Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Joseph's Coat of Many Colors

Some Bible scholar wrote some philosophy about what the Bible really means: He talked about the word translated as ‘colour’ (British spelling) in the Bible really means ‘long sleeves.’ He goes on to say that this really makes sense, if you stop and think about it—Joseph’s coat of many colors would only require more dye, but if it were long-sleeved, it would require more material which presumably would be more expensive. My first thought upon hearing this was, “Wouldn’t a coat have long sleeves anyway?” Really, though, I had to laugh, because I had just recently been shopping for shirts, and I had noticed that solid-color short-sleeved shirts were the least expensive, patterned long-sleeved shirts were the most expensive, but patterned short-sleeved shirts and solid-color long-sleeved shirts were the same price. Furthermore, if you stop and think about it, in this day and age, dyes are generally chemical compositions and aren’t overly expensive, but in Joseph’s day, in order to dye a garment, somebody had to go gather about a thousand little bugs and crush them. Dyes were very expensive. On the other hand, Joseph’s family raised sheep; if they needed more material, they could just shear an extra sheep. So, I did a little research, and he’s right: The word translated as ‘colour’ really does mean ‘long sleeves.’ So, I looked up the word translated as ‘coat.’ I could be mistaken, but the definition looks to me a like it’s describing a long-sleeved garment. This is beginning to seem redundant. I looked up the word for ‘many’ and determined that word was translated correctly. At that point, I had a new quandary: Joseph had a long-sleeved coat of many long sleeves? What are we saying here, Joseph was part octopus? So, I went back and looked at the definition of the word translated as ‘colour’ again, and I noticed something that slipped past me the first time: It doesn’t actually say long-sleeves, it says, ‘long-sleeved tunic.’ So, how do you make a coat out of many long-sleeved tunics? After a certain amount of prayer and seeking God, it occurred to me that Joseph was son number eleven. He had ten older brothers. That suggests that most of his clothes were hand-me-downs. With as many brothers as Joseph had, probably a lot of them wore a lot of hand-me-downs. Of course, as the eleventh son, probably a lot of the hand-me-downs that reached Joseph were in terrible shape. At the same time, though, Joseph was his father’s favorite. If you know the story, Jacob went through a lot to be allowed to marry Rachel, who was the love of his life. In the process, he wound up married to Leah, who was Rachel’s older sister, and he also had two concubines. Even though Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son, he was Rachel’s first, so there was always a special relationship between Jacob and the first son of his great love. Now, this is conjecture on my part, but I think that you will agree that it’s good conjecture: One year, for whatever reason, Jacob found himself short of cash, but Rueben needed new clothes (and Rueben, being the oldest, was the one that always got new clothes). The hand-me-downs reaching Joseph were in sad shape, and Jacob was not going to have that. At the same time, though, there just wasn’t money to buy new clothes for both Rueben and Joseph (perhaps there were other brothers that also needed new clothes). So, Jacob, after tending sheep all day, stayed up at night and scavenged the best parts of whatever garments were not currently being worn by any of his sons, and sewed them together to make the best garment he could for his favorite son. Now, does anybody think that all these scraps of cloth were the same color? I’m guessing not. Of course, this brings up another reason why Joseph’s brothers were jealous of his coat. Each of them knew that their father wouldn’t have made them a coat. The coat itself was a reminder that Joseph was the favorite son, and always would be, as long as he was alive, or, at least, as long as their father thought he was alive.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Christian Music

       There have been some things that I have heard and/or read lately that I find a little disturbing:  I read somewhere recently that "Christian Music" should be done away with, at least, as a label.  One of the justifications for this position was that Kierkegaard said, "To label me is to negate me."  (Was that Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patton?)  Using that logic, Christian music is, therefore, negated by rite of the fact that it has been labeled.  Of course, using that logic, I can label Kierkegaard as a philosopher, and thereby negate him.  To be honest, I think that Kierkegaard was referring to individuals, rather than styles of music.  People are very complex, and to cubbyhole a particular individual with a label that describes only what one observes in a first impression certainly ignores most of that person's character--and even most of what makes them a unique individual.  On the other hand, is classical music negated by being labeled classical music? 
