Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August 10

OT: Ezra 10:1-44

Wow. Today, we see that repentance often comes at a steep price. In response to Ezra's lament, a plan is put forth calling for all those who married foreigners to send away their wives and children. Now, that is hard core! Like so many things in the Bible, I am just not sure what to think of it. On the one hand, it seems awful to send away women and children who may have no other means of living than their husbands. What are these women and their kids going to do? Where are they going to go? Hopefully, many of them can go back to their families, but who knows?

On the other hand, I have often noted that the Bible, in many ways, is not a family-values book. Jesus seems very much of the mind that it is totally fine for men to leave their families to go and serve His kingdom. And simply by choosing to be Christian, many of the early Christians were putting their families in danger, especially as the persecution worsened. So...in some ways, this move to cut themselves off from their pagan families seems very much in line with the Biblical portrait of radical commitment to God.

At the same time, where does that leave us regarding the sanctity of marriage? More and more, I am baffled by the Bible's portrayal of marriage. It seems that in the OT, there is not much sacred about it at all! And yet, even from Genesis, marriage is portrayed as a sacred act. And Jesus says that it is ultimately God who joins man and woman together in marriage. I don't know. I guess that marriage is sacred, but that it is yet another sacred part of life that has been woefully distorted by sin.

I could go around and around on these issues all day, but at this moment, they are all coexisting shakily, yet successfully, in my head, so I am going to move on.

1 Cor. 6:1-20

Wouldn't it have been cool if we were reading 1 Cor. 7 today? It would have all gone together so well! Oh well. We'll read it tomorrow, and then we can further reflect on the Biblical view of marriage.

I always find verses 1-8 to be an eclectic mix of weirdness and coolness. It is weird when Paul says that the saints are going to judge the world and that they are going to judge angels (2-3). What on earth does that mean? But I think that overall, Paul's view of lawsuits is really cool. Even now, the idea of Christians duking it out in the public sphere turns my stomach. As Paul notes, it just seems so selfish, and so damaging to God's kingdom. Not to mention, it shows no confidence in the church's ability to handle it's own problems. (Major caveat: Paul repeatedly describes the conflicts between believers here as "disputes," and he implies clearly that the nature of the disputes are petty and selfish. I do not think that the church should necessarily handle all criminal cases within themselves. If someone within the church molests a child, for example, I believe, of course, that the authorities should be notified at once.) But I have had the unfortunate experience of hearing of many such petty and selfish disputes in which church members sue each other, and it is always so sad and disheartening to hear about. I love Paul's language in verse 7: "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?" Exactly. I have had to repeat those last two lines to myself many, many times throughout my life when my selfish instincts start crying out for retribution for perceived wrongs that have been done against me. Not that I have ever been tempted to sue someone, but I have been tempted to stew and to hold a grudge. It is hard to turn the other cheek, even for Christians who believe wholeheartedly in the importance of the practice.

Because of their seemingly cut and dry nature regarding who is and isn't saved, verses 9-11 have been widely quoted. Much attention has been specifically focused on the idea that "homosexual offenders" will "not inherit the kingdom of God." And while I am not disputing the content of the verse, I do believe that this verse should be sobering to all of us. For one thing, tucked into that list of sins is "the greedy." And I have definitely been known to be greedy from time to time. I mean, I really do try not to be, and I have my ups and downs, but in reality, if God were to call me greedy, I don't know that I could argue with Him. So, rather than encourage me to point a finger at other people, this verse warns me to take a good long look at myself.

It also inspires me to ponder the nature of grace. I do firmly believe that grace covers my intermittent greediness, in light of the fact that Christ's blood covers me, and that I am trying as hard as I can to pursue God with all my heart. So, how does grace play in to the rest of these three verses? I don't know....

In verses 13-20, Paul reverts back to talking about sexual morality, which, as I discussed after Romans 1, really seems to be a central tenet of the faith to Paul. As in Romans 1, the tenor of these verses seems to be that sexual immorality is ultimately blasphemous for Christians. When someone has Christ in them, they desecrate Christ by behaving in sexually immoral ways. Thinking about it that way, it makes more sense that Paul reacted so vehemently against the sexually immoral Christian in chapter 5.

Psalm 31:9-18

David is in the pit, and is crying out to God for help.

Proverbs 21:3

"To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."

Yet another "heart over law" verse. The message I get from this verse today is that symbolic actions, however necessary they may be, are useless without actions that are truly inspired by love.

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