Rape, and why I think submission in “all” things is a dangerous concept to handle.

I do believe in the existence of good doctrine.  And from time to time I write about those beliefs on this blog.  Not in the sort of vague “it has to start with us loving each other” terms, but in terms of real verses that make real commands of us, and what I think of them.

And every time I write about these things, it gets uncomfortable.  You see, for the last couple of days I’ve been involved in (and then following) a conversation on another blog about wives submitting to their husbands.  The topic was breached in the absence of talking about the husbands role, and inevitably turned to the question of the wife submitting when she disagreed with her husband about something that would have long term repercussions, like family being sent to boarding school.  And I tried to respond and did a poor job of vocalizing myself.  So I tried to write about it here, and again did a poor job of vocalizing myself.

The idea of submission still holds a great deal of fear for all women.  The idea that my husband could make any demand of me, and I would be expected to offer myself up to him as to Christ.  That’s terrifying.  And anyone who doesn’t find that terrifying and respect the power that such fear holds for women obviously knows very little history.  There was a time when women were seen as less than men- as property, as pawns in a game of chess, as a method through which to gain an heir and keep the house clean and often little more.  We all should know this fact because that time was roughly when Ephesians would have been written in the first place.  And the thought of women as lesser continued for some time.  Daughters were the property of their fathers while sons gained autonomy, wives were possessions, women were thought of to gain a soul later in life then men, to be more prone to witchcraft and evil, to need this evil purged from them by a heavy hand as much as possible.

Women were on a level above cattle, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like much of one.  Honestly.  The right to vote and hold property is still a historically recent one.

And the idea that a husband “can’t” rape his wife is still one being debated in some circles.

So let’s talk about submission, in frank terms, and let’s not mince words.  Does anyone reading this believe that I should submit to my husband if he allocates money that needs to go to feeding my children to buy himself a gaming system?  Does anyone believe that Ephesians five requires me to submit myself to his will when he demands sex and I’m ill, or tired, or otherwise not compliantly disposed to the idea?  Does anyone believe that if my husband heard a word that he should take a second wife, that I should say, “yes dear?”  I’m hoping most would say no, because these are extreme examples.

But what about less extreme examples?  What if I am sick, and exhausted, and don’t have the energy to cook a meal, and my husband complains that he’s been working all day and shouldn’t have to work at home?  Or what if I haven’t seen my family in over half a year and he demands that we spend Christmas with his, meaning that I won’t get to see mine?  Or what if I feel God is calling me to a position in my local church body and my husband says that he will not have his wife teaching other men, and forbids me to do it?

Do I really submit to him in all things, to the cost of my body, my family, my calling?

Or by submitting to my husband, would I in some things draw myself further away from God?  In order for both my husband and I to follow God and serve him with all our hearts, my submission to him MUST follow, CANNOT be without his submission to God and his loving me as his own body.  These things are NOT seperable.  Likewise his loving me as his own body and cleansing me as Christ cleansed the church MUST be, CANNOT be without my submission to him.

Both parties must obey God in their commands, or one will get hurt.  That is the beauty of the arrangement- the two become one, or they don’t function, period.

Now, in case I haven’t made myself clear:

  • The wife does not, by submitting, become her husband’s possession or subordinate.  She is his servant, but by choice alone.
  • The husband, should he demonstrate a pattern of making unfair demands or abusing his wife’s submissive position, is not acting in a holy manner and should be called on it- first by his wife, then by his church.
  • Both partners serve God first and each other second- if either one interferes with the other’s servitude to God, something is wrong.
  • Children come first.  If either one places demands on the other that interferes with the raising of their children, something is wrong.
  • If something is wrong, both need to go before God and their local spiritual leaders and sort it all out.

