Tag Archives: gospel

“Christianity has a masculine feel…”

Thus spake John Piper, the wise. It makes me sad. There is a new religion that has entered through the American revivalists over the decades, and it isn’t Christianity. It is a religion of power, authority, money, influence and control. Its ugly babies are abuse, rape, violence, racism, and oppression.

This “religion” has a “masculine feel” – which is now defined as Christians taking dominion, conquering wives, controlling children, taking over counties, states, and eventually countries. (I believe that masculinity is a gift of God that can be used for much good, but that is another subject.)

It snuck in stealthily and some of us didn’t really wake up to it recently. And many, like me, have asked since “What happened to Christianity? How did it turn in to power and politics and hatred and blustering. How did it turn into abuse and oppression and coverup? How did the dynamic of authority and submission come to take the place of the gospel? What happened to the good news that the church was commissioned to proclaim?”

How could we have gotten it so wrong? Many have written on it and have done well. Most of them have been cast out of their churches, received death threats and suffered all sorts of abuse. All that does is prove the validity of the question. “When did Christianity turn into something so unlike itself?”

This is a blog. It isn’t a book. It is a short commentary designed to encourage thought. So I would like to simply modify Piper’s statement to something a little more Biblical, and leave it at that. If you like, you can compare these statements to Piper’s statement and determine for yourself, if you are willing to do so. Perhaps the answer to the question, “How did we get here?” might spring up in your mind.

Instead of saying, “Christianity has a masculine feel”, look at these nine more biblical alternatives:

“Christianity has a lover’s embrace feel” (Song of Songs)

“Christianity has a mothering hen and sheltering chicks feel” (Matthew 23:37)

“Christianity has a begging widow feel” (Luke 18:1-8)

“Christianity has a dying beggar feel” (Luke 16:20-21)

“Christianity has a babies and nursing infants feel” (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 21:16)

“Christianity has a big, warm, lying in each other’s arms feel” (Luke 15:20; John 13:23)

“Christianity has a desperate, helpless sinner feel” (Luke 18:13)

“Christianity has a hopeless prisoner, outcast, despised, mourning, fringe kind of feel” (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-19).

“Christianity has a safe, belonging, peaceful, nourishing, apron-wearing, serving one another kind of feel” (so, so, so many passages John 13; Romans 8; Revelation 20-21; Isaiah 2; Zephaniah 3)

There are probably many more, and the difference is crucial. There are those who have power, who are masculine in every cultural sense of the word; there are those who are in charge, who have money, who sit on thrones, who rule their houses, who have resources, time, authority and status…

But that isn’t Christianity. If you have those things, you must consider them all to be dung, be willing to give them all away, learn to wear an apron, become as a nursing child or begging widow, or you are, quite honestly, not worthy of Christ’s name. Nor are you worthy to use any of the power that God has given you until you first learn to lay it aside and take up an apron.

But on the other hand, those on the fringes, those who are unclean, those who are weak, beggars, cast-aways, despised, hated, thirsty, longing for love and for embrace and for belonging and safety, Jesus is speaking to YOU.

“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

Not “and I will teach you to be manly”

Not “and I will teach you how to have power over people”

Not “and I will teach you what you have to do to earn favor with God”

But “I will give you rest.”

I have heard that according to Babylonian mythology, the gods created humans because they needed workers.

God did not create us because he needed workers in his kingdom. He created us to rest in his bosom. He created us free to create, to plant, to reap, to sing, to dance, to rejoice in the love of the Holy Trinity, into which we have been sweetly drawn in by the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we turn it into a “masculine feel” of conquest, authority, power, control, we always end up in some truly ugly places.

Stop the idolatry of Babel, resurrected as Christian nationalism. Learn to rest in the bosom of the shepherd.

James 3:17–18 (NKJV)
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That can only happen when we learn how to rest in God’s love and stop trying to control everyone or make them our servants. Learn to wear the apron. Learn to rest in the embrace. Long for the lover’s voice. This is Christianity.

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Filed under 9 things, Church, Faith

Imagine a marriage of liberty

Imagine a marriage of liberty.

He loves Jesus and prays through the power of the Spirit. If he sins, he confesses his sins to the ones he sinned against and brings his faults to the throne of grace.

His sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

He uses his mind and his body for good. He works diligently so he might have to give to those in need.

He knows how to wash a dish and do his laundry and go shopping. He knows what bills are due and how to pay them.

He understands the condition of his flocks and herds.

When there is disaster, he prays. His Father in heaven hears because he stands in Christ as an heir of eternal life. When life is prosperous, he gives thanks and bends the knee to his Father in heaven.

Imagine he meets a woman.

She loves Jesus and prays through the power of the Spirit. If she sins, she confesses her sins to the ones she sinned against and brings her faults to the throne of grace.

Her sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

She uses her mind and her body for good. She works diligently so she might have to give to those in need.

She knows how to wash a dish and do her laundry and go shopping. She knows what bills are due and how to pay them.

She understands the condition of her flocks and herds.

When there is disaster, she prays. Her Father in heaven hears because she stands in Christ as an heir of eternal life. When life is prosperous, she gives thanks and bends the knee to her Father in heaven.

His eyes catch hers from across the room. He goes and introduces himself. They talk about rationalism and irrationalism and textual criticism and colors and poetry. They talk of wisdom and flowers and sixteenth century Italian poets.

He thinks that she is beautiful and she thinks that he is handsome, but they aren’t trying to dominate or control or use each other. They are just dreaming and talking and sharing and learning what it means to love.

Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they don’t. And their love grows.

They get married, not because he needs someone to cook and clean and do laundry. But because he loves her and the yoke is easier if you pull it together.

They get married, not because she needs a provider and a protector, but because she loves him and the yoke is easier if you pull it together.

She has been hurt before so her natural inclination is to be guarded and closed off, but she opens to him because she trusts him with her heart and her body and her mind. She knows that he is in Christ and she is in Christ so she opens to him in love and joy.

He has been taught his whole life that he is to lead her and rule over her to keep her from getting out of control – but he knows that she is in Christ and he is in Christ and that they both have the Holy Spirit and the word of God, so he just loves her and longs to understand her more every day. He opens to her and she opens to him and as their trust grows their love grows.

She sins and she confesses her faults to God because she is an heir of eternal life. He hears her and forgives.

He sins and he confesses his faults to God because he is an heir of eternal life. God hears and forgives.

And they grow closer.

He still thinks that she is beautiful and she still thinks that he is handsome, but they aren’t trying to dominate or control or use each other. They are still just dreaming and talking and sharing and learning what it means to love, and doing it together.

Now imagine another scenario. Imagine a church that does not use fear to keep marriages together.

Imagine civil laws that impose no penalties on divorce.

Imagine that either the man or the woman could leave and divorce anytime they choose without shame, without penalty, without consequence (this is an “unreal condition” for grammarians. That means it does not exist, nor should it necessarily exist, but for the sake of this argument we are imagining that it exists).

Neither the husband nor the wife even consider divorcing, nor does adultery ever enter the heart – not because they are afraid of consequences, but because their love is so complete and perfect.

THIS, it seems to me, is what it means to be sanctified. It should be the goal of our marriage, and it should be the goal of our life.

To be made perfect in love.

‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Because sin and treachery are still in the world, we still need the sanctions of the state. We need to regulate and protect the weak from the strong. We need to punish those who act treacherously.

But that is not the goal of humanity, nor is it the goal of the new birth.

The goal is to be made perfect in love, where not even the least thought or inclination of our hearts even consider acting treacherously towards our God.

8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

It should also be the goal of our marriages.

I can never understand why a man desires a marriage based on fear.

Why would you want your wife to stay simply because she is afraid to leave?

Perhaps our focus should be elsewhere as husbands. Perhaps our focus should be to love our wives as Christ loved the church. To provide the atmosphere together with your wife for both of you to prosper, to freely love, to plan, to dream, to live freely as joint-heirs of Christ.

Isn’t this what we were all made for? Why settle for fear and coercion when the feast of love is promised and offered to all who will submit to Christ? Learn from him, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

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Same sex attraction and the forgiveness of sins

Yesterday, the PCA general assembly passed the following resolution:

Overture 15: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”

I know that this is a risky blog, but it had been mulling in my mind for many weeks. I waited to see what the PCA would do with it

Of course, we know that it is directed towards Greg Johnson. And I have read his book “Still Time to Care.” There was nothing in that book at all that was outside of the traditions and teachings of Christianity. I don’t know anything about REVOICE. All I know is how things are worded. I’ve read the book. I’ve read the overture. And it is deadly to the faith. I beg the PCA to reconsider while the candlestick is still there.

Notice the overture. It does not say, “Those who practice homosexuality.” Nor does it say, “Those who claim that homosexuality is not sinful.” In both cases, I would have agreed. Those who live unrepentantly in any sin should not serve in the ministry.

But it doesn’t say that.

I do not pretend to know the discussions going on in the PCA. All I know about the debate is that I read Pastor Johnson’s book. He is exclusively same sex attracted. He confesses that it is part of his “sinful nature with which he has to struggle his whole life long.” He has never acted on his desires.

He has also never been attracted to a woman.

If it is a question of terminology – that instead of just confession a lifelong spiritual struggle, he used the term “homosexuality”, then they got the terminology wrong. Most that I know of use the term “gay”. But it is just a word. It seems like disqualifying a man from ministry over a word is a little harsh.

The problem seems to be that the man confessed his struggle with sin.

So here is why I am sad. The PCA has just declared that THIS particular struggle with sin, even though it is never acted on, disqualifies a man from the ministry.

And at the same time, every Sunday, many of these same churches recite the creed together. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

Perhaps at this point, they should, for the sake of consistency, add an addendum. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins except for same sex attraction.”

Which other sins will be excluded from the creed?

In Augustine’s day, there was a debate with a certain sect in the church who taught that those who denied Christ to escape persecution could never be forgiven and restored to fellowship.

The church strongly disagreed. This is why “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” was added to the creed.

The reason that this is a sad day is that a cardinal, basic tenet of Christianity was denied – hopefully unwittingly – in the relentless pursuit of “culture war” victory.

They won the battle in the culture war, but lost the battle for the faith doing so.

The only thing left for Christians is to continue to keep silent about their struggles, never ask for help, never confess sin or our struggle with our sinful nature, and remain alone and isolated in the kingdom of God.

But the result will be that everyone will remain silent, especially if they wish to pastor the church. Perhaps THEIR sinful nature will be next on the chopping block.

It makes me sad that this is where the PCA chose to go.

The Heidelberg Catechism states:

56. What dost thou believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins”?

That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long; but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.

The church is to be known as a place for sinners. Jesus was called a “friend of sinners”.

We cannot be a “hospital for sinners” if we say, “Except for you.”

Either the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin or it does not. To deny the blood of Christ to one particular kind of sin is deadly to the church.

I pray that the PCA will reconsider their stance on this.

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Pro-life

Today I saw this:

“The reason people want abortion is because they do not want to submit to God’s moral commands.”

I need to speak about this, for I find it shameful and not Christian at all.

But first, I need to repeat something over and over and over and over.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

That being said, lets talk about shame.

Millions of people in this country believe that outlawing abortion will be a blow for women’s rights. I’ve heard those arguments my whole life. I used to brush them off as the arguments of stupid, immoral people who just wanted to do what they wanted to do.

And then I met people. Life is rarely as black and white as we wish it to be. We would love to have our own agency removed and just have someone older and wiser telling us what to do.

But we aren’t in a musical, are we? (So now I need to repeat something:

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.)

Lets move on.

We might argue with our opponents for being wrong on this issue, but it isn’t because they are stupid. We might actually learn something about human nature and something about God if we will stop shouting and actually listen to people.

Why do so many connect abortion rights with women’s dignity? (and yes, I believe they are on the WRONG track – but it isn’t because they are stupid.)

We could ask the question “Why is abortion a thing? What makes a woman so desperate that she will take the life of her own baby?”

And when we seek to honestly answer that question, we may be on the right track to actually be able to put a stop to abortions no matter what the legislatures and courts decide. But waiting for others to pass a law is the easy way out, isn’t it?

We believers don’t actually derive our power from Supreme Courts or any law-makers. We have tremendous power, but it isn’t like any other power in the world. We have the power to be salt and light, if only we had the courage to be. Our power is in taking the lowest place, not learning how to enforce laws.

Why is abortion a thing? NOT because of Roe v. Wade. It was a thing before then, and millions of Americans supported abortion rights – and NOT because they were stupid or any more rebellious than anyone else. They had all sorts of reasons, but I think the real reason is the reality of shame.

It has to do with shame.

I know that this is hard, but try to imagine yourself as a young woman growing up in a typical conservative Christian family.

You were being prepared to submit to your husband. You were being prepared to be a chaste virgin to serve at the feet of the husband God would have for you.

You were NOT encouraged to use any gifts that God gave you, unless they fit into submission to your husband. You were not encouraged to go to school. You were told to keep your body covered at all times or grown men would lust after you, because that is how they were made.

(For documentation on all of this, one only needs to look at Bill Gothard’s manual after manual after manual of “training material.”)

If your uncle leered at you or groped you, you were told that “that is just how men are. We learn to deal with it.”

If you were assaulted, you were asked what you were wearing, what you did to lead him on. Perhaps you were even publicly shamed in front of the church for being a harlot, a crushed rose that no one would want.

In other words, you were created in the image of God with gifts and honor and dignity, but you were repeatedly shamed, dishonored, unheard, and shunned.

“Run along dear. This is men’s work.”

“Not today, honey. Let the men do their work.”

“You get your period because God cursed women after the fall.”

“You don’t need a job, let the men-folk take care of you.”

“You don’t need to buy a house. You don’t need a credit line. You don’t need a bank account.”

And, yes, every one of these things was a “thing” in my lifetime. In most states, a woman couldn’t get a bank account, a credit line, a house, a car, without a man’s signature.

All of what she saw and was taught in church contradicted what she knew in her heart. That she was an image-bearer of God, with dignity and worth and deserving of honor and respect.

And when there is a conflict between how we were created and how we are now, the gap is called “shame”. A longing for Eden. A longing to again belong and use gifts and be honored as a woman.