       The same treatise held that all music is inspired by God, and therefore, there is no need for a particular category, "Christian Music."  I am reminded of an episode (is episode really the right word for a sketch comedy show?  'Episode' implies one story of a continuing story line...) of Mad TV where Halle Berry plays a rap artist being honored at an awards ceremony for a song, the title of which could not be mentioned on TV, due to FCC guidelines.  Upon taking the microphone, she immediately began thanking God for being her inspiration, and another actor, whom I presume was intended to resemble Morgan Freeman, appeared and stated emphatically that He had nothing to do with the writing of that song.  My point is you don't have to look very hard to find a song (or songs) that clearly were not inspired by God (and you don't have to look specifically at Rap music, either--the Rolling Stones once did a song called, "Requiem for the Devil").
       Another argument that was made was that Christian music is largely mediocre.  I will admit that there is an awful lot of mediocre music in the Christian music genre.  There is even some that one would have to be very generous to even call it mediocre.  Some of it, however, is very good.  I think that, to some extent, referring to Christian music as mediocre is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  A lot of Christian people accept mediocrity, as long as they feel that the music, at least in some way, glorifies God.  Of course, some people set that bar pretty low, as well (more about that later).  The music industry seems to treat Christian music as the equivalent of minor league baseball.  I understand that, a few years ago, one well-known secular artist heard a Christian singer sing, and asked, "Why are you singing Christian music? You're talented enough that you could sign with a major label..."  The question would bother me less, except that he talked to his agent and his producer, and got her signed to a contract with a secular record label.  From what I understand, she's making more money now, but she doesn't sing anything like the sort of music that she used to sing.  I know of another Christian singer that was writing her own praises to God, and had a recording contract, but someone who recognized her talent as a singer (but also her drawbacks as a songwriter), talked her into singing some secular music written by someone else.  She is better known (even in the Christian community) as a secular singer than she ever was a Christian singer.
       I have had people want to share with me their newest favorite Christian song, but, then when I asked them to explain how the song's lyrics even qualified as "Christian music," they were at a loss.  They couldn't understand why I would even ask the question.  The singer (or group) is a well-known Christian artist, they would protest.  I understand that, but what about the song even makes it religious?  Well, at least there isn't anything wrong with it.  I didn't say that there was, I'm just not convinced that there's anything wrong with it.
       The bottom line is this:  There is some music that is intended to glorify God, or used to praise God, from a uniquely Christian perspective.  I think it's pure foolishness to suggest (and I don't seriously think that it's detractor seriously intend to suggest) that we should simply do away with that particular type of music.  Could we call it something else?  I suppose, but a rose by any other name...  or, to put it another way, calling a skunk something else wouldn't make it stink any less.  I would like to suggest that, we as Christians, and consumers of Christian music, make an attempt to hold Christian music artists to a higher standard.  Don't buy music that is poorly written or sung out of key just because you like that particular artist, or that particular style of music. 

Friday, July 15, 2011


Jesus once healed a blind man, but it took Him two tries to get this man to see properly.  The first time the man said he saw men as trees, walking.  The second time he saw clearly.  Now, we know that Jesus didn’t make mistakes, so what exactly was that all about?  There must have been a point to this man saying that he saw men as trees, walking (the other question, of course, is, how did he know what a tree looked like, but, unless he was sighted earlier on in life, I don’t even have a guess), or Jesus wouldn’t have allowed it to happen, and it wouldn’t be in the Bible.
