Tag Archives: marriage

Covering the Altar with Tears

Malachi 2:13–14.
     13      And this is the second thing you do:
     You cover the altar of the LORD with tears,
     With weeping and crying;
     So He does not regard the offering anymore,
     Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands.
     14      Yet you say, “For what reason?”
     Because the LORD has been witness
     Between you and the wife of your youth,
     With whom you have dealt treacherously;
     Yet she is your companion
     And your wife by covenant.

The wives in Israel were so treacherously abused that they had no recourse but to cry before the Lord. THEY are the ones covering the altar with tears and bringing their cries to the Lord.

For this reason, God will not hear the prayers or accept the offerings of the husbands. You cannot treat your wife as a slave, a servant, or a beast, without bringing upon yourself the wrath of God.

In fact, Peter alludes to this passage in 1 Peter 3:7

1 Peter 3:7 (NKJV)
7Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

If you treat your wife with anything less than the honor befitting a firstborn heir of eternal life in Christ, you are also dealing treacherously with her.

God hears the cries of the oppressed and he answers them.

Remember, dear ones, that Lazarus received evil things on this earth for a time, but when he died he was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham, and rests in the arms of Jesus for eternity.

The rich man, on the other hand, who was treacherous to Lazarus, was tormented day and night.

God knows how to deliver the godly and give them peace. The cries never go unheard.

She is a wife by covenant. This does not mean that you can treat her however you wish and she is not allowed to leave you. That is contrary to everything we know about covenants. I have written on that before. Malachi is using Old Testament language to say what Peter says in the New Testament. She is a co-heir of eternal life, a wife by the covenant you made with her, and that covenant can be broken.

Israel understood broken covenants. They had already been cast out of the land because they broke the covenant with their God. And now, as they are resettling the land, they are treating their wives, whom they made covenants with, the same way.

Which follows – they deserve to be cast out.

God is bearing witness of your treachery, and refuses to hear your prayers as long as your wife is covering the altar with tears.

Matthew 5:25–26 (NKJV)
25Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
26Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

In Malachi, the adversary is the oppressed wife, crying out to the judge. Make peace with her before Christ comes in judgment. Repent of your treachery, for there is a God in heaven coming to hand you over to judgment.

In fact, it would be better to give her a divorce and send her away (verse 16).

Therefore, the wise man will hear.

Take heed to your spirit, and do not deal treacherously. (Verse 16)

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Filed under Divorce, Marriage

Co-heirs of eternal life

Have you seen the “trend” going around, where fathers are groomin…oops, I mean “training” – their daughters to serve men, cleaning after them, cooking for them, serving them at the table…?

It is really stomach-churning. But far worse, it isn’t Christianity. Maybe it is God’s desire that we teach our daughters to be more and more like Jesus; perfecting their gifts, using those gifts in their communities, learning to speak without fear, growing in wisdom and stature.

It is true that women, like all of humanity, are called to serve. Men are also called to serve. It isn’t a gender role thing, it is what it means to be like Christ.

Matthew 20:25–28 (NKJV)
25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.
26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—
28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Mutual service in Christ isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the fathers and mothers that teach their daughters that they are called to cook and clean and pick up after their fathers and brothers, that they are to serve, while the men are to be served.

And here is where it gets interesting. If I name the names of people who teach this (of which there are many) the response will be “Why did you name names? Did you confront them first? I know that they are good men who love the Lord!” And on and on.

But if I DON’T name names, then the response is “I’ve been a Christian my WHOLE LIFE and have never, ever heard anyone teaching this!”

Any reason at all to discount what I am saying. So I would simply invite you to look over my facebook page and see the hundreds of men and women who have been taught exactly what I am saying – that women’s goal is to be married and to serve men. Men are called to be served at home, since they have to do all the hard work.

None of this is taught in scripture. Yes, the scripture teaches women to serve. It also teaches men to serve. It teaches apostles and prophets, martyrs and pastors and teachers to serve.

And not just “I tell them what to do” kind of service, nor the kind of service like the Pope of Rome, surrounded by wealth, power and prestige and calling himself the “servant of servants”. This is not at all the kind of service that scripture calls for.

It calls for us – men and women – to put on the apron, do a load of laundry, mop the floor, bring our loved ones coffee, love, honor and respect one another.

When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, it was the work of a servant – THAT is the kind of service Jesus calls us all to.

If you are teaching your boys and girls to have a servant’s heart, you have no argument from me.

It is the teaching that only GIRLS are called to serve. That boys are called to lead and to BE served. None of this is in the bible.