Because an animal wasn’t suitable to be a fitting helper for Adam, God created a woman – to fit him as in front of his face. To stand upright, look him in the eye, work alongside him, have dominion alongside him, and cultivate the earth along side him.

But you were sidelined by your church and trained for a life of servitude, to be kept barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen.

“Now run along, dear, and fetch my drink.”

Shame is intolerable. It is like water, in that it won’t stay where it is put but it will always burst forth one way or another.

So a boy comes along. He is handsome. He looks at you and treats you like an equal. He makes you feel valued, like you have never felt before. He makes you feel safe and makes you feel like it is OK for you to take up space. He makes you feel like a person, which you have never felt before. And one thing leads to another, and now you find that you are pregnant. Maybe he was sincere. Maybe he was a rake. The effect was the same.

Because you are a sinner; and because you have never been taught how to address your shame. You have only been told how to behave. You didn’t have any of the tools to protect yourself, because you were never taught wisdom. You were only taught shame. (See Proverbs 2-3)

Now what do you do?

Tell your father?

Tell your pastor?

You remember when they made your friend stand up before the whole church and “confess” the sin of fornication.

You remember how your other friend was raped by a deacon and forced to confront him and forgive him but instead she left town and never came back.

Do you remember how the church took up a collection and got a lawyer for the pastor who had been beating his wife and children?

How they shamed the 14 year old for wearing a tank-top, but looked the other way when the deacon’s computer was full of child porn?

You remember how your father told you that if you ever got into trouble he would disown you and have nothing more to do with you.

You remember how they talked about women who were “loose”.

So what do you do?

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

The reason that Roe v Wade was the wrong decision was that it did nothing to take away shame.

The reason that I am so afraid of it being overturned is that it will do nothing to take away shame. It will only increase the power of the bullies, the hateful, the rapists and pornographers – especially the ones in positions of power in the church. I fear this to be true because I see the character of those who were elected because of the fear of abortion. Thugs, charlatans, conmen, and thieves.

I hear how everyone talks over on Twitter and fear for the future. What are we going to do?

Stand them up in front of the church again?

Call them the stinky rose that no one wants?

Make sure that they are outcasts, constantly reminded that they aren’t really as clean as the others? Make sure that everyone knows that they are “fallen”?

I heard years ago about a young man who was sexually assaulted as a child. The young women were warned away from him. “He will always be broken” they were told.

So now, back in the mind of the young woman. Suppose the “fornication” wasn’t consensual. Suppose it was your youth pastor. Suppose it was a frat boy in an alley.

What will you do?

Report it? Remember what happened when your friend was raped and she was kicked out of school her senior year for violating her purity oath?

Remember how you had to sign a non-disclosure oath and never talk about it?

Remember when your mother and your father didn’t even believe you?

And suppose you got pregnant from that rape.

Do you report it to the police, knowing that the rapist will get custody of the child?

Do you put his name on the birth certificate and be forced to deal with him your whole life?

Did you know that most states allow a rapist to sue for custody?

I assure you that every single scenario here is true. It happens over and over and over. It has been well-documented with more evidence and more unimpeachable testimony than any court would require in any other situation. It has been documented again and again by all of those who have been or are currently being run out of the establishments for being “feminists. Liberals. Socialists.” Only because they dared to speak the truth.

But we don’t want to “ruin a man’s life” over “20 minutes of action, do we?”

We don’t have a problem with ruining HER life, after all, if she weren’t a sinner, she wouldn’t be in trouble now, would she?

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

But it goes a lot deeper than the “single issue voters” want it to be. Knowing that something is morally reprehensible, and knowing how to stop it are two different things. Is our calling as the church to enforce law? Or is it to proclaim the gospel? We keep getting sidetracked.

The law was given by God himself from Mt. Sinai and enforced with thunder and lighting and fire. The ground opened up at one point and dragged whole families down to hell. The threats and the curses were real.

But that wasn’t the gospel. And that never dealt with the problem of shame. The law on stone could beat someone to death, but it couldn’t bring life. It still can’t. All it can do is increase shame, which increases guilt, which increases sin.

So, if you recognize yourself in this scenario, let me give you the gospel.

Your shame is real, and I am so, so sorry for all of those who sought to control you by heaping more shame on you. Jesus didn’t come to heap shame.

He was stripped naked on the cross in front of the world and hung there to die. He took all of our shame upon himself, so that he might unite himself to you.

And he did this because he wanted YOU. He wants to embrace you and give you life. He wants to wash away all of your sin and misery, and wants to restore you to how He created you to be. With dignity, with honor, with beauty.

And because of his work, you ARE beautiful. If you have gotten pregnant, you are still beautiful and your baby is beautiful. You aren’t ruined, you aren’t second best, you aren’t spoiled. You are His daughter, and he is making you beautiful, without spot and without blemish. You are welcomed at His table and if the organization that calls itself a church doesn’t welcome you to theirs, then they don’t know Him. Flee from there into the arms of the One who loves you and gave himself for you.

For everyone else, who are you to judge another man’s servant? It is so much deeper than “they just don’t want to submit”. We have more work to do that goes deeper than picket lines, protest lines, and single issue voting.

Maybe if you think about this a little bit, you will see what Jesus meant when he said to the woman caught in the act, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.”

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

And that is true. But it isn’t the gospel. The gospel is something far, far more powerful. The gospel goes to the heart and causes men and women to bend the knee, not because they are afraid, but that they have been overwhelmed by the power of love.

That’s a different thing.

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Filed under abortion, Gospel

Give me a drink, continued

See part one here:

As the woman recovers from her astonishment that a Jewish Rabbi is speaking to her at all, Jesus answers her.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is speaking to you, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

She misunderstands him, and apparently thinks he is talking about the spring that is flowing at the very bottom of the well. It would be the freshest, coolest water. But Jesus doesn’t have a rope or a bucket. How will he get to that water?

But Jesus has water that is even greater than that. It is water that satisfies our deepest longings. He intends to draw us back into fellowship with God.

We look to Jesus to fix things for us. We want him to give us things that will solve our earthly problems. We want to be free from anxiety, from care, from trouble, from trials, from death…

And eventually, Jesus will give us all of that and more. But he has an even greater plan. He seeks to solve the original problem that is the core of everything else.

We want the Great Physician to fix the headache and the fever. And he will eventually. But first, the cancer must be removed.

We are in a cursed world because we are unclean. We are unclean because of our sins and because we are in a cursed world. We are miserable, because we were created as image-bearers of God, dwelling with him in eternity, and we are cast out of his presence.

God is holy. Man is sinful. We have a far greater problem than we can possibly imagine.

Jesus came to call his sheep, to gather them into his fold. He came to clean them, to lead them, to feed them, to take away their sins, to call them his own.

So he tells her to ask for living water, and she asks.

She genuinely desires it. She thinks that it would be great if she didn’t have to come to the well every day to get water…

So she asks. And Jesus wasn’t tricking her. He is going to give her exactly what she is asking for.

Jesus is lifting her thoughts higher. But first, a common hindrance must be removed.

And there are two things getting in our way of receiving the living water, depending on what kind of people we are. If things have gone relatively well for us – if we have money and health and reputation and a large, well-behaved family – we tend to settle too easily.

This is pride. We won’t allow anyone to shake us out of our complacency, even if it is to give us the Pearl of Great Price.