Jesus Himself made a comparison to people as trees another time.  He told His disciples to beware of false prophets, and went on to say that, just as you know what kind of fruit comes from what kind of tree, so, too, you can tell what kind of person you are dealing with by what kind of fruit comes from his or her life.  I’m not saying that as soon as somebody messes up, then you know that they are an evil person; all that really tells you is that the individual in question is human—which, hopefully, was never really in doubt.  As far as that goes, if somebody treats you badly seventy times seven times in one day, but apologizes, and asks your forgiveness, then you should forgive them.  I understand that very few of us (if any) would find that easy to do, but that is the commandment.  By the way, when Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven times, He didn’t mean that the seven-hundred and ninety-first time that someone sins against you, then it’s okay to hold a grudge; I feel very confident that He felt that 790 was just an impossibly high number.
Now, there are lots of kinds of trees mentioned in the Bible.  In Genesis 18:4, Abraham makes reference to a shade tree, which, apparently was a good place to rest.  In Genesis 30:37, Jacob made rods from poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees.  In Exodus 15:25, God showed Moses a tree that could make bitter water taste sweet.  Shortly thereafter, in Exodus 15:27, Moses and the children of Israel came across some palm trees.  In Leviticus 19:23, God told the children of Israel, as they were taking possession of the Promised Land, that they should plant all manner of fruit trees, but then He told them not to eat of those trees for at least three years (I won’t pretend to know what that’s about—maybe fruit trees need time to mature before they bear good fruit?).  In Numbers 24:6, there is a reference to lign aloe trees and cedar trees.  Deuteronomy 6:11 makes reference to olive trees being in the Promised Land.  Psalms 137:2 talks about hanging harps on willow trees.  In Isaiah 6:13, it talks about a teil tree and an oak tree.  Isaiah 44:14 talks about a cypress, an oak, and an ash tree.
The bottom line is that there are lots of kinds of trees, and there are lots of kinds of people.  Romans 12:4-8 talks about the body of Christ, of how we are all members, but we have different offices, and different gifts, among them prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, and even showing mercy.  1 Corinthians 12:4-31 goes into a lot more detail about the body of Christ, and how the members need each other.  Sometimes we don’t see the value in what someone else brings to the table of Christ, and sometimes we don’t see our own value.  It seems like everybody wants to be the mighty oak tree, and stand strong and resolute, but sometimes there is a need of a weeping willow.  Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to weep, and Romans 12:15 tells us to weep with those that weep.  Notice, though, that the passage in Ecclesiastes says that there is a time to weep, and that Romans 12:15
 also tells us to rejoice with them that do rejoice; we shouldn’t spend all of our time crying.  We are people, though, and just as our Lord is not a high priest which cannot be touched the feelings of our infirmities, so, too, we should empathize with those around us, but we should never forget that our joy and our hope is in Jesus Christ the Lord, our Savior.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Money Changers

There are those who call themselves Christians who seem to be angry all the time.  They fuss and fume about every little thing, whether they have any control over it or not.  Some of them will protest certain things.  I am not necessarily against protests, sometimes that seems to be the only way to get people’s attention, and let them know that you disagree, but sometimes people protest and it seems like they are looking for a way to vent their anger.
Christianity isn’t supposed to be a religion of anger or hatred, it should be about love.  “For God so loved the world…”  “He that loveth not, knoweth not God…”  People sometimes remind me that Jesus got angry in the Temple, and drove out the money changers, and those that sold animals for sacrifice, and that’s true, He did.  It occurs to me, though, that most people aren’t really aware of what their activities were.
By Jewish law, every male was supposed to pay an annual Temple tax of one-half shekel.  Unfortunately, at the time of Jesus’ visit to the Temple, Israel was under Roman occupation.  You may remember that, when asked about paying tribute, Jesus asked whose image was on a penny.  Believe me, you wouldn’t have found Caesar’s image on any Jewish coins; but the Temple tax had to be paid in Jewish currency.  So, when people came to pay their Temple tax, the money changers exchanged their Roman currency for Jewish currency.  Sometimes they had to exchange currency from other countries, as well, because many Jews left Israel to avoid the Roman occupation, but still came to pay their tax and celebrate Passover.  The irony here is that most of what the Temple priests needed, they required Roman currency in order to be able to make the purchase.  So the money changers charged the people a fee to change their Roman or foreign money into half-shekels, but then also charged the priests a fee to change it back, so that the priests could buy from merchants in occupied Jerusalem.