I’ve seen numerous books on the subject which talk about how women can win over their husbands through loving submission.  And at it’s root it’s not a bad thing.  It’s in the Bible! The problem comes when it’s taken to far.  Anything, no matter how good, no matter how holy, becomes bad when not delt with in reason and moderation.  When a woman stays with a drunk who is abusing her kids to win him over in loving submission, it’s not good.  When a wife does nothing about her husband overpowering and raping her to win him over in loving submission, I am sure that is not what God intended.

These concepts must be handled with the respect they deserve, because mishandling them takes advantage of weakness and can lead to real damage.

And I guess that’s what I needed to say.

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Husbands, Love your Wives

*drumroll*

Ephesians 5: 25-33 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.   “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Much ado has been made about wives “submitting” to their husbands.  I feel the need to point out that the passage about submission starts out with a blanket statement to all, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  It’s not just WIVES submitting to HUSBANDS, people, it’s ALL of us, submitting to EACH OTHER.  As I am called to submit to my husband I am also called to submit to my pastor, my fellow believers, my employers, everyone.  Obviously, given this case, we all seem to misunderstand what submission in this context means.  It does NOT mean subordination, it does NOT mean becoming an extension of someone else’s will.  By submission it means what in other contexts is called meekness, humility, cooperation.  It means allowing ourselves to become servants.

How many times did Christ command us to become servants?

Now, as for the husbands: they carry, by far, the greater weight in this passage.  Three verses are devoted to the women as opposed to eight reserved for the men.  Women are told (paraphrased) “submit to your husbands as before God, for Christ is the head of the church, so submit to your husband as you would to Christ in everything.”  This only truly makes sense when followed by the verses devoted to the husband.  And, in fact, Paul’s command to the women can only truly be followed in the letter of the law should the husband do as he was commanded.  I, as a woman, cannot submit to my husband AS I would to God unless he is acting on God’s behalf towards me.  For when I serve God I can obey him with pleasure in everything, knowing that his will for my life is for my own benefit and all of his commands are good, that his burden is light, and so on.  My husband, on the other hand, is fallible.  I do not know that all of his plans for my life are solely for my benefit, that obeying him would not be burdensome, and so on.  So the only way I can treat my husbands wishes with the same weight I would God’s is if I know that my husband is following God when making his wishes.

Thus, the commandment to wives hinges on the following to husbands: that they give themselves up for her, that they cleanse her with washing in the word, that they present her to themselves as pure and radiant, without wrinkle or blemish, holy and blameless. This command is not all, though!  They must love her AS THEY LOVE THEIR OWN BODIES.  I love my body a lot.  A do a lot to serve it throughout the day: I sleep, I eat, I exercise, I bathe.  If my body is sick I have to drop everything to care for it.  If my body is in pain I am keenly aware of it and do everything I can to assuage that pain until it is gone.  I am inseperable from my body, I cease to be if my body ceases to be, to fight my body’s will is incredibly difficult, as my body is my self.

And that, my friends, is how husbands are asked to view their wives.

Let’s talk about submission.  Submission being to put one’s self under the authority of, to serve the will of.  Now let’s compare that to the two becoming one, to the will of one being inseperable from the needs of another, to all pain being one and all needs being equal.  What is easier to do?  To say yes dear, or to feel the pain of the other as keenly as your own, to truly give up your life for the benefit of the other?

My father teaches that all things in a marriage hinge on the husband doing his job well.  If the husband is a good husband, the wife would have to be crazy not to want to serve him.  If he is doing all things while taking into account her needs as if they were his own, then by serving him the wife is actually serving herself.  Obviously in function this is nearly impossible, but in theory it works.

Which is why Paul points out that what he is REALLY talking about isn’t husbands and wives, it’s Christ and his followers.  He isn’t talking about marriage as a societal structure, but as a way to demonstrate the breadth and beauty of Christ’s love for his bride.

But the advice works.  Husbands, love your wives.  But more than that: both spouses need to become each others servants.  If he serves her needs as if they were his own and she serves him as if she were serving herself, both are made whole.  If either one becomes a lesser partner, someone goes needy.

It’s really that simple.