The other hindrance is the one that is common among those who are the outcasts, the losers, the people just like this woman. These are the normal people, with their normal anxieties and their normal fears.

And the biggest fear is this – if people found out who I really was, they would want nothing to do with me. If people knew what things were like in my house, if people knew what horrible things I’ve done, if people knew that I’m a fraud, if people knew the things that go through my head, if people knew my sins and my struggles and my shame, they would throw me out and never let me back in.

So you hold people at an arm’s distance. You keep yourself to yourself. You might be social, but there is a part of you that no one gets to see.

And the thought of Jesus inviting you into fellowship is terrifying. What if he finds out who I am?

THIS is what Jesus is giving this woman. He isn’t shaming her. He is saying, “I know who you are. I know your living situation. I know what you’ve been through. I know what your home life is like right now. I know all of your sins, even your most shameful.

“And I still asked you to give me a drink. I still want you in my family. I still want to give you living water.”

So he says, “Go get your husband…”

And he puts his finger right on her thirst.

Its funny how we read current cultural battles into the text. We blame feminism for high divorce rates (rather than abusive men) so we read that into this text as well.

We think that Jesus is confronting a fornicator, when there is no such thing in this text. But she is a divorcee! That is just a step above a prostitute, isn’t it?? But in that day, women didn’t divorce husbands. Husbands divorced them. A husband could throw his wife out for any reason whatsoever. And she had been cast out 5 times.

And now, she has given up and is simply living with a man. She still needs shelter. She still needs to eat.

And she is living with the shame in front of the whole community. She’s “that woman.”

But to Jesus she is “my sister, my spouse, my bride. The one I came to seek and save.”

Jesus is pulling back the curtain. He is doing the same thing he did in Eden when he said, “Adam, where are you? I want to cleanse you. I want to clothe you. But first, you must come out.

“You must first realize that I already know exactly what you did, I know exactly what your most shameful secret is. I already know your home situation. I already know who you are.

“In fact, I am going to take all of it on myself. I will take your shame on myself when I am lifted up naked in front of the world. I will be outcast and driven outside the city and take that from you. And I will take your sin and your misery and your death sentence upon myself – so that you can enter into Eternal Life.”

But again – I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because Jesus is God and his words carry power, the woman does NOT change the subject. She gets the subject. Jesus is talking about fellowship with God, which is what worship is. We get pictures of that on this earth.

So it reminds her of a long dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans. “Since you are talking about cleanliness, can you tell me where I can meet with God? The Jews say Jerusalem. But we have always worshiped here.”

When Jesus begins to gather his sheep together, he awakens in them the longing for worship. Where do I go? How do I act? I understand that you are desiring to gather me into your fold, but how, exactly, do we go about doing that?

The pictures and shadows are beginning to fade away. Jesus told her that in this particular debate, the Jews were right. Jerusalem and the worship there was the only proper form of worship.

But soon all of that would change. Soon, it wouldn’t be Jerusalem OR Gerizim.

God is not satisfied with empty rituals. He doesn’t want our sheep and our goats and our feast days and proper sabbath observance. He wants US.

This doesn’t mean that the rituals are not important. It is important to know what you are worshiping.

But if you just stop there, you have missed the whole point (Isaiah 1).

God wants YOU. He is gathering his sheep together.

He is calling us to put off our pride and our silly little dignities that we like to carry around.

He is calling us also to fully understand that he knows us inside and out, up and down, every word that has come or WILL come off of our tongue.

He knows what men have done to you. He knows what shame you are carrying around. He knows the sins that you are carrying around.

He knows your frailty and your weakness. He knows your greatest fear and your greatest longing.

He knows what you would do if you had the opportunity. He knows what you would do if you never got caught.

He hears the prayers under the fig tree when you don’t even know what to say.

And he STILL says, “Give me a drink.”

YES, he can get it himself. But he wants YOU, his bride, to take your part because you have dignity and worth. Just like Adam named the animals, and displayed his image-bearing, so also this woman is called to take part displaying her image-bearing. So just as Jesus asked for a drink, so now she gives that “drink” to her whole community – she brings them all to Jesus.

Bring the hope and the light and the joy of being forgiven, loved and accepted to the world. Take that water and pass it around.

Drink deeply of the Spirit and let that life flow all around you. LIVE!

It isn’t because he needs you. He is almighty God, and He upholds everything with his power. He doesn’t need his creatures.

But he loves you and you were created to bear his image. Give me a drink – because regardless of who you are and what you have done, you are still an image-bearer of God.

And he will wash you, purify you, take away your sins, clothe you with his perfect righteousness, and bring you into his family. He is preparing a place just for you.

And so you have dignity and worth. You aren’t what everyone says about you. Look deeper. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. Take that water that he gives you and tell all of your neighbors about it.

This is a little bit different than Jesus simply shaming her for being a sinner and then allowing her to change the subject, isn’t is?

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Give me a drink

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw water.”

16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.”

17 The woman answered and said to Him, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this which you have said is true.”

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and yet you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.”

21 Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, that time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But aa time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:15-24)

I have preached on this passage several times before, but I thought that it might be helpful to put my thoughts down in writing. There are plenty of misunderstandings on this passage, most of them seem to center around our own biases and culture wars, rather than a sober analysis of the words.

It seems to always be a trend. Some guy on Social Media will say something cruel and heartless. Maybe dismiss someone because they are gay, or trans, or divorced, or otherwise not worth our honor and respect as human beings. When someone calls them on it, they contend that by pointing out everyone’s sins they are simply doing what Jesus did. And then they quote this passage. The assumption is that Jesus confronted this woman about her sin of fornication and she tried to change the subject. But is this truly what is happening here?

Jesus is traveling through Samaria. Samaria is in the ancient territory of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. For centuries, the citizens of Israel (NOT Judah, that was the Southern Kingdom) had refused to go to Solomon’s temple to worship. Instead, they built altars and idols at the cities of Dan in the north and Bethel in the south. Eventually, after centuries of warning, God cast them off. The inhabitants had all been taken captive by the Assyrians and scattered, except for a few of the poor that were left. Eventually, the few poor that remained intermarried with Gentiles from all the surrounding kingdoms and adopted those religions on top of the religion of Dan and Bethel (2 Kings 17).

You really can’t understand what is happening in John 4 without some knowledge of these events. If you haven’t read First and Second Chronicles in a while, a brush-up might be in order.

It was THESE people that this woman descended from. The ancient nation of Judah – now known as “Jews” – still despised them. They rejected the proper form of worship. They rejected God’s king. They intermarried with pagans. They didn’t know the law. They were sinners.

This woman has three strikes against her in the mind of a Jew. She was a Samaritan. She was a woman. She was a sinner.

But Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. So he is traveling through Samaria.

He sits down at the well and waits. Soon, the woman comes. She is apparently an outcast even in her own city, for she comes alone.

And then she sees Jesus, dressed in the traditional garb of a Jew and a Rabbi. You can just hear her thought process:

“Oh great.  A Jew. Like I need this today. The toilet backs up,  the goats are breaking through the fence, the kids are totally hyped up and all I need is a little peace and quiet for a minute. And now I have to deal with a Jew!”

