Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Did Jesus Say Nothing About Homosexuality?

I'm loathe to get onto this topic again, but in the wake of the Duck Dynasty/homosexuality controversy, I feel like we need to look at an objection that so frequently appears in these discussions.

The pro-same-sex marriage crowd, whether Christian or not, likes to say that Jesus never condemned homosexuality — therefore it isn't a sin. And there is no record of Jesus ever explicitly mentioning homosexuality.

He did one better.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person" (Matt 15:19-20a).

What did Jesus mean by "sexual immorality?" He was pointing the Mosaic Law, to Leviticus 18. Your Bible probably has a heading for the section like "unlawful sexual relations." That is sexual immorality. The chapter covers incest (in some detail), adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality. Jesus condemned all of those sins in one fell swoop.

I can hear the objections already: "But that's the Old Testament. If you're going to apply those rules, you have to apply the ones about eating shellfish and mixing fabrics. Jesus said, 'not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law.'"

I love it when y'all quote the Bible, and I'm glad you brought up that passage. It actually explains why we don't have to worry about shellfish and polyester. The entire verse says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matt 5:17-18 emphasis added).

The Law will not pass away, but most of it has been fulfilled.

Jesus himself, in the first passage I quoted, threw out the dietary rules, and probably the whole "holiness code." The parallel passage in Mark explicitly says, "Thus he declared all foods clean" (7:19). Simply touching something or eating something doesn't defile you, he says; it's what you decide to do.

The rest of the New Testament takes that view of the Law. Hebrews describes it as an illustration that was put in place until a "new order" was established by Christ (9:8-10, 10:1-12). Paul said it was given to teach us about sin until Christ (Rom 7:7-13, Gal 3:19). When the apostles had to determine what part of the Old Testament applied to Christians, they said, "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality" (Acts 15:24-29). There's that word again.

There are different parts of the Law of Moses. Some of it was supposed to tell them how to run a country; it gave them their legal system. Some of it was to make them realize how hard it is to come to God and how dirty we are just because we're human. Those parts don't apply anymore. They've served their purpose. The moral instructions — the ten commandments, the rules about sexual immorality, the rules about mistreating the poor and your neighbor, etc. — still apply.

So to sum up, Jesus condemned "sexual immorality," which includes homosexuality, in a way that lets us off the hook for shellfish and polyester.

I can hear the next objection: "But when he said that, he did also mentioned 'evil thoughts, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, slander.'"

Yes, that's a great point. All of those thing defile us.

But there's only one thing in that list people are trying to make into a good thing. There's one thing people are trying to tell us we can't call sin. It's not murder. It's not slander. It's not adultery (though that's probably coming soon).

The truth is, homosexual relations are only one sin out of many that defile people. We should want to stamp out greed and theft and covetousness. Homosexual relations are not a special sin. But it's one that is hateful to God and destructive to the sinner, and yet we're being told we can't call it a sin.

I was a child during the "greed is good" era. I don't know how the Church responded to it. I hope there were many voices crying out that greed is not only not good, it is evil and toxic.

You know what else greed is? It's natural. Humans, in their natural state, are greedy. Humans are also lustful — where do you think adultery comes from? They're selfish and petty and violent.

There are a lot of things that come naturally to human beings that are wrong. Jesus died to put them all to death. But he requires us to call them sin and then to repent.

Hate the Sin ...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Should I Give?

Christianity Today asks "Should I Give a Cow or Cash for Christmas?" They look at giving to the poor in the world via animals, cash (whether as gifts or loans), and digging water wells. It's well worth reading.

If you want to give an animal, cash, or water, I'd like to commend World Vision to you out of the many good options. That's where our family gives.

For your convenience, Heifer International is another popular place to give.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Devoting Your Mind in 2014

It's that time of year again. Not for Christmas shopping — for picking out a daily devotional for next year. If that is something you tend to do, and even if it's not, I'd like to recommend a different approach this year.

Instead of spending the next year reading someone commenting on one Bible verse taken out of context (I'm not a big fan of the daily devotional books, I admit), take the time and learn a little about God, Jesus, Bibliology, world views, the resurrection, and church history.

Rick Cornish wrote a little series of books: 5-Minute Theologian, 5-Minute Apologist, and 5-Minute Church Historian. Each has 100 chapters of 2-3 pages apiece. Five minutes on a theology or apologetic topic will not give you a seminary level understanding of that truth, but it will give you a better understanding. And that is a good thing for you and for the Church corporately.

(Theology: I don't agree with everything he says, but he's fair and thoughtful about everything. Apologetics: He's a typical evangelical, even when that's not always a good thing, but I think you'll be OK. Historian: I haven't read it yet, but it's harder to screw that up, so I'm comfortable saying "let's read it".)

Reading one chapter a day will take up 300 days. Double up here and there and you can be done by the fall. After that, I suggest a different kind of daily devotional. (I know what I said above, but this one's better. A lot.)

John Stott's Through the Bible, Through the Year is designed to start in September following the church year. It starts in the Old Testament, builds to Advent, goes into the life of Christ and Easter, then finishes out the New Testament. Being Stott, each entry is well-written, insightful, and based in a solid understanding of the passage of the day.

If you don't want to read the 5-Minute books, you can pick this one up and just start a quarter of the way through it (week 18).

I know I'm asking you to buy four books instead of one, but it won't be so bad if you space the purchases out. And I think you'll read these books again or loan them out. In short, you'll get your money's worth, and you'll get an solid couple of years of learning to better love the Lord with your mind.