I received the following questions by e-mail and decided to include it and my reply (with permission) on my blog.
“I had a quick question for you, though I don't know how ‘quick’ it really is. I am trying to do ‘research’ on a question, and, naturally, didn't know where to start, so I decided I would consult a few pastors I know and trust!”
“My question is more of a scenario (it is not my scenario, but it is applicable): If a woman feels the Lord is calling her to go (be it to missions or something else) and her father says ‘No, that is not the Lord's will for you,’ what does she do? Is it a sin to not follow where she feels the Lord is calling her, or is it a sin to go against what her father believes is the Lord's will? Is there any Biblical basis for this? Is the Old Testament scenario about ‘If a daughter makes a vow before God and her father overhears he can release her from that vow’ applicable still?”
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I believe that there are clear biblical answers to your questions, although there will probably be many who disagree with me. I will try to deal with the relevant Scriptures.
I’m assuming that the woman you are speaking of is old enough to have left home, or though living at home is capable of leaving. I’m also assuming that her father is a believer and is sincere in his convictions.
First, the command, “Children obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20) is in the context of the home, and does not apply to older children. While we are to honor our father and mother, this does not always include obedience.
Even though the New Testament gives clear instructions about authority, this does not constitute a “chain of command.” Rather we obey, submit, etc., because God has placed authority figures over us. We might say that is part of His method of governing. Romans 13:1-7, though speaking of human government, makes this clear. Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-21 also speaks to this issue. He tells servants to be submissive even to unreasonable masters, and even to the point of suffering, not because they are part of the “chain of command,” but because of our conscience, our witness and the example of Christ.
But there are exceptions. When the apostles were commanded by the religious authorities of their day to stop preaching Christ, they refused to obey (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29).
So the principle is simple (though not always easy): We are to obey God at all times. One aspect of that obedience is submission to human authority as long as that authority does not demand disobedience to God’s clear commands. But when the human authorities demand of us disobedience to God’s clear commands, we are to obey God. This obedience/disobedience may cost us dearly, as the Scriptures and history bear out. Remember Micaiah? Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego? Daniel? The long string of martyrs from the first century till now?
Now I’m not saying this young woman should just “blow-off” her father’s desires. She is to honor him. She needs to find his reasons for saying “it is not God’s will for you.” Perhaps he knows something about her that he feels might cause her to fail. She should seek his wise advice.
Secondly, we don’t need to “feel” a subjective “call” to missions to go. We have the clear commands of Jesus to go. Matthew 28:19, 20, is a command. It doesn’t require feelings. Also see Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46, 47; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8. These commands are not just for the Apostles and a few “called” 21st century Christians, they are for all of us. Our only problem is determining how and where to go.
Thirdly, Jesus’ call to discipleship demand that we choose Him over all other relationships. These include father and mother as well as others. For example, see Matthew 10:37-39: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.“ Jesus even warns that this can lead to family conflict. Verses 34-36: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
Look at the three would-be disciples in Luke 9:57-62. Jesus seems to be demanding of them that they turn their back on their family.
I don’t believe the Old Testament teaching on vows is directly applicable to believers today. The Mosaic Law is part of the covenant God made with Israel, and while it gives us some clear illustrations of God’s regard for vows, we are to obey the Law of Christ. See Matthew 5:33-37. In verse 34, Jesus says, “But I say to you, make no oath at all, …” In verse 37, He says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’; and anything beyond these is from the evil one.” We should be careful about making vows.
Hope this helps.