Now, the livestock salesmen (who, I suspect, in many cases, were the same people anyway) were there to sell the necessary animals to people that had not brought their own animals for sacrifice.  Accordingly to Mosaic Law, these animals were supposed to be without blemish.  Sometimes, the animals that people brought for sacrifice didn’t really meet the standard, in which case, these sellers of doves would exchange animals, for a fee, of course.  Sometimes these crafty salesmen would point out spots on an animal being brought in for sacrifice, just so that they could make a little money off of an exchange.  That might not be so bad, except that, many times they would, for example, point out an area of discoloration on one animals hoof, trade it for one that had just as bad a blemish on an ear (while carefully directing the customer’s attention to the hooves of the new animal), and then turn around and trade the one with the ‘bad’ hoof for one with a mark on its neck.  In other words, these guys had learned how to make a living off of their ability to notice flaws in other people’s sacrifices, while at the same time, directing attention away from the flaws of their own sacrifices.  Let’s face it, none of us are perfect, and there are very few animals, appropriate for sacrifice, which appear to be perfect, either.  God does want us to bring our best, however.
Realistically, there are a lot of people today that are good at pointing fingers and placing blame who aren’t really getting much done themselves.  It’s easy to sit back and criticize others, when you aren’t making the effort yourself.  There are also some that are making the effort, but still find time to disparage others anyway.  Now the Bible says that if we see a brother “overtaken in a fault,” that we should approach him with meekness to try to restore him.  Now, if he resists that treatment, somewhere down the road, anger may be called for.  I don’t mean to suggest that if someone in the body of Christ continues to sin and refuses to repent, that you just let him do it, because “I have to be meek.”  The first admonition should be done meekly, though.  That’s talking about someone who has already made their commitment to follow the Lord, though.  Someone outside the church doesn’t need to be harangued about their activities, they need to have the love of Christ shared with them.  If they accept Christ, then they will start living right, but if they don’t want to live for God, then all the lectures in the world will be about as useful trying to teach a pig to sing:  It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
As Christians, we are supposed to follow the leading of our example; notice that He got upset only very rarely, and usually at people that should have known better than to be doing what they were doing.  He did occasionally point out faults, but, again, only those of people that really should have known better, the religious leaders of the day.  So many people today want to call themselves Christians, but instead of acting like Jesus, they act like the people that Jesus was upset with in the Temple.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Jesus?

The question for the week is, “Why Christianity? Why not some other religion, or even atheism?”  That’s a good question, really, and I will try to give you a fair, honest, and even compelling answer.
It is not my purpose to criticize other religions, however, I do intend to give a cursory examination of the other main religions.  For starters, the Hindu religion has a pantheon of different gods.  Atheism has no god at all.  There are three basic monotheistic religions:  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 
Now, again, not to knock anybody else’s belief system, but most ancient peoples believed in multiple gods:  The Greeks had Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, etc.; the Romans had Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, etc.; the Norse had Odin, Thor, Loki, etc.  It basically came down to them feeling it necessary to divide up the duties of the divine.  Just as one man was good at hunting, another at fishing, and another at building things, so, too, they felt that there must be different gods with different abilities.  The idea that God is not like man did not occur to them.  Now the Hindus have a least gotten the idea that the gods are not like men (look at their statues and images), but they still have this idea of division of labor.  They just underestimate God.
I’m not going to spend much time on atheism.  Suffice to say that there have been a large number of very improbably coincidences in order for this world to exist and support intelligent life if God hadn’t at least directed the process.
Judaism had a good start, but many Jews are still looking for their Messiah.  If they are right, then he is to come, however, if Christianity is right, then He has already come, and, for the most part, they have rejected Him.
Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet (sent by Allah), but that His teachings have been corrupted, so God had to appoint another prophet, Mohammed, with a fresh set of teachings to set things right.  Interestingly enough, the Koran talks about the virgin birth (Sura 3.45-50).  Doesn’t that at least suggest that Jesus (or Isa) was more than just a prophet?
Now Jesus claimed to be the way (John 14:6).  I’m not surprised that so many people don’t believe Him; there were a lot of people in those days that didn’t believe Him.  Still, the believers that actually knew Him, and spoke with Him, and heard His teachings never recanted.  Some of them were tortured and threatened with death if they didn’t recant, but they didn’t.  Now, granted, they may have had good reason to suspect that the promise of release if they said that Jesus wasn’t really what they had made Him out to be, but still.  It seems to me that if I and my friends made up a story about some fantastic man who did all of these wonderful things, and then we were tortured, and threatened with death if we didn’t admit that we just made the whole thing up, I suspect that I would come clean. 
So, we have this Bible, that at least appears to be an accurate account of the life of Jesus, and He certainly seems to have been a Savior, not just to the Jews, but to all mankind.  So, the question becomes, should we really believe the Bible.  I was just reading that a lot of Islamic scholars claim that the Koran reads the same in every part of the world, that there is only one Koran.  They point to the many different versions of the Bible as proof that it should not be believed.  I would like to point out that there are other Islamic scholars that admit that there are seven to ten different versions of the Koran, and there is at least one that claims that there are twenty.  Now, certainly there are a lot more different versions of the Bible than twenty; there are hundreds.  Part of the reason that the Koran has so many different versions is that Mohammed himself was illiterate—don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean that as a criticism; literacy was not nearly as widespread then as it is now.  In today’s society, if a man is found to be illiterate, the first assumption is that he is probably mentally deficient; that’s frequently a bad assumption, illiterate people have to be pretty smart to get through life without being able to read—they have to memorize an awful lot.  My point is that Mohammed was almost undoubtedly of well over average intelligence, but he couldn’t write down the Koran (or anything else).  The Koran was passed on by oral tradition for many years; people would memorize and recite the Koran.  Eventually it was written down, but not until after Mohammed’s death.  So, changes were unwittingly made.  Also, the written language was less precise then, so when it did get written down, the written words could be interpreted differently by different people.  At the same time, the differences between the different versions are relatively minor.  So why do we have so many different versions of the Bible?  Mostly because there are a lot of people who recognize what an important work it is, and want to make sure that it is translated correctly.  Partially because we have an enemy who would like very much to eradicate any correct version(s) from the face of the earth.  If he can influence people to make minor changes to Scripture, he can gradually water down the message until it no longer means anything.  Of course, God protects His Word, so Satan cannot just make the Bible go away, but if he can publish “versions” that are more to his liking, he can lead many astray.  So why is it that the Bible has so many different versions while other religious writings (the Koran, the writings of Buddha, the Sruti and Smriti, etc.) have only a few?  Because of the relative importance.  Satan is not interested in ‘corrupting’ a book that wasn’t truth when it was written, any more than an artist wouldn’t forge a painting by an unknown artist, or a counterfeiter would create duplicates of confederate currency.
Perhaps the most important thing is that Jesus came to be our sacrifice.  No other religion teaches that their god or gods made a way for their adherents to be cleansed from their sins.  Mohammed did not die for you, in fact, Islam teaches that Mohammed was received up into heaven without dying first.   Buddha did not give his life for you.  Hinduism does not have a savior.  If you think about all the mistakes that you have made in your life, then understand that there is only one redeemer; His name is Jesus.  Why go to anyone else?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The topic for this week is marriage.  The first point that I would like to cover is what we, in this country, call bigamy.  There are some, even in this country, who insist that there is nothing wrong, in God’s eyes, with a man having multiple wives.  They point to numerous examples in the Old Testament of men who were considered to be men of God who had more than one wife, and also point out that nowhere in the New Testament is this practice even criticized.  They are right that it was common practice in the Old Testament, and never specifically forbidden in the New Testament.  At the same time, historically, well before Jesus’ birth, the rabbinical council decreed that marriage should be between one man and one woman.  The fact that is that a lot of time passed between the Old Testament and the New; just because the events were not immortalized in Scripture, doesn’t mean that they didn’t affect what happened in the Gospels.  Think about it:  Nowhere in the Old Testament is there any mention of Pharisees, Sadducees, or Samaritans, and yet, in the Gospels they are written about as though they had been around for years; that only make sense when you understand that they had been around for years.  My point is that Jesus (and the Apostles) never felt the need to teach that bigamy was wrong, it was already commonly accepted as being wrong.
