A gracEmail subscriber belongs to a church group whose leaders give “advice” to the members on whom they may date, when, how often and so forth. Although our brother carefully follows scriptural teaching on sexual purity, he does not always agree with his church leaders’ opinions in other details. Yet he feels guilty and unspiritual when he chooses not to follow their “advice.” He asks my thoughts.
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Is this group being completely honest in its vocabulary? It is one thing to offer “advice” or “suggestions.” Wise Christians will listen to godly counsel from others who demonstrate healthy Christian lives themselves. But spiritual leaders ought not replace one’s own decision-making, and their opinions are no substitute for the believer’s own conscience (Eph. 4:11-15). No one has a right to issue “orders” in God’s name, which God has not given, even if the orders are disguised as “advice” (Jer. 23:25, 31-32). It is even worse to foster or impose feelings of guilt on good people who prayerfully choose not to follow such “advice” in matters of personal opinion (Col. 2:20-23).
The Christian is led by the Holy Spirit and is taught by God (John 6:45; 7:37-39; Rom. 8:12-14; 12:1-2; Eph. 5:8-10; Col. 1:9-11). A chief reason why many Christians do not mature as they should is that they permit others to do their “discerning” for them (Eph. 4:22-24). Growth requires exercise as well as nourishment (Heb. 5:12-14). Even God does not treat us like marionettes. It is certainly an offense against Christian dignity for other humans to make us puppets on a string.
If your leaders insist on having such power in your life, I would encourage you to ask God seriously whether you ought to be under their guidance. That kind of “leading” sounds more like a cult than a Christian church and I fear it would finally prove detrimental to your spiritual health. That is all I can say without knowing more details. These are some general principles, which I am confident you can apply to your specific situation — the very thing your own leaders seemingly do not trust you to do.