Last updated on October 2, 2020
Dear Mr. Hamilton,
I am fifteen years old, and I play the piano at my church (United Methodist) approximately once a month. Some friends have been going to another church (Baptist), and I started going there occasionally. It surfaced that I play the piano, and the praise team asked if I could substitute for their pianist whenever she’s unavailable. I agreed, and so I’ve substituted several times.
I started going to the youth group at the Baptist church and have made friends. I also like a girl there. I asked the pastor at my church if it is okay that I attend both churches and he said yes as there is no youth group at my church. However, I have been having some guilty feelings about going to both churches. Do these feelings come from the Holy Spirit telling me to do something? I’ve been struggling with the possibility of discontinuing attending Baptist. I enjoy substituting for their pianist, the sermons are powerful, I enjoy the people and the youth group, and it would be sad for me to no longer see the girl I like. What should I do?
I am beginning to see that the main reason I went to the youth group is to see the girl I like. She invited me to her birthday party, and I attended. At her birthday party, I wasn’t very social and I seemed uninterested. She used to hug me whenever we met, and talk to me, but after her birthday party she hasn’t hugged me or seemed as interested in me. (I am basing this off one time I saw her.) At the same time, I realize we probably wouldn’t be compatible in marriage. Therefore I don’t want to deceive her in making it look like I like her, although I’ve never told her I like her.
This has been weighing me down, and has turned into a complicated situation. What should I do?
For full understanding between you and me, I am not a fan of denominations. “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). I encourage people to abandon the denominations and simply be Christians by following the Bible. See: We Are Simply Christians Without Being Members of Any Denomination, You Can be Too!
But to address your question, nowhere in the Bible does God say that He leads people by feelings. Feelings are vague and they change rapidly. No one can be taught by feelings. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). Worse, it is a fad among people to ascribe their feelings to the Holy Spirit. I assume that this lends the illusion of authority to something that cannot be proven, but it is merely elevating personal feelings to the level of deity, which is clearly wrong.
Feelings do have a place. They can be a good alarm system, even though you know at times your feelings can be off or wrong. “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:22-23). Therefore, you don’t follow your feelings, but you don’t ignore them either. When you feel something is not right, it is time to check the facts. The facts determine what you do, not your feelings.
One fact is that people of two different religions often have difficult marriages. It becomes especially hard when you have children and the debate comes over what religion the children should be raised in. Since they get different answers to questions from each parent, it is not unusual for these children to grow up not believing in any religion. If you dated a girl from a different religion, then one of you or both of you would be better off converting to a religion you both agree in. And, of course, the only religion worth having is the one God agrees with.
The second fact is that you are making a lot of assumptions about what this girl thinks about you. You are interested in her, which is fine, but since you have said nothing to her about your interest, it isn’t proper to draw a conclusion about what she thinks about you. For instance, she invited you to her birthday party, which was very kind of her, but you did not return the kindness. You acted aloof. It is not surprising that she backed off the next time she saw you. Actions speak louder than words and by your actions, you told her you aren’t interested in her.
Finally, decisions about where you worship should not be made based on the entertainment value found at a church. Entertainment is about what you like, but worship is about serving God in the way He commands. Pick a church based on the accuracy of its teachings and practices. “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).