A Jew sitting at the well would normally give her a look of absolute contempt and then move away from her. Perhaps you are familiar with that look. Maybe you know what it is to be viewed as something filthy on the bottom of the shoe of life.

This is what she is expecting. She sighs. She has work to do, so might as well get on with it.

And then – something astounding.

“Please give me a drink”.

She might have dropped her pitcher at that one.

He is speaking to her. TO HER! Jews don’t speak to Samaritans and Rabbis don’t speak to women. But he is speaking to her??

After gathering her wits together, it hits her that he has also asked her for something. Wait…I have something this guy wants? I have something of value to offer? Holy Mackerel. What is going on here?

And then it occurs to her that what he is asking her for is something that will require him to put his mouth on something that belongs to her. If she gives him a drink, he would have to drink it out of her bucket. Woah.

The Jews’ rituals of cleanliness were like childhood cooties on steroids. The revulsion that any Jew would have at drinking out of a woman’s pitcher would have been staggering. Much less a Samaritan. Much much less a sinner!

I remember as a child my brothers passing my comb around by the tips of their fingers as if it were the dirtiest thing they had ever seen. It still shames me.

And this woman has been dealing with far, far worse shame her whole life. Can you imagine someone refusing to touch you or even something you touched because the thought of your uncleanness makes them retch?

And here is this Jewish Rabbi saying “Give me a drink”.

What is going on here?

She stammers – how?

What…? Um…

OK – You are a Jew. I’m a Samaritan. Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.

What is going on here…

Jesus, with one request, has opened up the greatest need and longing of the human heart. Fellowship with God.

This is the problem of mankind. We have been cast out of Eden, unclean, sinners, under God’s wrath and curse.

But God has determined to save a people for himself – to be their God and we will be his people.

Every law and every statute about cleanness and uncleanness pointed to this one thing – God is calling us back to himself, but in order to do so, he must clean us.

The Temple of God, which was at the heart of the debate between Jews and Samaritans, was a picture of God dwelling with his people, just like he did in Eden.

All of the rituals and sacrifices and ceremonies of the law pointed to Jesus who would cleanse us from all sin and uncleanness and defilement so that we might be taken into the embrace of the Father Himself, which is the longing of every human heart.

Another way to describe this longing is to use the word “thirst”. What are we thirsty for?

“As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so my soul pants for YOU, O my God” (Psalm 42).

But the curse that is on us is such that we always seek to quench our thirst with anything BUT fellowship with God. We are prone to hate him and hate our neighbor, and yet the thirst remains. We refuse to see how defiled we are in the sight of perfect holiness, perfect righteousness, perfect purity – so we will not come for dress, for cleansing, for purity.

Instead, we would rather fashion our own aprons out of fig leaves and hide behind the bushes of our own making.

We might be outcast and alone, but at least we did it our way.

So we seek to quench that thirst with money, respect, honor, work, good works, religious rituals, reputation. Or with less dignified idols – drugs, alcohol, sex, putting people in their place, gossip, slander, reviling, violence, abuse…

All of it to satisfy our deep longings for fellowship with God but twisted into an evil thing.

And because God loved the world, and because he desires to enter into fellowship with his fallen and filthy creatures, he sent his only begotten son into the world that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

So Jesus is on a mission. He must go through Samaria, because he has a sheep there that needs to be introduced to her true thirst. The one who can’t fellowship with God because she is unclean, and so she needs a savior.

Jesus opens the conversation by talking about cleanliness.

“Give me a drink.”

And she understands – You think everything about me is unclean. You think that even touching my bucket will make YOU unclean. You think having a conversation with me makes you unclean.

What is going on here?

What is going on is this: Jesus is about to make you clean and give you your hearts desire…

More next time….See part two here:

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Why do I do it?

There are two distinct religions in the country. Both go under the name of Christianity. Both claim to follow Jesus. Both understand the importance of living a righteous life.

But they are two entirely different religions.

One can be summarized by the phrase, “Do these things, and you will live.”

Get married. Obey your husband. Control your wife. Discipline your kids. Homeschool them. Move to a homestead and grow your own food. Learn to shoot a gun and do self-defense. Get proper exercise. Eat right. Make the right choices. Vote the right way. Go to the right church. Attend the right conferences. Be manly men and feminine women. Become the best complementarian the world has ever seen. Go on pilgrimages to all the holy sites – Focus on the Family. The Giant Ark.  Chick Fil-a. Search the scripture and find the formula. Apply it, and your life will be orderly, happy and blessed. You will live.

But things don’t always go to plan. Your husband turns out to be abusive. Your kids rebel and dye their hair green. You get sick anyway. Your body grows weaker by the day. You struggle with chronic pain. Your marriage falls apart. Your kids turn out differently than you expect. Violence still finds you and you are attacked by someone stronger than you are and there is nothing you can do about it. No matter how often you say, “I’m not a victim” you suddenly are a victim.

And you say to yourself: I did everything right, and God didn’t keep up his end.

And so perhaps you try different things.

Leave your husband. Leave your wife. Dye your hair blue with your kids. Exercise harder. Buy a bigger gun. Vote for the other guy this time. Go to another church. Choose different conferences. Quit listening to what others say and do your own thing. Send the kids to another school. Eat at Burger King because quite frankly they taste better than Chick Fil-a.

And you still feel empty inside. Abandoned by God. Lonely.

And worse than all, the same sins that you always struggled with are all still there.

I “did this” and I “didn’t live”. Death is still king. Chaos, war, illness, pain, suffering are all still with me.

So now you turn on the sinners. It has to be their fault you are losing the war. Attack the gay guys next door. Launch campaigns against the LGBTQ agenda. They are destroying the country, you know.

Those effeminate preachers who wear pink and refuse to get their women in line are destroying all of us. The feminist agenda will destroy the church. Preachers who speak to sinners. Guys who listen to women. Same sex attracted people coming to church. Black people getting uppity and not wanting to be shot by the police anymore…They’ll destroy us all.

And you look fondly back to the days when America was great. People knew their place. Men were men and women were women and we were God’s country…

(at least, if you were white, middle class, male and had the right haircut, didn’t grow a beard, like good Christians…now I guess the beard is the mark of righteousness…It’s hard to keep up).

And the result of this religion was death. It always was. And it still is. The legacy of this false religion is the wreckage of innocent lives, abuse, incest, destructive addictions, women and children crushed underfoot, “beta males” incessantly mocked and ridiculed, shame and disgrace…

The problem with “do this and live” is that if you look to ANY list of rules to find your righteousness, then you are on the hook to keep the WHOLE law, not just the parts that you like.

If you strongly denounce the “effeminate” then you also must denounce the revilers. The liars. The heretics. The adulterers.

The point of Romans 1 ISN’T just that men lying with men is a sin against God. Romans one builds to Romans three, and the conclusion is this: ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous.

NO – Not one.

Not the manly hunter that lives next door. Nope. Not him.

Not the mother that has everything together and perfect kids that don’t ever ever wiggle on Sunday? Nope. Not her.

Not the pinnacle of the patriarchy – the guy on the cover of the books with the huge ministry and the well-coifed wife and happy faced children? Nope. Not him.

The homesteader? The liberal? The conservative? The anti-woke preacher? The woke preacher? – nope. Not him either.

The wife who never backtalks or ever has her own ideas? Nope. Not here.