Wives, Submit to your Husbands

Ephesians 5:22– 24  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

These verses make a lot of women uncomfortable, and even more women angry.  (And, don’t worry, girls- I’ll be poking the husbands later in “husbands, love your wives.”)

I think that a lot of the frustration with Ephesians 5- not just with these verses, but with the entire chapter- is that we misunderstand what the end goal is.  It’s not in defining lines of who is above whom and who matters most.  It’s about helping us to lead happy, healthy lives.  We are told as believers to submit to ONE ANOTHER in Christ.  Children are to honor their parents, slaves their masters, masters to treat their slaves well, and thusly.

People usually cherry pick the verses about marriage.  Why?  Well, because the other ones can get sticky.  Why?  Because no one likes thinking too much about submitting and honoring.  Why?  Because of that inevitable question: “What about when the other person is WRONG?”

So let’s talk about that, briefly.  What if I, as a wife, am unsettled about a choice my husband has made?  Or if I, as a parent, make a choice for my child’s life that they feel is wrong?  Or if my husband’s employer makes a demand of him that he feels is unfair or harmful?  What does a good Christian do?

We should do the uncomfortable thing- we honor each other as before God, and trust God to be a good mediator and the lifter of our heads.  Yeah, I know, it’s painful.  No one likes reading those words because it means that we will inevitably have to endure hardship in our relationships.  It means we’re going to have to go places we don’t want to go.  It means we don’t get to have our way. Let me ask you all a question that may not be taken well:

What, exactly, makes us feel like we have the right to have our way?

I’m not being tongue in cheek or sarcastic.  I am sincerely asking that question.  Where, in the Bible, does it ever uphold someone’s right to be selfish?  Where does it say that the wife has a right to demand that her financial security come first?  That she ought to undermine the way her husband wants to discipline the children?  That if she wants him at home and there’s a boys night out she actually should call him selfish and throw a public snit that embarrasses him?  Women can be selfish.  (I know, I know, I’ll get to the men tomorrow, I promise!)

God commands us to submit for a reason.  Because we, as Christians, need to learn to set ourselves aside.  We need to learn to treasure our spouses as we treasure ourselves.  And God knows that if the shoe were on the other foot, if we were the ones making a bad financial decision, if we were the ones laying the lines of discipline, if it was a GIRL’S night out that would be missed, we’d want our husbands to put us first.  We’d want to feel him honoring us.

And why would he, if we didn’t honor him first?

Submission isn’t subordination.  It isn’t saying that we are beneath him by default.  It’s not saying that we are less valuable or important.  It is our gift to our spouses, our way of affirming our love for them and displaying our trust in them and in God.  We submit to show that we trust that they are taking care of us, that they will continue to do it.  We submit to honor.  We honor to show that we ourselves are worthy of being honored.

Think of each act of putting yourself aside (be it with your husband, your family, or your boss) as a speech.  What you are saying isn’t “I am less valuable than you”, but instead:

I love you more than I love myself.  And I am strong enough to not always need to get my way.

Lessons from the Man Born Blind

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” (John 9:9 revised)

Short Bunny Track:

I read the Bible.  Contrary to what some may think because of my apparently hedonistic views on some things, I do in fact have a Bible.  Three, actually.  One of which is in my handbag at all times.  When I am waiting for an appointment, I read the Bible.  When I get to church early, I read the Bible.  When I wake up in the morning before the kids, I read the Bible.  I usually have a schedule of reading it from start to finish at least once a year, re-reading Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Revelations several times more because I just really like them.  (Psychoanalyze at will.)  Lately, though, I’ve found myself mired in the New Testament.

I tell you all of that totally unnecessary information to explain why, when my son woke up at 4:30 this morning and I couldn’t go back to sleep, I ended up reading the books of John and Acts.  Have you ever had the experience of reading something so familiar, and at the same time it seeming like wholly new text?  This is a rare occurrence for me, but this morning that was the case.  Perhaps it was my sleep addled mind further addled by an onion bagel and Pepsi, perhaps it was the sound of the birds and train at five AM, perhaps it was the way the light looks in early morning when there’s bound to be a storm before noon.  Whatever it was, I was feeling unusually contemplative.