Maybe we can do better. Maybe we can teach our daughters to grow to their full potential, led by the Holy Spirit, with gifts and callings and personalities all their own.

And maybe we can teach them that they can live their lives fully before the face of God without fear and shame, whether they ever marry or not.

Perhaps God’s will for our daughters, just like his will for our sons, is that they be conformed to the image of God’s Son, and thus become fully human, fully alive – without ever having to suppress their voice or their beauty or their wisdom out of fear of insecure masculinity.

Marriage should allow both men and women to be fully who they are before God, thriving and loving as image-bearers, and thus a fountain of blessing to all who know them.

Why isn’t this our goal?

I posted something similar to that on Facebook yesterday and people are losing their minds. I’m being called a hater of God, an unbeliever, a bad influence on Christian women, a pagan, a feminist, a heathen, non-reformed, a Satanist, and so on.

It got me thinking –

Pharaoh lost his mind when Moses said, “Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go.” He didn’t want to lose the work of the slaves. It, after all, was the order that his gods placed on the world. Pharaoh and Egyptian males first, women and Israelites next. Every knows that, right? It is the natural order of things.

But when God said, “Let my people go” it upended everything about Pharaoh’s religion and social order. That is why he couldn’t bend.

Similarly, even though the Lord so clearly loves and values women as his image-bearers, and did not create or redeem them to be the slaves of men, yet His cry, “let my people go!” upends the status quo and turns everything upside down. It arouses the same fury in the ones who hold the power.

BTW – I’m not speaking of divorce right now, I am speaking of letting go of the control and domination of wives and daughters and watching them thrive as image-bearers of God.

If the first thing your wife would do if you let go of your control and dominion is leave your sorry a#@, maybe you should rethink your lifestyle.

You could, maybe, learn to make your own sandwiches.

She is your fitting help, not your property or your servant.

Malachi 2:16 is often translated “God hates divorce”. I have written extensively on how bad that translation is. The Hebrew reads “Because he hates, let her go…”

It is the exact same word used in Moses’ instructions to Pharaoh. “Let my people go” or “let (her) go”. Set her free. If you hate her so much that she is odious to you, send her away.

If not, then please treat her as the scripture commands you to – as a co-heir of eternal life.

One day, you will stand before God and answer to how you treated her, a firstborn son, an heir of all things, and the bride of Christ.

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women

How I met my wife

The nineties were a heady time. Flannel shirts, grunge, Janet Reno jokes. I remember it well.

It was in the flurries and scurries of the nineties that I met my wife. It is an interesting story.

It starts with a poker game. I was sitting around the table with my brother, a gamer, a pseudo-philosopher and a hacker. The shots were flowing. Uma was dancing with Travolta on the TV and Marlon Brando was sitting by the fire in the corner with Neil Young and Pocahontas.

The gamer was forming a tin-foil hat for his head to keep the alien rays out and so he was distracted. The philosopher folded (you gotta know when to fold-em) and my brother was raising the pot. We kept going higher and higher, with the hacker matching me each time. Finally, my brother was out, and I went all in.

The hacker couldn’t match, but he wanted to stay in. Marlon Brando stopped mumbling and looked over. The pot was huge and the hacker was out of funds.

“Well”, I said, “What do you have?”

He thought for a moment, and then said, “I can hack Santa’s computer.”

I said “No way.”

He said, “Way” – cause it was the 90s.

The gamer said, “Woah…” but he might have been talking about his new tin foil hat design.

Brando and Young muttered something about the exploitation of the elves, but the atmosphere was too thick.

I said, “What would that do?”

“I can get you his naughty list”

“No way.”

“Way”

“Whoa”

And that is how I got a hold of Santa’s naughty list in 1995.

You all know who you are.

But when I saw Susan’s achievements that landed her on the naughty list, I was smitten. I had to meet this woman. Such daring! Such audacity! Such creativity! I had to meet her.

I couldn’t even repeat the things she did that got her on the list, because I don’t want to give the children ideas. But I couldn’t get her out of my head.

I began scheming.

I knew that she was planning on attending church camp with her family, so I signed up. Maybe we could cause some chaos together. Maybe I too could get on Santa’s naughty list! Oh the places we could go together. But banned from Santa forever, but banned together! I have chills just thinking about it.

I dreamed in my bed at night. My sweat soaked the sheets. Oh the naughtiness! What decadence! What a woman. What a woman!

We could run with scissors. We could NOT finish our plates. We could order dessert and skip the veggies! We could stay up all night and watch QVC with a devil-may-care attitude! We could order Mexican food on Thanksgiving. Oh the wickedness we could get up to! So completely and totally improper! We would make the world blush!