None.

No. Not one.

It is almost as if the Holy Spirit is anticipating our objections….

Not one.

But I’m heterosexual and cisgender!! Nope. Not you either.

This is the problem with the first religion masquerading as Christianity. It isn’t Christianity at all. It is what Paul calls “The law”. It is the reason why the Jews of Paul’s day hated Jesus. They thought that righteousness would come by keeping the law. They thought that they could establish their own righteousness.

Do this, and you will live.

For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes of the righteousness that is based on the Law, that the person who performs them will live by them. (Romans 10:3-5)

But there is a big problem with this way of thinking. You don’t have any righteousness of your own. If you want to establish your own righteousness, you have to keep EVERYTHING in the law, not just the parts you want to keep.

It isn’t enough to be against abortion. You have to love your neighbor as yourself, continually, every time, without one failure.

It isn’t enough to be anti-LGBTQ. You also have to never once, not ever, lusted after anyone – same or opposite sex. EVER. The law doesn’t give you a pass because you are heterosexual.

You get the point. It Paul’s day, the ultimate “righteousness” was circumcision. Get circumcised, and live. And he says this.

For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Galatians 5:3.

Then he goes on to warn the Galatians. He tells them that thinking that they will somehow establish their own righteousness is of the flesh. Really, it is the same thing that every human born of Adam tries to do. We inherited it from him.

It is why Cain got so angry. How dare God not keep up his end of the bargain!!

And God told him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” And that is true. If you do well.

That is the problem with the thinking of the flesh. “If you do well.”

Compare that with the other great truth. There is none righteous.

No. Not one.

And the results of this false religion are always the same thing.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-20)

And doesn’t that pretty much sum up the results of what we are seeing in so many ministries that are rooted in the thinking of the flesh?

It isn’t a disagreement over an interpretation. It is another religion entirely.

Which leads us to the second distinct religion. True Christianity.

True Christianity is this (Go back to Romans 10). In contrast to “do this and live”, Paul shows the righteousness of God. Righteousness comes outside of ourselves, for we have none of our own. We have no righteousness, ever, not even after we are saved, that can stand before God’s righteous judgment.

But God has provided another way. He first announced it in Eden. Then foreshadowed it in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law. It is the righteousness that is ours by faith. Jesus did it, and it is as if we have never had nor committed any sin, if only we accept it with a believing heart.

As the scripture says “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is why Paul calls this “the spirit” as opposed to “the flesh”. The flesh is what we inherited from Adam. “Do this, and you will live.”

The Spirit drives us to mourning, true humility, and an overpowering sense that we are in desperate, desperate trouble unless God is merciful to us.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And does this have fruit? It certainly does! But it is a far different kind than the fruit that the flesh brings forth.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

So why do I do what I do? Why do I endure the continuous insults, ridicule, threats and abuse online? Why do I continue to critique the idols of this present age?

Because I hate the flesh in myself and know that I have no hope other than in Jesus Christ.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Ask yourself, what is your view of someone who DOESN’T do things the way that you do things, and then you will know somewhat of where your idols are and where your hope is.

As for me, my hope is not in my view of gender roles, my control of my wife, the way I choose to raise my children. It isn’t in submission to your husband, in your ability to homestead and homeschool. It isn’t in your heterosexuality. All of those are the way of death if you are holding on to them as your righteousness before God. All of our sexuality is corrupted by sin. All of our works are corrupted by sin. All of our masculinity and femininity are corrupted by sin. The only one who was not, ever, corrupted by sin was Jesus.

And he took my filthy garments – including my self-righteousness, lusts, pride – and nailed them to the cross. And then he gave me his perfect, spotless righteousness.

If only I accept them with a believing heart.

And now is the time when one hears, “yeah, but also…”

That’s the beauty of Christianity. There is NO “Yeah, but also” in Christ. You add nothing. He already did it all. It is finished. It is yours without any “yeah, but also”, other wise it isn’t good news at all!

So why do I continue to stick my hand in that hornet’s nest?

Because I hope that at least one person will hear me, and come to know true freedom and joy, no matter who they are or where they are from or what they have suffered. No one is beyond the reach of God’s compassion.

But even more importantly than that, it is because God has called me to be a preacher of the gospel. Not a purveyor of the opinions of men. So I will continue to do so and I will continue to call out the false messiahs of this age, because it is what God has called me to do.

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The problem with riches

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” (Mk. 10:21)

There is much that can be said here, but sometimes brevity is the soul of wit. There is just one point that I wish to make.

Think, for a moment, what Jesus is asking this young man to do. It isn’t that there is something wrong with his riches. Wealth comes from God, just as every other gift. And every gift of God is good.

But because of our sin and corruption, there is a corruption that generally comes with wealth which will drive us from Christ, just as it did this young man.

Jesus loved him, and wanted to embrace him, but Jesus desired this young man’s love in return. But like so many others, this man had a love that drove away all other loves. He loved the world and the things of the world and could not bear to let them go.

It wasn’t just that he liked baubles and trinkets. It isn’t the stuff that money buys that captivates the hearts of so many. It is the privilege that comes with money that so many cannot bear to be without.

Think about it. If this young man actually did what Jesus asked him to do, he would be poor.

I mean, really, really poor. “Sell all that you have”.

And not only that, he tells him to “take up the cross.”

A man who takes up his cross is the ultimate outcast. A man who takes up his cross is the outsider, the repugnant other, the criminal, the slave.

Not only does Jesus ask this young man to give up all of his money; He asks him to consider himself and all his position, standing, reputation, power, education, and breeding as dung.

But he is very rich. It sounds so crass, doesn’t it? we say to ourselves, “It is just money. I would have given it away in a second!”

Think more deeply.

To give away EVERYTHING is to be a pauper. You no longer have access to the courts. No longer have a seat at the gates. No longer have an in at the country club. No longer know where your next meal is coming from. No longer have the respect of the community. No longer know where you will live or sleep tonight.

You won’t have the rabbis stand when you enter the synagogue. You won’t have the good families trying to set you up with their daughters. You won’t catch the eyes of the young women (or the young men, for that matter).

You don’t know what or if you will eat. You won’t be able to protect yourself against Roman soldiers who demand that you carry the bag.

You will know what it is to walk through the marketplace and have the vendors give you the side eye to make sure you aren’t stealing.

You will know what it is to be followed by security to make sure you aren’t up to no good.

You will know what it is to be sneered at while you are lying on the sidewalk trying to rest just a little.

You will have absolutely nothing.

Except Jesus.

Is he really able to feed you? Is he really able to give you rest? Is he really able to provide for you all that your heart desires?

I am grieved to see  strength, power, authority and wealth being touted as virtues in evangelical circles. Of course, if we have those things we certainly ought to use them for the advantage and welfare of our neighbor, as Jesus has commanded us to.

But that isn’t what grieves me. What grieves me is that these things are considered Christian virtues.

The demand for authority, power, wealth and respect is the way to death and it will drive us away from Christ. The quest for “masculinity” disguised as a quest for Christ will lead to death.

Every time.

But if we count it all dung that we might know him and the power of the resurrection, we will live and have all that we desire in Him.

That is the point.

Is it good to be a man? If you are held in Jesus’ bosom, yes.