My mind got stuck on the man born blind.  I’ve read that passage many times, too many times to count.  My brother preached from it once many years back.  I could remember his haughty and over-acted tone as he read the words, “he himself insisted, ‘I AM THE MAN.‘”  I could remember the laughter of the congregation.  But something in me this time said, “that’s not funny.”

Let me re-tell you the story this morning. (John 9 for those curious.)

Just coming off of an argument with the Pharisees in which Jesus said that the Father would be glorified through Jesus, Jesus and the disciples encounter a man born blind.  His disciples, ever curious, ask why the man was born blind.  See, the Jews believed that earthly misfortune, such as illness, was brought on by sin.  So they were curious- if a man was born blind, whose sin was that meant to punish?  Sins the man would commit, or sins his parents had?

Jesus, ever cryptic, responded that it was to show God’s glory.  So Jesus put mud on the mans eyes and told him to wash himself.  The man went and washed himself, and found that he could see.  Some might say that it was in that moment that God’s glory was seen.  But wait, there’s more!  When the man came back to town I’d wager that he carried himself differently.  That he was different.  So when the people saw him they questioned- is this the man born blind?  And the man insisted that he was.  So the Pharisees got involved.  The Pharisees were sure that it must be the Devil’s work, as Jesus offered healing on the sabbath (something they had decided was sinful) and the man went and bathed publicly on the sabbath (something against the rabbinical laws of the time).  Of course this causes a great deal of confusion.  The man born blind insists that it was through God that he was healed.

So the Pharisees say “you were mired in sin from birth!” and kick him out of the temple.

I suppose that was something that poor man heard a lot.  I’m sure he was constantly reminded that he was living out the punishment for sins past and present.  I’m sure that it would have been impossible for him to better his station in life, as he couldn’t work and other people wouldn’t want to bring an “unclean” man into their homes.  After his parents had died I’m sure that he lived a destitute life, saved only by the fact that the Jewish people were ordered to care for the poor.

“Mired in sin from birth.”

And what did Jesus do?  He did much more than heal a man’s sight.  He gave him a second chance, a new life, freedom from the curses that were constantly spoke over him.  He washed that man of the taint of sin and perception.  He raised him above the standard to which he had always been held.  Jesus radically changed the way that people had to look at that man and his life.  No longer was he under the curse of sin and death and the judgment of the law- here he was, a freed man.  A seeing man.  And proudly would he proclaim that he himself was that man!  All of the shame he had carried, gone in an instant, washed away with the mud that covered his face.  What a beautiful picture to hold in one’s mind, that mud dripping away, the man looking up.  Realizing.

But that moment was not the full extent of God’s glory.  God’s glory was in the townspeople and the Pharisees, gumming away at the problem, wondering.  If the judgment was gone, what did it mean?  Had the proper sacrifices been made?  Had reparations been meted out?  Had the sacrifice been accepted and blessed?

Jesus had asked not for sacrifice, but for obedience.

Can’t you just see the glory?  Feel it tingle down to your fingertips?  Taste it on the tip of your tongues?  There are moments where I think, “why was I saved?  What good am I?”

I tell myself, “you are mired in sin.”

But hear for a moment the pride in that man’s voice as he said, “I AM THE MAN!”  We are saved! God is glorified through Jesus.

It’s almost too much to hold in one’s mind.

The Long Road to Damascus

(link to scripture references: Acts 9, Acts 22, the Gospel of John)

I’ve seen comments around WordPress that talk about the fact that the New Testament shows many ways of winning people to Christ.  Sometimes Jesus showed compassion before calling people to repentance, this mode of thought states, and other times he threw them down off their horses.