When I got to the camp, I stopped for ice-cream in a small shop and in she walked. The silence descended and in my mind’s eye, a chorus began to sing Orff. Her eyes! Her hair! Her wickedness! I was smitten. The future was pregnant with possibility!

So I hugged her. And she hugged back.

Yada, yada, yada – we were married a few months later.

Almost none of this is true. Some of it is, but as far as I know, she has never been on Santa’s list. Marlon Brando might have been a dream. The nineties were weird. We did pick up Mexican food on Thanksgiving once and she still doesn’t finish her plate, and sometimes she eats pie for dinner, so all of that is true.

Oh the other things I could tell you, too!

But here is what is true.

Her eyes smile peace, and when they lock with mine, I am home.

Today, December 27, we have been married for 27 years – I think. Neither one of us can do math.

What is the secret to a long and happy marriage?

Neither one of us read marriage books, go to conferences, or follow the fads. We are just gloriously ourselves, respect each other, love each other and always defer to each other.

We have never asked “Who is in charge” because when the two become one flesh, that question is an unwelcome intruder, like a mother-in-law on the wedding night.

Just keep your marriage vows and ignore the experts. You’ll be fine.

Lots of love, my wicked awesome wife! You are spectacular.

And the future is still pregnant with possibility. Even more, I should say.

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An Abusive Man’s Toolbox

It is in the best interest of an abusive man to use religious coercion to hold onto access to his victims.

Godly sounding “christianese” sometimes serves that purpose very well.

One phrase that sticks in my craw is this one:

“God designed marriage to make you holy, not happy.”

I can’t explain how this one became so popular, except by the first sentence above. But it is wrong.

God instituted marriage before the fall, when Adam and Eve both walked in God’s presence in the temple of Eden.

Adam was already holy when God presented him with Eve. Even was given to Adam as a fitting helper, and Adam exclaimed with joy, “At last! Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone!” And God saw it and said, “Behold, it is very good.”

Man’s lack of holiness came AFTER the fall, when he was driven from Eden, away from God’s presence. That holiness is only restored in the Second Adam.

By union with him, we are made what we are not. We are holy, because we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. He has consecrated himself so that he might consecrate us and present us to God, a bride without blemish and without spot. If you belong to Christ, you ARE holy, and you will be MADE holy – whether you are married or single, widowed or divorced, male or female.

But the design of marriage is the same as it has always been. For the happiness and joy of the two entering into marriage.

So that brings me to compassion. We are called to enter into the suffering and pain of others, especially of the body of Christ. When one member hurts, all members hurt. We are called to hurt and suffer together as well as rejoice together. But that is costly.

It takes time to enter into someone’s pain. It may cause you to re-evaluate everything that you thought was solid. It may cause sleepless nights, wrestling in prayer. It may cause you to weep, which is always uncomfortable.

But it may also cause you to have to step out of your comfortable worldview, where “we are all nice Christians here” and into a worldview where wolves terrorize sheep and the sheep are often left scattered and alone and vulnerable.

And that is never a comfortable zone for anyone to be in.

So when a sister or brother tentatively reaches out about pain in marriage, about the abuse she is suffering at the hands of her husband, about the horrible things that human beings can do to each other, it is far safer and more comfortable for the hearer to bounce it back, put up a “I-am-so-not-interested” wall and say,

“Marriage is designed to make you holy, not happy.”

Then make some mmm, mmmm, mmmm sounds. Grasp her hands and make a sad face, and send her on her way.

That way you don’t have to disrupt your own life with uncomfortable truths.

But it is wrong.

As members of Christ, we are to be as he is. We enter into suffering as he does. We walk with the wounded as he does. We pay the cost to sit with the vulnerable and suffering, because Christ paid the ultimate cost and we are honored to take up his cross with him. He paid the cost so that we might be delivered from the hard bondage of sin and misery and the kingdom of the devil.

And it should be our greatest desire to lead others to the paths of liberty. What a great joy when a sheep escapes from the mouth of a wolf!

So listen to the uncomfortable stories. Tear down the wall that you think is keeping you safe and learn to walk with the wounded. Bear the reproach of Christ, and the insults.

It is tremendously costly. Ask anyone who has made a habit of it, and they’ll tell you.

But when you do so, you will have the honor of being more and more like Christ, reflecting his comfort, righteousness and beauty to a wounded and hurting world.

“Be ye holy”, he says. “For I am holy.”

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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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“I hate divorce” follow up…

Sometimes I use this platform so I don’t have to keep typing the same thing over and over.