Jesus did talk about divorce.  He said that Moses made allowance for divorce, but that was only because of the hard-heartedness of the people, and that divorce was really not in keeping with God’s laws.  Jesus made it very clear that if two people get divorced, they should either be reconciled to each other, or live their lives singly.  Jesus actually used Adam and Eve as an example of what marriage should be.  Of course, Adam and Eve had the perfect marriage—he was never able to tell her how much better his mother’s cooking was, and she was never able to tell him about the other men she could have married.  They had another advantage, too:  They had no other people interfering with their marriage; they only had to deal with their own family.  If they had a fight, and Eve decided to leave Adam, where would she go?
I have been asked who performed the marriage ceremony for Adam and Eve.  I don’t think that a ceremony is a necessary part of becoming husband and wife.  In modern-day society, that’s the way it is generally done, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that it was always done that way, or that it should have been done that way.  Modern law requires a marriage certificate, issued by the state, and some form of ceremony, even if it is just a justice of the peace making sure that both parties are amenable to the marriage.  The Bible tells us to obey every ordinance of man, so, of course, we get married and perform marriages in a manner consistent with the law; but obviously Adam and Eve were not subject to that law (the legal term is ‘ex post facto’).  So who married Adam and Eve? Well, God pronounced them man and wife; I don’t think you’re going to find a higher authority or a more able minister than that.
One of the problems that we run into in modern society is that a lot of young people become, well, seduced into a romantic notion that love conquers all, and if they truly love each other (and, of course, they do, just ask them) then their love will overcome all obstacles, and they will grow old together and they will always be happy.  The truth of the matter is that marriage is a lot of work.  No two people are ever going to agree one-hundred percent on everything all the time, and even if they did, they will eventually get tired of being around someone that never really adds anything to the conversation—sometimes arguing is preferable to lock-step thinking.  The bottom line is, there is no perfect marriage.  There will be misunderstandings, quibbles, arguments, and even fights (hopefully just verbal fights), but if two people are really willing to make their marriage work, they will find solutions to their disagreements. 
The first major fight that I had with my wife, she announced that she was going home to mother.  She called her mother to say what had happened.  After she said her piece, my mother-in-law said hers.  To make a long story short, my wife ended up hanging up the phone and apologizing to me.  Her mother realized that what we were so upset about wasn’t that big of a deal.  It sure seemed like it was to us, at the time.  In retrospect, I don’t even remember what it was we were arguing about.  We were indeed fortunate, and blessed, to have an objective third party to put things into perspective for us.  Too many young couples today don’t confide their problems to a third party, and a great number of pastors are grateful that they don’t.  I understand that pastors don’t really want to hear about conflicts in their congregations, but without a little perspective, many marriages end up in divorce unnecessarily.  If you are having problems with your marriage, talk to your pastor (or mother-in-law, or some other third party), and if your pastor doesn’t want to provide counseling, then find a new pastor.  Oh, and don’t get counseling from a friend—the wife’s girlfriends almost always side with the wife, the husband’s guy friends almost always side with the husband, and other people may have their own reasons for wanting to split the marriage up (for example, a guy that finds the wife attractive (or a woman attracted to the husband) may contrive to get the couple divorced just so that they can get what they want).