It’s an interesting way of seeing things, to say the least.  I myself have always stated that Jesus showed compassion equally, with the exception of the Priests and Pharisees.  Jesus showed no tolerance for hypocrisy, and God never seemed to like hypocrites or the “lukewarm” very much.  For all of those who struggled, on the other hand, there never seemed to be a lack of compassion.

Throughout the Gospels one sees Jesus showing such an amazing amount of compassion.  His first miracle was one which may otherwise seem odd.  When he changed the water into wine (John 2) he did so not to encourage drunkeness, but to save the host and hostess a great deal of embarrassment.  To have insufficient refreshments for your guests was, in that time, something very shameful.  He showed compassion to the woman at the Well by speaking to her, and by not judging her for her sins.  For a jewish man in those times to be alone with a woman who was not his wife was questionable- a Samaritan woman moreso, a Samaritan who took many lovers and lived with a man to whom she was not wed- that was unconscionable!  Simply speaking with her was an act of grace.  Choosing her to be the one to redeem her people- that was God, plain and simple.

The next miracle?  The man by the Pool of Bethesba.  Jesus showed him compassion by healing him, since he had no family to aid him in his time of need.  This is an odd one, because Jesus actually commands him to do what the Pharisees termed as sin, by picking up his mat and walking.  Had the man refused and chosen legalism, he would have lost God.  Yet- Jesus also commands him to stop sinning.  That man must have had to have spent a great deal meditating on what seemed like Jesus’ mixed messages.

And another- feeding the five thousand.  What else could you call that but compassion for the many who were hungry for the word and also had growling stomachs?

The woman caught in adultery- what could be more compassionate than sparing a woman who would have otherwise died?  Again, we see love and grace before we see a command.

With the Man born Blind we see that Jesus, like with the man at Bethesda, requires obedience before healing.  Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash, after which he is healed.  But in that request for obedience we still see compassion.  Later in that passage, when Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees, he says, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”  This is tremendous compassion for the man born blind, who was kicked out of the temple because he had been “steeped in sin from birth.”

Next we find the story of Lazarus.  What could show Jesus’ love more than the fact that he cried for the anguish of his friends, that he reassured them, that he did not respond to their doubts with anger, that he raised their brother and friend from the dead?

Then in a short while, we come to the ride back to Jerusalem.  We see Jesus riding a donkey through the gate that the Romans would ride their war horses through, both symbolic of Jesus’ servanthood and simplicity, and also a harsh call to attention for the zealots who would have expected Jesus’ “kinghood” to be a literal one.  (Not to mention that it must have felt to the Romans as if they were being openly mocked.)  Then Jesus washes his disciples feet, again making himself a servant, again showing compassion.  He feeds his friends.

And then he dies.

But his work here is not done.  He returns to the disciples and again teaches them on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24).  And finally, after all this time, we find ourselves on the road to Damascus with Paul, who was then Saul.  And who was Saul?  Saul was a Roman Jew who gladly imprisoned Christians, who witnessed their stonings, and was on the road to Damascus with arrest warrants in hands in order to drag back more Christians to their death.  Saul was no mere sinner- Saul was the enemy of Christians and thus in some ways the enemy of Christ.

On the Road to Damascus he witnessed a bright light and heard Jesus asking him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  Saul was struck blind.  In Damascus Christ appeared to another man, Ananais, and told Ananais that Paul was Christ’s chosen to preach to the Gentiles.  Who better to minister to the Gentiles than someone with a reputation for killing Jews, right?  (Am I being sarcastic or not…  you decide!)  Ananais healed Saul, and Saul then became the Christian known as Paul.

Here is my question to all of you:  Does this story sound like Jesus coming and throwing someone off their high horse?  Does it sound like permission for condemnation?  Or does even this story reek of God’s compassion, grace, and love for even the most lost?  God took an enemy of the faith and made him one of the Way’s most infamous Apostles.  Only God could do such a thing.  That God must do such a thing by making the man blind and weak and dependent on the graciousness of one of the men he had come to Damascus to arrest has a sort of poetic or prophetic sweetness to it- but it doesn’t seem like God made Paul weak in order to torment him- he did so in order to bless him.

