Sin on a Sliding Scale

So this verse was recently quoted in a comment on my blog:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Actually, I added verse eleven for affect, because I feel it points out something important.  Such were some of them, just as such were some of us.  I find it interesting that the only time I really see these verses quoted are when people are rejecting someone.  When they are rejecting homosexuals and using it as a justification, rejecting a couple known to be having premarital sex, rejecting a drunk.  But what is this verse really talking about?  Not just a few specific kinds of sins, but of sins which all show the same thread: self indulgence.   People who prayed to idols wanted something.  “Fornicators” in that era didn’t think of the cost to their family’s social standing (and the same is sadly true of homosexuality at the time- you couldn’t be fulfilled without leaving the marriage that every man would have had).   The covetous?  Selfish.  Drunkards and Extortioners?  Selfish.

So what’s this verse really saying?  “Selfish people won’t inherit the kingdom?”  Why?  Because they aren’t looking out for the kingdom, they are looking out for themselves.

And yet that verse is generally brought up for a selfish means: to reject someone.

Now, let’s look at a few more sets of verses:

1 Peter 3:9-10

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

1 Corinthians 7:13-15

And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

These verses, along with other verses, have been used for centuries to command wives to know their place and stay with abusive men.  Let me tell you a story.  I know of one church where a man was emotionally abusive to his wife consistently and physically abusive to her on occasion.  He would not take a reprimand about his behavior towards her.  He only showed an attitude of apology when she left- but as soon as she returned, HE returned to his manipulative and cruel ways.  Eventually she tired of the cycle, and she left him for good.  But what was the end of that?  Her church left HER, they rejected HER, because she wasn’t a good Christian.  Well, what about him?  What is Christlike in telling your wife she is worthless, in slapping her around and demeaning her in front of your children?  And yet, the verses that could (and perhaps in some situations SHOULD) be used against the abusive husband, the man who suffers from fits of jealous rage, are reserved for use with the homosexuals.

And the wife, the victim, is the one who is sent away

Please, someone, explain this to me.

Because I certainly don’t understand it.

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10 thoughts on “Sin on a Sliding Scale

  1. Good question and questioning there.
    Let us not read too much of the outer church. Let us search the church within us – and that may be the right answer and right direction.

  2. One of the biggest problems we Christian have is that we do not understand the Kingdom of God. Then, out of our ignorance, we make assumptions which are not scriptural.

    The result is a mishmash mess or as Spurgeon stated: “The greatest hindrance to Christianity is not the opponents of the Bible but rather its proponents.”

  3. Okay, either the anecdote you shared about the spousal abuse is way more common than I want to believe…or it’s a really small world and you know a family member of mine. Either way, it’s horrible, because for that to happen even ONCE is too many times.

  4. Excellent points and questions as always. Let me throw my hat in the ring and see if I can offer anything useful…

    First off, the Pauline epistles, and particularly Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians are tricky to interpret and have been used for many purposes that I do not think the Apostle intended when he wrote them. Several things must be understood when reading 1-2 Corinthians:
    1. The Church in Corinth was founded when the early Christian church still was deeply steeped in the traditions of Judea, yet it was now functioning in a major Greek metropolis, with different cultural, philosophical and religious backgrounds. Paul’s counsel is meant to deal with these problems, which were somewhat unique at the time.
    2. These epistles include responses to specific questions sent Paul by the Corinthian saints, and his epistles respond to these particular cases with advice that is not necessarily meant for general consumption. Unfortunately, as we do not have the original letters from Corinth to consider, we are left somewhat in the dark about Paul’s meanings with some of these epistles, and therefore they have been open to corrupt meaning.

    A man who takes a woman to wife, must remember that just as she is the daughter of an earthly father, she is also a daughter of God. Regardless of how her earthly father treated her or regarded her, her Father in Heaven regards her highly as one of his daughters, and will hold the man responsible in full for the way he treats her on this earth. While Divorce is an ill, as a loving and caring father, he would not want his daughters staying with a man who will only manipulate and harm her. There is no excuse for spousal abuse, any man who does so will have to answer to a wrathful God as to the manner in which he has treated his beloved daughters, I do not envy the position of such men in that day.

  5. “Then, out of our ignorance, we make assumptions which are not scriptural.”
    You mean, then out your ignorance, you make scriptural based assumptions. What, did you miss it? It’s bloody in the scriptures.