So, you may be asking the question, “So, should I get married?”  Well, to be perfectly honest, maybe you shouldn’t.  Apostle Paul wrote at some length in 1 Corinthians 7 about how someone whose main goal is to spread the Gospel is going to be much more effective at it if all of his (or her) attention is concentrated on spreading the Gospel.  Someone who has a family to support or look after has, at best, divided attention.  He also, though, says that, “to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and every woman have her own husband.”  (Did you notice that the terms were singular there, by the way—suggesting that he proposes that a marriage be one man and one woman?)  The thing is, and recent events should make clear, some people can handle celibacy, as long as they have a clear purpose and are dedicated to doing the work that God has for them.  Some people cannot.  Frequently, people who, at one point in their lives, felt strongly that they should live out their lives as a single person, and take a vow to that effect, but later find out that they aren’t as strong as they thought they were.  If they continue to try to live that vow, they suffer for it, and, perhaps more importantly, people around them suffer for it.  The Bible tells us that it is better not to vow than to vow and not pay, but, sometimes it’s better just to accept the fact that the vow was too ambitious, and take the hit for breaking the vow, but only as a last resort.  The bottom line is, you need to prayerfully make a decision, can you serve God as a single person, or do you need an helpmeet?  God can help you find the answer to that question.  If you legitimately need someone to help you fulfill your calling, then God will give you one; if you don’t, then you will be more effective without one.  If you try to be something that you’re not, though, you are only frustrating the grace of God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The topic of the week is homosexuality.  I imagine that we are all aware that there are people from a “church” in Kansas that have been picketing funerals, spewing hate and discontent, claiming that the death of U.S. soldiers and Marines is the direct result of God’s wrath at the U.S. for its leniency towards homosexuality.  They, of course, refer to Scriptures that describe homosexuality as an abomination.  There are other Scriptures that refer to eating shellfish as abomination.  Somehow, neither of these abominations made it into the top ten list of sins, however.  Now, a case could be made that the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament were done away with in Acts 10, when God told Peter, “What I have cleansed, call not thou unclean.”  To be honest, though, in context, it seems pretty clear that, although Peter’s vision involved food, it really wasn’t food that God was talking about.  I certainly hope that we are not mistaken in thinking that we are no longer subject to the dietary restrictions of Old Testament Law, since we are not under the Law, but under Grace, because I really enjoy a good lobster tail. 
I have never actually heard anyone say this, but some of these people act as though they believe that homosexuality is the worst sin of all.  Jesus said that the first commandment of all was to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength.  He said that the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  If I were the type of person to relegate sins to different levels, that passage would lead me to believe that the worst sin of all is to be an atheist.  For whatever reason, though, we as a society tend to be considerably more tolerant of atheists than of homosexuals.  I am sure that there are atheists that would disagree with me on that, but when was the last time you saw someone picketing a funeral with a sign that said, “God Hates Atheists?”
            John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  I don’t see anything there that discriminates based on sexual orientation.  Unless I am reading that incorrectly, God loves everybody, and made a way for anybody to be saved, no matter what their sin.  In point of fact, James makes a point of mentioning that, in God’s eyes, sin is sin.  It doesn’t really matter what sin you have committed, you need it to be forgiven, and God has made a way for it to be forgiven.
            I also feel that I need to talk a little bit, at least, about the difference between thoughts and actions.  Jesus said that if a man looketh upon a woman to lust after her, he hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Of course, we can extrapolate that if a man looks after another man to lust after him, he has committed just as grievous a sin (particularly considering that, in God’s eyes, sin is sin).  At the same time, there is a difference between having a thought, or even an urge, and having lust.  There is a difference between finding someone attractive, and fantasizing about that person.  By the same token, if you feel an urge to do something that you know is wrong, whether it involves a person of the same gender as yourself, or someone who is married to someone else, that urge is not sin.  If you let it become more, then it can become sin, but the urge itself is not sin.
            So, in conclusion, although there are some people that say that God hates gay people, that view is simply not supported by Scripture.  It is true that homosexual acts are sin, but all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  Those of us who are sinners saved by Grace have no business looking down our noses at people who are really just other sinners.