If you are a woman held in Jesus’ bosom, that is also good.

What matters is not “Who is in charge”?

What matters is whose bosom are you leaning on.

You can find your comfort and hope in riches, power and what everyone thinks about you.

Or you can rest in Jesus’ arms, like a lamb in the arms of his shepherd.

But you can’t do both.

Jesus wasn’t being cruel to this young man. He was inviting him to rest in his bosom. But he couldn’t do it, because he had too much at stake.

And so he lost everything.

We don’t know the whole story, though. I like to think that the day came when he lost everything and learned to count it as dung, so that he might know Christ. I just don’t know for sure.

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Clothed with dignity

I’ve been thinking about clothing lately.

In my bible studies and in my preaching, I seem to come across this idea frequently. It bears some meditation.

“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isa. 58:7)

`I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ (Matt. 25:36)

These are the practical outworking of love, according to the Bible. A person who is born again by the spirit has been given new eyes and a new heart, and this new heart sees their neighbor differently than before. It is what is means to be united to Christ – to be more and more conformed to his image.

So when we say, “To be like Christ is to clothe the naked”, what do we mean? Of course, there are many other things mentioned – feeding the hungry, providing for your own relatives, comforting the lonely and downhearted, and so on, as well as other duties summarized in God’s law. But this is a blog, and I would just like to leave you with a couple of thoughts on just one word picture: What does it mean to clothe the naked?

The obvious is to provide clothing to those who are too poor to afford any. But I think it goes deeper.

Nakedness is always viewed as shameful in the scripture. It is exposure to the contempt and ridicule of others. To be naked is to be shamed, helpless, exposed.

In fact, in the Hebrew language, to be stripped naked is the same word used for being “exiled”. One who was captured and sent away was first stripped naked.

When one is stripped naked, they are no longer clothed with dignity and honor. They are no longer men or women to be respected, but slaves to be mocked.

Slaves were sold naked on the auction block. The clothed people who were the “masters” wanted to see their potential “property”.

In other words, to be naked is to no longer be viewed as an image-bearer of God, with dignity and honor. It is rather to be exposed to the leers and contempt of those who are clothed.

The first thing that we need to see is this – Jesus was stripped naked before he was nailed to the cross. He was stripped naked so that we might be clothed with his righteousness.

He was the fulfillment of the sign of the skins in the Garden of Eden. Right after the fall, God clothed Adam and Eve with the skin of an animal, pointing to the day when their shame and nakedness would be covered by the Sacrifice that God would provide.

Jesus was that sacrifice. He bore our shame. He bore the ridicule of the “clothed ones” so that I might be His forever, without shame, without sin, without nakedness. And he did this because of the “great love with which he loved us.”

We are now one step closer to seeing what it means to be like Christ in clothing the naked.

As far as we know, Jesus never donated coats to goodwill. He was poor his entire life and only had one garment. But he clothed all of his people with righteousness, holiness, wisdom, acceptance, belonging – the richest clothes imaginable.

To walk in his footsteps is to do as he did: View each person you meet as an image-bearer of God, worthy of dignity and honor. It will only come as the outflowing of a heart that is born again.

If God has provided richly in material things, then certainly give coats and clothing to the poor. Be generous with your charity. This is most certainly commanded in many places in the Scripture. But Christian love goes deeper, and “clothing the naked” applies whether you have money or not.

It means to be consciously aware of those around you – each one is worthy of dignity, whether they know it or not. Treat everyone you meet as worthy of your respect and dignity.

I will use one example that I heard from someone years ago, that I have not been able to forget.

First, from the perspective of the “church lady”.

A young woman, perhaps 18 or 19, enters the church and sits in the back row. Everyone sees her walk in. She is wearing an extremely short skirt and high heels. Her midriff is bare. Her cleavage is showing. She isn’t wearing makeup. She sneaks in the back and sits down.

The men leer at her. The church lady, out of the goodness of her heart, draws her to the side and explains to her that her outfit is making the men lust, and they can’t worship with her dressed like that.

She leaves the service and never returns. What happened?

What happened was that the congregation did not “clothe the naked” as Jesus clothed us.

Let’s look at the same scenario from the point of view of the young woman.

A young woman is sexually assaulted over and over again by her mother’s boyfriend. No one has ever been kind to her. No one has ever viewed her as anything other than an object to be used and discarded.

She runs away from home at age 13. While on the streets, hungry and cold, a young man comes to her rescue. He brings her home and begins to groom her. It is the only life she knows. By the time she is 14, she is turning tricks to keep her new “boyfriend” from throwing her out or hurting her badly.

When she turns 18, she hears a preacher on the radio speak about Jesus and how he forgives sin, how he came to rescue those who were lost, and how he seeks and saves…she works up every bit of courage she can muster, puts on her very best outfit, and braves the church…

And she is told that the men, who profess to follow Jesus, are lusting after her and she needs to put on more clothes.

Where can she be safe, if not the church of Jesus Christ? Her worst nightmare has come true, that even God views her as an object to be used and discarded.

We can do better. Of course this young woman is a sinner. She would be hard around the edges. She has learned how to survive in ways that would cause us the flinch.

But Jesus clothes the naked.

“When you found me naked, you clothed me”, Jesus said. You didn’t mock me. You didn’t condescend to me. You didn’t lust after me. You didn’t clothe me with shame.

You didn’t tell me that I was not acceptable, not wanted, not worth dignity and love.

What you did was you clothed me. You treated me with kindness and honor. You heard me. You saw me. You treated me as if I were valuable, worth saving. You treated me as if I were a lost coin, rejoicing that I was found.

Of course, if you view the body of an 18 or 19 year old as an object to be lusted after, no matter how they are dressed, you have far deeper problems and I would suggest you fly to your redeemer yourself before YOUR nakedness is exposed, but that is another blog for another day.

As the body of Christ, should we not learn to view people as HE viewed people while he walked on this earth?

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Filed under Image of God, Sin and Grace

A Response to TGC on weeping

A couple of days ago, Kevin DeYoung published an article on The Gospel Coalition’s website concerning weeping with those who weep.

I found it quite disturbing, and I want to attempt to explain why.

To set the mood for the blog, he introduces Romans 12:15 and writes,

In recent years, the second half of the verse in particular has been emphasized as a key component in caring for victims, in listening to the stories of the oppressed, and in showing compassion to the hurting.

And then he adds:

These emphases are right and proper. Oftentimes the first thing we must do with sufferers is simply come alongside them, acknowledge their pain, express our condolences, and assure them of our love and prayers.

So far so good.

And then he spends the rest of the blog adding qualifier after qualifier until nothing is left.

The most disturbing sentence is this one:

Surely, the second half of Romans 12:15 does not mean that the only response to grieving people is to grieve with them. Diving into facts, pursuing objectivity, listening to all sides—these are not invalidated by Romans 12:15. “Weep with those who weep” does not dictate that the reasons for our weeping can never be mistaken. In short, the verse must mean something like “weep with those who have good, biblical reason to be weeping.”

