who call themselves Christian. The general approach is to consider the Bible to be two totally unrelated segments--the Old Testament that has a harsh God (the Father) who dealt with people one way and the New Testament, which has a loving God (Jesus the Son) who deals with people in a totally new and different manner. Many problems come from such an artificial dissection of God's Word.
Some want to argue that Jesus only kept the commandments and upheld them because He came as a Jew and had to keep them until He died. They then claim that the apostle Paul did away with the commandments of God and only focused on love and mercy. However, Paul told the Corinthian church that the commandments were what really mattered in life (1 Corinthians 7:19). This was written around A.D. 55, which is 24 years after Christ died. That doesn't sound like the commandments ended at His death! In addition, somewhere around A.D. 90 the apostle John wrote that the way we know we love God is if we keep His commandments, and if we don't keep them, we don't have God's love in us (1 John 2:3-6). You might also notice this passage ends with the statement that we should walk as Jesus walked—meaning, live like He did.
It's obvious that the law, which is to be "written in our hearts," is the law of God, summarized by the Ten Commandments. If you wish to read more about them you can read our booklet on the .
Question: What Bible translation should I use?
Answer: There are many different versions of the Bible available today, including many that are designed specifically for young people. Addressing these differences, our free booklet, How to Understand the Bible, says, "The most helpful tool for Bible study is, not surprisingly, a Bible--or, more properly, several Bible versions, among which you can compare wording. People will often seek to find the translation that is most accurate, most literal or easiest to read. However, no single translation fits all these requirements.
"More than 60 English versions of the Bible are available. We can divide them into three broad types: word-for-word, meaning-by-meaning and paraphrased. Most Bibles explain, on their introductory pages, which approach was used in preparing that particular version.
"The word-for-word versions most accurately follow the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Generally speaking, the King James Version and its modern counterpart, the New King James Version, are word-for-word translations" (p. 12).
Because the New King James Version combines translation accuracy and modern language, most scriptural quotations in literature produced by the United Church of God are from this translation.
"What about meaning-to-meaning versions? They, too, can be valuable, as secondary sources, to put the Scriptures into more-understandable wording...The New International Version...the Revised English Bible, Good News Bible and Jerusalem Bible are other popular meaning-to-meaning translations.
"Paraphrased Bibles, such as The Living Bible, can be useful. The Living Bible can be described as an interpretive translation. Its goal is to make the Bible easily understandable. Caution is necessary in working with this text, however, because the authors exercised poetic license to transform some basic terms according to their own religious ideas.
"Paraphrased versions can be consulted to better grasp the story flow but should not be used to establish doctrine. They should be considered poor sources for accurately determining the meaning of any text" (p. 13).
Given the many choices of Bibles available today, our recommendation is that young people use the New King James Version as their foundational Bible. Other translations can then be added to augment their biblical studies. For additional information on this subject, consult our free booklet, How to Understand the Bible.
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