Editorial: Rare Occasions

Every assembly is responsible to maintain gospel testimony in the community. Weekly gospel meetings, gospel series, and tent efforts all provide an opportunity to reach out with the gospel, both for our families and to the community. The reality, however, is that most of your neighbors and unsaved relatives refuse invitations and do not come.

There are two occasions, however, when friends and relatives do willingly expose themselves to the Word of God: funerals and weddings. It may seem like a strange pairing of events, but a moment’s reflection will attest to the fact that many will come to witness a wedding and enjoy the occasion. When a believer is called home, family and friends will come to a funeral service out of respect for the deceased. Given the rare opportunity these functions provide, we should maximize the potential influence that these may have on the unsaved.

Weddings are times of joy and celebration. While there is a solemnity to covenant-making, it is nevertheless a time of great joy, but is that joy and celebratory atmosphere enhanced by what our society characterizes as a celebration? They must have alcohol flowing freely, loud music, a dance floor, and the inevitable behavior that accompanies the loosening of inhibitions by alcohol. I can hear objections arising already. Are we supposed to be solemn and grave at a wedding? Is there no room for joy? Am I confusing a wedding with a funeral? If loud music, drinking, and a large dance floor are needed for joy, many will be disappointed at the Marriage Supper in heaven. The songs that will fill heaven will express our joy in the Lord. Some may object, and point to David’s ”holy dancing” before the Lord. Any who have attended a secular wedding will readily confess that there is not much in the dancing that is “holy.”

If we want a wedding to be a testimony to the Lord and also a time of joy, are these goals mutually negating? We need sensitivity and spiritual wisdom to present the gospel. Paul displayed this in Acts 17 at Athens and again in Corinth (1Cor 2). We do not take advantage of people and view them as a captive audience who are finally trapped and must hear the gospel whether they want to or not. No one can take exception to the officiant telling how the couple was reached and saved, how they were brought together by the Lord, and what they have before them in their life for God. Through all this, the gospel message can be skillfully woven. An alternative would be to have a message at the reception instructing the couple (and the audience) in the character of Christian marriage. Hymns expressing joy in the Lord and gratitude for His goodness and grace would impress on an unsaved audience, not the stodginess of the believers, but that our source of joy is not dependent on what they must have. Our goal should be to show them that the grace of God has made us to differ, not to show them how much like them we are.

There are likely some who are reading this who can attest, as well, to being awakened to their need while attending the funeral of a believer. Once again, we do not need to hammer attendees with the gospel. The solemnity of the occasion is sufficient to sober everyone. But it is an opportunity to give the testimony of the deceased and, if the believer has so expressed it prior to his homecall, to mention to all his desire that all in attendance might come to know his Savior. As unbelievers view the solace and comfort which believers have because of their hope in the Lord, this should serve once again as a gospel message in itself.

Our words and our ways at these “rare occasions” are golden opportunities which we forfeit to our own loss.