I will explain why this disturbs me in a moment. First, to be fair to Rev. DeYoung, I would like to give his reasoning. Arguing from the parallelism of the passage, he writes:

One, almost everyone interprets the first half of Romans 12:15 along the lines just stated above. That is, no one thinks God wants us to rejoice with those who rejoice over the Taliban coming to power. No matter how genuine the rejoicing may be, Christians should not join with those who celebrate abortion or parade their sexual immorality or delight in racial prejudice. Instinctively, we know that the first half of Romans 12:15 means something like, “rejoice with those who have good, biblical reason to be rejoicing.”

His argument, then, is that since we do not indiscriminately rejoice over the Taliban coming into power, but rather we rejoice with those who have good and Biblical reasons for rejoicing, it then follows that weeping also must only be done with those who have good, biblical reasons for weeping.

First of all, this trend among the celebrity neo-“reformed” to view compassion with suspicion is quite disturbing. Why is there such a need in these guys’ minds to add caveat after caveat to compassion and empathy? As soon as we start defining who is and who is not worthy of our compassion, we enter into dangerous territory.

But before I go there, I would first like to critique his exegesis. He adds so many “traditions of men” that the command of God is of no effect, and is therefore committing the same fallacy as the Pharisees of old. Jesus explains this in Mark 7:9ff.

9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.
  10 “For Moses said,`Honor your father and your mother’; and,`He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
  11 “But you say,`If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban “– ‘(that is, a gift to God),
  12 “then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother,
  13 “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
  (Mark. 7:9-13)

In other words, according to the teachers at the time, if they had “good and biblical reasons”, they were not obliged to provide for their parents. What more biblical reason could there be than dedicating all of your goods to God himself?

DeYoung makes the same error, in my view. He takes a simple command…weep with those who weep…and adds so many caveats in order to explain that not EVERY person weeping deserves our tears of sympathy.

There have been so many articles lately about this that it is starting to bother me. What are they trying to prevent? Why are the tears of the abused so threatening to them that they have to find a way to silence them?

But back to DeYoung’s exegesis. His example of the Taliban does not hold up, because according to the text itself, Paul is speaking of the context of our neighbors, our fellow church members, and those that we interact with every day.

DeYoung finds the most extreme example (surely you wouldn’t rejoice with a terrorist) and then seeks to apply that to our neighbors.

He also draws a false contrast – “Diving into facts, pursuing objectivity, listening to all sides” is contrasted with weeping with those who weep. It appears that what he is saying is that you can do one or the other. If you dive into the facts, etc., and then determine that the one weeping has grounds for weeping, then Rom. 12:15 comes into play, but not before.

Wow. It just got complicated, didn’t it? Since sin is in the world, if you follow what he seems to be saying, you will always find a reason not to weep with those who weep. There will always be sin involved, therefore I don’t have to obey God. We nullify the command of God so that we might keep our traditions.

One more note on this, Paul isn’t talking about a judicatory of the church. Why must we all, as private citizens, assume that we are the arbiters of truth and that every complaint brought to us must be decided as if we were judges and jurists? Why can’t we just believe people and weep with them? Paul isn’t talking about adjudicating their case. He is talking about compassion.

But what if this passage means exactly what it says. “Leave vengeance in the hands of God. Love without hypocrisy. Empathize with one another.”

Rejoicing and weeping require some entering into the emotions of others, and this terrifies certain minds of the Reformed persuasion. But what if we let the scripture shape us, rather that us trying to make scripture fit our molds?

What if we learned what made our neighbors weep and wept with them?

Suppose, to use and extreme example, our neighbors are a gay couple. And suppose the state legislature passes a law forbidding gay couples from cohabitating together. They are scared. They don’t know what the future holds. Their whole world has turned upside down. Do they have “good and biblical reasons” for weeping?

It gets tricky, doesn’t it? Now you have to determine if the desire for safety and peace, the longing for acceptance and worth, and the security of a person’s home are biblical desires, and if so, are they trumped by the fact that they are living in sin?

Suppose the Taliban has taken over and has commanded that every gay couple be publicly flogged and then executed? Do we weep with them then?

If we ever get to the point that we are OK watching anyone getting flogged publicly, or executed by stoning, we are in a very scary state indeed.  I fear that we are headed there faster than we think.

Wouldn’t it be easier to simply weep with those who weep, and try to enter into their pain and sit with them?

Example two – a 15 year-old girl is raped. She gets pregnant and she is terrified of her church finding out. So afraid, in fact, that she sees no alternative but to abort her baby.

Is she no longer worthy of our tears? Is she no longer human now? What if it happened while she was at a party that her parents didn’t know she went to? What if she was drinking there? Is she now no longer worthy of our tears? No wonder she is terrified of telling the church, if their response is dictated by people like DeYoung. First, determine if their weeping is good and biblical. THEN weep with them. No wonder we are losing the war against abortion.

One example I read a few months ago was this one, “Surely you wouldn’t weep with a drug dealer who lost his whole stash in a house fire.” Once again, using the most extreme example that you can think of isn’t really the best way to do exegesis.

But let’s look at it. Suppose that this drug dealer is your son. And the drugs that he lost weren’t his. And now the cartel is after him. We can certainly hold to our belief that actions have consequences and at the same time be crushed with grief and tears. Surely every parent knows this grief. Surely the father of the prodigal wept great tears at the state of his son, even though it was his son’s fault he was in that state. Isn’t that the point of our faith?

Don’t we worship a God who plucks us out of the miry pit?

Jesus himself wept over Jerusalem, even though their destruction was just and good.

I would never bare my heart to anyone who says things like this, and it certainly isn’t what Paul means.

Paul means quite simply what he says. If your friends and neighbors are rejoicing, rejoice with them. If they are weeping, weep with them. It simply means to enter into their lives. They are image-bearers of God. It certainly doesn’t mean to approve of their sins. If means to have compassion.

You cannot do this without empathy. I am extremely disturbed that compassion and empathy are viewed with such suspicion in the church in these past few years.

But such is the result when you think that the point of Christianity is winning a culture war rather than loving God and your neighbor. These are two quite different things.

But there is one more thing even more disturbing. It is inexcusable that a pastor of sheep wouldn’t be aware of this. Do you know what this article will do in abusive homes?

Do you know what will happen if we tell abusive and violent men that they must not weep with their wives and children if they do not have biblical reasons to weep?

To me, this is the most disturbing part of the whole thing. It is saying that I must determine if your tears are biblical before I can weep with you. The damage that this will cause will be immense. Wait for it…

Wisdom is justified by her children. So is foolishness.

I am afraid that this teaching will bear some very ugly children.

If we are secure in our righteousness before God, if we truly understand that we are complete in Christ already, then we can weep with those who weep without fear that we will somehow become tainted by their sin.

If Jesus waited until he had good and biblical reasons to weep with us, we would still be lost in our sins.

2 “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
3 “and say,`Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: “Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.
4 “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.
5 “No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born.
6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood,`Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood,`Live!’
7 “I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare.
8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.
9 “Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil.
10 “I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk.
11 “I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck.
12 “And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head.
13 “Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty.
14 “Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you,” says the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 16:2-14)

Isn’t that beautiful. He doesn’t wait for his people to live before he gives them life. He doesn’t wait for them to be worthy of compassion before he has compassion.

Are we not to be tenderhearted, as God is tenderhearted? It seems we are missing something crucial about our faith.

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Filed under Faith, Gospel, Grief, Hope