And only God himself has such power.

So to go back to my original point- with what should we win people over?  Do we knock them off their horses?  No, we show them compassion.  Leave the fancy stuff to God.

Homosexuality a “worse sin”?

One attitude I seem to bump up against continuously is that homosexuality is a “worse sin” than other sins. People cite things like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed, or the fact that the punishment for homosexual acts was death, or that Romans clearly isolates homosexuality as a sin being condemned by the apostles.

But, as my father says, every time you see a “therefore” you really ought to read what it’s “there for.” So let’s start by talking about Romans. This is a verse a lot of gay Christians have had read to them many times,

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Now, yes, that verse does very clearly state that God gave them over to shameful lusts. But why? Does anyone else see the “because of this”?

Romans 1: 18-27
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

So what is being condemned in Romans isn’t sexual acts, necessarily, but a larger truth that one must adhere to worship of the One God. God gave them over to lust as a punishment for a greater sin- the infidelity of their hearts against their creator. And these men and women were also leaving their families to indulge their lust- another sin which is clearly condemned throughout the Bible.

But let’s not just look at Romans. Let’s look at Sodom and Gomorrah as well. What, exactly, was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? People immediately think, “homosexuality!”, but that isn’t clearly the case. When the angels came to Lot to tell him of Sodom’s fate (Gen. 19) the men of the city surrounded Lot’s house and commanded that he send the angels out to be raped in the streets. Why would they do that? Were the angels so physically appealing that their lust knew no bounds? Was it customary to have sex with everyone new to the city? (In which case they must have also had sex with Lot) or was this a power struggle? It says that every man of the city, the young as well as the old, came to Lot’s door. Then would it be the case that every single male in Sodom was openly homosexual?

Rape isn’t about sexual pleasure, it is about exerting power. Lot was an alien to the people of Sodom, and they wished to exert their superiority by attacking his guests. Hospitality in those days was very different than in ours, and causing damage to someone’s guest shamed the entire family. Why else would Lot offer his own virgin daughters up as a sacrifice in order to spare his guests? This isn’t about being gay, it’s about being evil. It’s “situational homosexuality” at the most, much like men may engage in sexual acts with other men when isolated in prison or in long-term work arrangements where women aren’t available. Do not use such stories to shame all homosexuals, in doing so you do your own argument a grave disservice.

Now, on to Leviticus, where God does in fact condemn men having sex with men. He does so in Leviticus 19, a passage headed “unlawful sexual acts.” Keep in mind that God in those verses also condemns having sex with the spouse of one’s parent, one’s siblings, having sex with the sibling of a spouse, marrying sibling, having sex with close relatives or the close relatives of a previous sexual partner, having sex with animals, having your wife have sex with animals, and numerous other sexual indiscretions. One may logically use this verse to argue that homosexuality is a sin. I fail to see how this verse makes it “more of a sin.” And let us also observe why God created laws governing sexual acts. The end of Leviticus 19 states, “Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.” The law was about them ceasing to be as they were when they were in Exile and being set apart, a point which causes people sympathetic to the gay man’s plight to say that it is not a whole cloth condemnation of homosexuality, but instead a condemnation of the way in which homosexuality was practiced in those times.

Some people will then say, “but the punishment for homosexual acts was death!”

To which I respond, “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.” (Leviticus 20:9)

The law was cruel. That is why God sent Jesus, to free us from being condemned.

Two more verses:

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

1 Peter 4:3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.

Both condemning sexual indiscretion, both doing so while condemning other things equally.

So can someone please explain to me how homosexuality is somehow worse?

God’s Mercy, God’s Wrath

On a previous post I received several comments stating that the Gospels do not spend much time discussing God’s love, and plenty of time “warning people of God’s wrath.”

