When I was ten years old, I attended a family reunion in Kentucky. Two very distant cousins came to the reunion. They were brothers and were roughly my age. I had never met them, but we had a good time playing in a state park.
They were very nice, but they were different. They both had huge wads of chewing tobacco in their mouths and were constantly spitting tobacco juice. Their teeth were in terrible condition, with some of them missing. The others were rotten and stained with tobacco juice. I had seen many men chew tobacco but had never seen kids my age doing that. I asked them how long they had been using tobacco. They said they had started when they were five.
I think many people today will hear this and wonder how that could happen. Why weren’t these two boys’ parents arrested for child abuse? I can only say that it was a different time back then. Not only did it happen; I’m pretty sure nobody at the reunion confronted the parents about the situation.
I’m almost positive I know why. The parents were family. The whole family was fun to be around. The parents loved their boys. I don’t know where they were from, but I’m sure it was from somewhere in Kentucky or Tennessee. I picture their home as being way back in the woods. In that environment, other kids were doing the same thing. People have different backgrounds. Who are we to judge? It would be rude to tell a parent how to raise their children. To even point out that the parents were harming their children would be extremely uncomfortable. All of us at the reunion were part of an extended family, and we should just get along. Besides, maybe the parents would figure it out later and get the boys to change their filthy and unhealthy habit.
Since I was only ten years old, I didn’t have this conversation with the adults at the reunion. I was too busy playing hide-and-seek, tag, and other games with my cousins, including the two who were spitting tobacco juice all over the place. I have to think the adults discussed these things but kept it to themselves.
Were the adults right? Did they do the right thing by not saying anything to the parents, even though they knew that the boys were being harmed?
I see a parallel between my story and the issue of assurance of salvation. The same reasons given for not addressing the health of those boys so long ago are given today when it comes to teaching assurance of salvation. Even though we know it is a Biblical doctrine, we meet good people who don’t believe it. They love their kids. They go to church. They come from backgrounds in which nobody believes in eternal security. It would be rude to tell them that their religious traditions are wrong. It would make all of us uncomfortable. It would only make them decide to avoid us. Who are we to judge others? Can’t we all just get along? Besides, maybe they will see the truth later. Let them figure it out on their own.
Those of us in the Free Grace movement are often told that that should be our attitude. But I think we should reconsider. I guess that at least some of the readers of this blog think the adults in our family should have confronted the parents of my distant cousins. Their dental health was being destroyed. Their dental care would one day cost them a fortune. A person’s teeth impact the health of the whole body. The odds that these boys would get tongue, lip, jaw, or stomach cancer had to be astronomical. That is what tobacco was doing to those boys.
The absence of assurance is even more deadly than tobacco. GES rightly maintains that if you have never believed it, you do not have eternal life. But even if we set that aside for the moment, think of what the lack of assurance does in anyone’s life. If you interact with church people for five minutes, you’ll quickly see the catastrophic damage lack of assurance causes in their spiritual lives. We meet people like this every day. They fear death. They are paralyzed by that fear. They have dreams of waking up in hell. They cannot serve the Lord out of joy because they don’t even know if they are His children. Spiritual growth and health are impossible without assurance. Without believing in assurance, a person cannot understand the Word of God, but can only pervert it. A book that is supposed to bring life and blessing brings terror.
If we were able to go back to my family reunion, many of us would probably confront the parents regarding the harm they were doing to their boys. We would point out the truth of the situation. Likewise, when we understand the seriousness of the doctrine of assurance, there is no doubt what we should do. When we meet anybody who is harming others by denying that doctrine, we need to call them out and speak the truth.