    As for you Sidney, “corrupt meaning”… this isn’t the meaning that is corrupt, but the scriptures themselves. There is no circumstance that exists to validate such foul and corrupt “advice”. And in your religion “god” will hold the abuser in contempt? No, he won’t. He’ll forgive him. Just like he forgives all his “children” and anyone who asks for it. No contempt, nothing to answer to… Christianity is a blanket you can do anything and get away with it because you’ll be forgiven. Furthermore, he isn’t at fault in the scriptures, the scriptures say his actions are not evil.

    Notice of course how easily all the above just shifted away though. Gave BS answers to defend a bunch of BS that shouldn’t exist.

  6. Glad to see you addressing these issues. Not many will touch ’em! My Mom was just such an abused woman turned away by the church. After 25 years of my dad’s abuse of her… he left her. My Mom’s only income was driving bus for the Sunday school. The pastor fired her because she was “divorced.” So sad! Part of why I wanted to do what I do for a living.
    And thank you, thank you, thank you for the thoughts on how these verses are used “ONLY” against homosexuality… and not the other blatant issues.

  7. Excellent point Lindsey. My own grandmother was ex-communicated from being Catholic for this reason. The only thing I can say is.. that the Catholic Church (which have controlled the bible forever – has serious issues with women. Paul started this… and its one of the things that I absolutely HATE about Christianity and actually organized religion in general. Somehow the man says absolution and its all done for him, but the woman bares the sin forever and is shunned. How does that work? If we are all loved by god????

  8. suluchanosho: thank you!

    Larry Who: very well stated. Thank you!

    Waltz In Exile: I really hope that we know the same person, because it’s horrible to think about that happening to more than one person. Unfortunately, it’s probably safer to assume it happens all the time. Ugh!

    Sidney Carton: Again, a wonderful comment. I agree with what you said about the Pauline Epistles. One MUST understand the purpose for which a work was written in order to properly apply it’s principles! And your words about a woman as God’s child, those are so beautifully stated. I will have to make note of that for future reference.

    bridgeout: You are quite welcome. I’m glad that with all of the pain that has been birthed by such misinterpretations, good things still come of it. You are driven to do the wonderful work that you do, and here I am, still fighting. I still believe we can change the world, at least for a few people.

    Amber: I don’t understand how people can justify such abuses against women. I Just. Don’t. Get. It. *sigh*

  9. ** What morality?
    – near eastern “gods” demand submission to authority **

    You have only to step outside monotheistic brainwashing to understand how much western atheists and theists alike operate on the narrowest bandwidth of knowledge.

    If your model of religion is based on the big-3 near eastern monster-theisms, you’ll never understand non-theistic philosophical theories and practices so vigorously quashed by the hope-faith-charity crowd for the last 2,000 years.

    1. Xian (Jesus’ or Pauline) “ethics” is not ethical.
    2. The ethic of Confucius is superior.
    3. There is no relationship between religion and morals.

    Jesus’ ethic is irrational, otherworldly, and impractical. It promises much, and delivers nothing. Jesus’ “interim ethic” couldn’t outlast one generation of true believers. After all, the world was about to end. But . . . it didn’t. (Search term: interim ethic)

    The fideistic irrationality of Paul of Tarsus with its anti-intellectualism, misogyny, and revenge seeking has poisoned the West for 2,000 years. After all, the world was about to end and Christ would soon return to elevate believers and damn everyone else — but he didn’t show up. (Read 1Cor1:20-30 NIV; See N. Cohn. Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come 2nd ed Yale Pr.)

    Chinese culture was far luckier. From that very rational, this worldly book, The Analects [Conversations], attributed to Confucius.

    Five hundred years before mytho-Jesus and hysterical Paul, Confucius was eons ahead of contemporary xian (jewish/islamist) thinking:

    6:20 Fan Ch’ih asked what constituted wisdom. The Master said, “To give one’s self earnestly to the duties due to men, and, while respecting spiritual beings, to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom.”

    Get the point? No relationship between religion, “spiritual beings” and ethics, “the duties due to men.” The latter cannot be understood in terms of the former.
    (For western parallel see ER Dodds. The Greeks and the Irrational. U Cal Pr. pp. 31-32)

    15:23 Tsze-kung asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not ‘reciprocity’ such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” [trans. S.R. McIntyre 2003]

    What follows? No religion police. The Authority (that never was) is dead.

    No prelate, priest, pastor, rabbi, imam is needed to dictate human behavior — submit to some state-supported interpreter of “the word” of a fictional being.

    All ethics are irreducibly social. (An ethic is a cultural artifact.) Harming others cannot be generalized; otherwise, no culture could exist.

    • I wonder what Confucius would have to say about your comment anti-supernaturalist. I doubt he would see your vainglorying self-satisfaction and arrogance as evidence of enlightenment, civilization or behavior.

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