Is it appropriate to hold worship services in a hall that displays crosses or other religious icons?

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Is it appropriate to hold worship services in a hall that displays crosses or other religious icons?

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The United Church of God, following biblical instruction, does not use crosses or other religious objects as ornaments in its worship services. Neither do members wear crosses as symbols of devotion. We refer to the cross in the way that Scripture does—as the instrument of Christ’s execution and, in the context of something we look to as vital, as a figure of speech that means Christ’s atoning death for us (1 Corinthians 1:17 1 Corinthians 1:17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
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; Galatians 6:12-14 Galatians 6:12-14 [12] As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. [13] For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. [14] But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.
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).

The second of God’s Ten Commandments strictly prohibits the use of physical representations in worship: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5 Exodus 20:4-5 [4] You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
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). Moreover, the cross was a pagan religious symbol that long predated Christianity, and God tells us not to worship Him by such means (Deuteronomy 12:1-4 Deuteronomy 12:1-4 [1] These are the statutes and judgments, which you shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of your fathers gives you to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth. [2] You shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which you shall possess served their gods, on the high mountains, and on the hills, and under every green tree: [3] And you shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and you shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. [4] You shall not do so to the LORD your God.
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; Deuteronomy 12:29-32 Deuteronomy 12:29-32 [29] When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; [30] Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. [31] You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. [32] What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
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).

Some United Church of God congregations, in trying to best serve congregational needs, do meet in rented halls that have symbols and other decorations placed there by the landlord that we ourselves do not condone—whether it be a cross in a church, a moose head at a Moose Lodge, stained-glass windows, portraits of religious figures, Masonic symbolism, a Christmas tree, or whatever else may be present. But in none of our worship services would we ever approve of breaking the Second Commandment or God’s rule against imitating pagan worship by showing reverence to such symbols.

Ezekiel 33:25 Ezekiel 33:25Why say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; You eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall you possess the land?
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describes those who “lift up [their] eyes toward [their] idols.” The concept of “lifting up eyes” toward something implies that people are fixing their gaze and devotion to that object. To “lift up eyes” implies that they would be gazing at it with adoration, devotion or reverence. It does not describe merely seeing an idolatrous symbol, such as a cross hanging on a wall (or printed on the cover of a Bible, etc.). There’s a big difference between looking at something and looking to something.

The apostle Paul was often in public places with an abundance of idols, and he sometimes preached in those places. Acts 17:16 Acts 17:16Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
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says: “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.” Then in verses 22 and 23 we read: “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship … ’” (Acts 17:22-23 Acts 17:22-23 [22] Then Paul stood in the middle of Mars’ hill, and said, You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. [23] For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, him declare I to you.
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)

Paul fully understood that “an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4 1 Corinthians 8:4As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.
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). Nevertheless he was sensitive to people struggling with conscience in trying to avoid idolatrous association—as we must be also. In United Church of God congregations we often cover up or move to another room any imagery that would distract or detract our attention from the Church’s purpose for meeting together. However that is not possible in all cases when renting from another owner.

We want to take into account the sensitivities of the members who meet together. If you have concerns about any such displays being present in a one of our local meeting halls, please feel free to discuss your concerns with the pastor in that area.

In conclusion, we do not feel it is wrong to meet in such halls where religious icons are displayed, but the Church does endeavor to cover up such icons where they are a distraction or, if needed, seek to rent other facilities if they are available.

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