Abominations and Forgiveness

Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the Lord your God.’ ” (Deut. 18:24-30, New American Standard Version)

            Prior to this text in the same chapter in Deuteronomy, the Lord specified various sins that He categorized as “defiling” in His sight. These included incest (vs. 6-17), adultery (vs. 18, 20), offering children as sacrifices to idols (vs. 21), all homosexual acts and practices, whether male or female (vs. 22), and bestiality (vs. 23). The reason God viewed these actions by humans as abominations was that they were in direct violation of His created order regarding sexuality, family, and marriage. So strongly did the Lord uphold His own dictates as to these ordained truths, principles, and institutions that He placed the death penalty upon those who willfully disobeyed His precepts concerning them (“those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people”).
            As we approach the New Testament and the Person of Jesus, some have the mistaken belief that in the transition between the testaments God’s character, demeanor, or even perspective changes it comes to man’s sin. If anything, His mercy comes to the fore, but His view of sin has not changed one iota. Indeed, the very people to whom Jesus relates predominantly throughout His earthly ministry fall into the category of “sinners”, those who have committed the iniquities which would have been labeled “abominations” and which would have acquired for the culprit the death penalty if the religious officials had desired to prosecute them. This was not to show that God Incarnate had altered His mind concerning those sins, somehow taken on a more “tolerant” attitude toward them. Rather, He was choosing to disclose grace (undeserved favor) instead of justice at the time so that they might pursue forgiveness for their sin through Him.
            This reality is shown most clearly through Jesus’ interaction with two women in particular. The first was “the woman at the well” in John 4:7-45. This woman was a serial adulterer, having had five husbands and was, at the time of her conversation with Jesus, living out of wedlock with another man, presumably in a sexual relationship with him, thus committing either fornication or adultery (vs. 18). Any and all of these sins would have brought the death penalty had she been tried before the Pharisees, thus explaining why she wanted to change the subject rather quickly with Jesus (vs. 19). Yet, it was Jesus, knowing her sin (and bringing it up to her) who led her to the place of forgiveness and belief. Through His grace displayed, not only did the woman become a disciple, but so did most of her village as well (vs. 41-42).
            The second instance was that of the woman caught in the very act of adultery in John 8:1-11. This was a trap set by the Pharisees for Jesus. They knew exactly where to find this woman who apparently was well-known for her adulterous ways. She had a reputation for being “loose”. Thus, she was brought before Jesus for Him to judge her according to the Law of Moses which demanded the death penalty for such sexual acts (as we saw earlier in Deuteronomy). Though Jesus had the authority to bring such a judgment against her, He chose mercy instead of justice, pursuing the course of forgiveness to make a point, not only to her, but to her persecutors as well. However, in so doing, Jesus also clearly states that her aforementioned actions were, indeed, sinful—“Go and sin no more” (vs. 11), showing that her previous life was truly displeasing and dishonoring to the Lord, violating the dictates of His holy Word.
            Therefore, we see that the Old and New Testaments, in essence, are in agreement with each other as to how God views such actions that are against His created order as touching sexuality, family, and marriage. These actions are sin in His eyes, yet sins that are forgiveable, if one will seek Him in honesty and sincerity through the agency and merits of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is not that these sins are any greater than any other types of sins, not at all. The present Church tends to amplify these sins because we have yet to fully grasp a healthy and Biblical view of human sexuality. The culture magnifies sexual issues because it has made sex a god to be worshipped with any and all expressions of sexuality to be embraced. Any limitations upon sexual demonstration is viewed as an attack on this false god and, therefore, all restraints are to be seen as threats and fought against with every effort. The combination of the Church’s ignorance and confusion in conjunction with the culture’s predictable negative response on issues regarding sex and sexuality have led us to our present stalemate.

            God’s people need to be clear about our portrayal of the Scriptural issues concerning sexuality, family, and marriage. God established these realities for our benefit and for the continuation of the human race. He, especially, set in motion these truths so that generations would experience the blessings of His salvation and spread the Gospel of His kingdom around the globe. This is one of the reason for the Creation Mandate (i.e. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it”—rf. Gen. 1:28). Christians should be replicating by discipleship, but also by reproduction. Who we are in Christ are integrally tied to who we are as human beings, made in the image of God, male and female (rf. Gen. 1:27). We need to be assured of these Scripturally truths in our beings, our sexuality, our roles as husbands and wives, as parents, so that we can just as Biblically prepared to meet a world that needs these truths as well as the salvific knowledge in order that its people can see and experience the reality of the Christian faith.

Returns of Respect

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7, New American Standard Version)

            Do you remember when the phrases, “Thank you”, “Please”, and “You’re welcome” accompanied the speech of most everyone you met? Do you recall your parents stressing your acquisition of “Sir” and “Ma’am” (short for Madam, by the way), “Mr.” or “Mrs.”, when addressing men and women who happened to be your elders, regardless of how familiar they may be to you, out of a display of respect? The answers may take us to a time “far far away”, but it should only serve to prompt us to the truth that kindness, respect, and civility are not products of a bygone age. These are qualities that should be ageless if, indeed, they are fruits of the faith that we profess as followers of Christ.
            In our culture, the old adage, “familiarity breeds contempt” rings true. We as a society have purposefully sought (and fought) to become more familiar, intimate, and informal in all of our dealings with each other, believing that this process destroys barriers and encourages greater communication between people. Rather than tearing down obstacles between people by supposedly engaging more closeness, efforts made to purposefully make things more “familiar” between people actually have caused greater difficulties and divisions to arise. The informality, instead of making people more comfortable with each other, has elevated disrespect, because the elements of esteem and protocol have been removed. In other words, there needs to be a certain amount of distinction that results in mutual value and civility in order for people to engage freely with each other. This is especially true within the church.
            Let’s start with our concept of God, shall we? The Apostle Paul told us that, because of our relationship with Jesus, we would be adopted into God’s family and could, thereby, call the Father God “Abba”, or Papa (rf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Now, on a personal note, I have a pet name for my father, “Boog”, which has since become the primary name by which all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren know him. It is a name that is very familiar, because he is such to me and to them. However, he has not lost his place as my father, nor as their grandfather and great-grandfather in terms of authority. The same holds true for God on a much grander scale. I can call upon God as my “Abba”, but He is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Sovereign over all things and people. Thus, I can approach Him freely, boldly, but, at the same time, as a subject to the Great King with fear, reverence, and awe…though He is still my “Abba”.
            By the same token, we, as believers in Christ, must not lose the principle of respect. It must not be surrendered to a society that eschews the ideas of authority, honor, discipline, societal hierarchy, and structure. God is a God of order (rf. I Cor. 14:33). Familiarity has brought nothing but confusion and misunderstanding.
            Within our ranks, we must return to teaching our children proper designations for their elders as before, “Sir” and “Ma’am”. This is not a relic of the ancient past, but the showing of respect for those far wiser than themselves. In the stating of “Mr.” and “Mrs.” or “Ms.”, it is the clear delineation of a person in view of the gender that they possess biologically by God’s intent and of the marriage relationship that God has established.  We need to verbally acknowledge our thankfulness to others (“Thank you”) with proper responses (“Your welcome”) along with requests for assistance (“Please”) without the assumption that other people, whether they may be familiar to us or not, are there to serve us as personal slaves. If anything, with the practice, the Christian community in so doing will make themselves all the more distinguishable from the growing uncivilized horde that will inevitably continue down its path toward anarchy and self-destruction. This is one way we in Christ can fulfill the Biblical command to “come out from their midst and be separate” (rf. II Cor. 6:17).