The gist of those comments was that warning people out of Hell is a perfectly justifiable and even Christ-like thing to do.

Hm…  let’s think…  okay, no need to think.  I agree and also disagree, and this post will mark my disagreement.  (I need to research more before I explain my agreement, but that’s another post entirely.)

Did Jesus talk about God’s wrath?  Well, he used vibrantly harsh language with the Pharisees, but using those passages as a justification of the fire’n’brimstone theology is a mistaken enterprise unless the people you are condemning are hypocrites and religious, as the pharisees were.  Those passages don’t justify using such language with unbelievers.  There is Jesus’s slightly sarcastic retort to the “rich young ruler” who asked him how to get into heaven- but that was a retort meant to chastise a young man’s very selfish interest in salvation- again, the harsh language there is only justification for similar behavior if made under similar circumstances.  It still doesn’t justify leaving a rude blog comment for a total stranger.  There are several parables that deal with harsh consequences, like the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the three servants- but both of those parables while symbolically similar to a heaven/hell analogy are actually parables not of eternal consequence, but parables of earthly consequences.  They did bad things in this life and received the consequences thereof in this life, and were I to preach a sermon from that style of parable it would not be on of eternal consequence, but of warning the people that living selfishly has immediate consequence, today, right now.

Throughout the New Testament one sees very colorful language, again and again.  Jesus talks about people being thrown out of the city where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, something which to Jews of his day was not so much language of eternal consequence but instead language that mirrored the language of prophets such as Isaiah and Hosea, prophets who warned not of Hell but of Israel’s return to Exile, an earthly judgment that was consequences of their earthly actions, so again- such language is not justification for telling someone that they are burning in Hell.

And as for the gospels not being full of language of God’s love… well…  Jesus may not have spoken about God’s love, but he lived it.  His actions were full of mercy.  He told people that their sins were forgiven.  He offered himself up as a sacrifice.  When he stood outside the city and famously uttered those words, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather you as a hen gathers her young…”  The image that paints is of a mother hen gathering her young under her wings and protecting them from flames, something that mother hens are known to do at the cost of their own lives.  Picture the yellow young chicks in their mother’s charred carcass, their future lives made possible by the sacrifice of their mother.  Jesus meant to make himself an offering in our stead, and that’s what he did.

“The Gospels” the commenters chorus sings, “The Gospels”…

Well, let’s talk about the GOSPEL.  Gospel, the word, means “good news”, the gospel that jews of that time were familiar with were heralds calling out proclamations such as the birth of a new Caesar or heralding national holidays.  This Gospel, Our Gospel, is not about the birth of a new king but the birth of a new era, an era in which we are freed from the curse of sin and death.  An era in which Christ’s resurrection on the third day symbolizes not just our resurrection from the dead but the birth of a new creation, a perfect creation, God’s kingdom not in heaven but here, now, on the earth.  In the New Testament when you see the words “the Kingdom of Heaven” they are speaking not of a location, but of a people.

Us.

You and I.

That is the Gospel- not that we are saved from Hell but that we are redeemed, here on Earth.  That we are freed from the cycle of sin and sacrifice and able to make with our own hands a new creation, that we ourselves are born again into a new promise.  A promise not of judgment, but of love.

So shall we warn people away from hell?  I think not.  Because I know that when I here the Gospel called out I feel my heart crying out in response, with tears of pure joy.  I tremble in awe at the possibility that these two scrawny hands are a part of the kingdom.  I rejoice in the fact that I am freed from the cycle of sin and consequence, that I have redemption, here and now, that I can live a life of love and forgiveness offered by myself and God unto others, a life I would be powerless to live on my own.

The Gospel, to me, is about this life.  The one I am living now.

That is God’s mercy.

God’s wrath?  That seems to be reserved for those who claim to love him and behave otherwise.  Let’s save that language for the ones who have truly earned it’s use.  The Pharisees.