Several years ago, I posted about Malachi 2:16 “God hates divorce?”

And I followed it up here:

Every few years, someone brings up objections to my exegesis. If they are not reviling me (which is fairly common) I answer them. Generally like this:

Every translator translated it like I mentioned until the King James, and then they all followed suit. It became hallowed with use, but it, respectfully, is wrong.

The KJV also translated it assuming that the word “to send away” was an infinitive construct, as you do.

The problem is that the hebrew almost always uses the preposition “lamed” attached to the verb to indicate it as a helping verb. For an infinitive construct to stand alone without a preposition (as is the case here) it only admits of a very few uses, and a helping verb is not one of them. The infinitive construct without a verb is relatively rare in Hebrew.

So, when I translated this some years ago, I struggled with it. It was awkward, it wasn’t how Hebrew was normally used.

And then it occured to me – the 2s imperative has the exact same spelling and vowel points. Why do we assume it is an infinitive construct when the imperative is spelled exactly the same?

So I looked at the semantics that way

“Because” – or “that” (depends on context)

“He hates” – really can’t be translated honestly any other way – but I’ve read comments that say that it is a mistake, and the first person consonant dropped off by scribes centuries ago….)

Let go.

Run a quick search, with vowel points, on the word “send away” with the exact same spelling.

it comes up about 10 times, if I remember, and every time it means “set loose” send away, and almost always it was used by Moses while speaking to Pharaoh.

Thus sayeth the Lord “Let my people go”

Translated, let go, in this instance.

In Deuteromony 24 – the word to send away and the word “divorce” are contrasted to one another and not identical.

Quite frankly it just doesn’t mean what the KJV said it meant – other modern translations kept it the same because most evangelicals (those who buy bibles) don’t want to hear it. It is their favorite verse.

I know that I lost friends, lost church members, and was reviled publicly because of it. That is hard to go through.

But the Hebrew says what it says.

And thank you for the discussion. I have been reviled on it so many times, that an honest and intelligent discussion on it is a breath of fresh air.

Anyway, one other point – the “he”, which is the subject of “hates” can only refer to the treacherous man.

If it is referring to God, why does the Lord God refer to himself in the third person? Sometimes that is the case, but then it is clear that he is speaking of his triune persons. Here it is not at all that clear.

Also, if the first clause IS referring to God, “he hates”, then why does the second clause revert back to the treacherous man “For he covers violence with his garment…”

So the whole context – he is speaking in the third person of the treacherous man and then, all of the sudden, for three words, he is referring to the Lord God of Israel, and then back to the treacherous man.

It is just awkward.

This is why one grammar that I was checking on it posited that the “aleph” indicating first person must have dropped off in the copying process over the centuries and it REALLY says, “For I hate (to send away) – which, by the way, STILL doesn’t say, I hate divorce.

You would then have to change the infinitive construct to a participle to get it there and say, For I hate THE sending away – )

And that is closer, but still not there….so let’s make “send away” the same as “divorce”

For I hate divorce…”

And now you have something that isn’t there at all, but is repeated over and over and over again until it is believed to be biblical.

A couple of final points:

It matters. If you translate it correctly, you have not become a “liberal”, you have not become a white knight, and you are not, all of the sudden, against marriage and for easy divorce. Please try to separate what the scripture says from your modern social agenda.

What God hates is the treachery that leads up to divorce. What God hates is covenant breaking and hard hearts that sometimes makes divorce necessary.

What God hates is twisting his words to call the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent.

When you translate the verse correctly, you see God’s heart in this difficult passage. God hates treachery, violence, and hatred and he will come to judge the living and the dead. He is giving the opportunity for repentance, “Take heed to your spirit and do not act treacherously.”

To twist this around to “God hates divorce”, you turn it into a catch phrase to turn against the suffering and to send them back to their abuser.

“God hates divorce. So you have to suffer for his sake, just like Jesus did.”

Absolutely horrible and it really has to stop. WE’VE become the treacherous man that God is so strongly condemning.

Why do you think so many are willing to suffer so much reviling to get this passage right?

It matters.

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Marriage is not a cure

One of the most pernicious lies to come out of the “purity” movement is the lie that a young man can cure his ungodly lusts by getting married.

The damage that this has done to marriage is astounding. All false doctrine destroys in one way or another.

Young women are guilted into marriage, and the subjected to all sorts of abuse inflicted on them. And then they are denied any sort of help or relief, because “God hates divorce”, which isn’t even in the Bible.

So let me give you a interpretive guide. According to Jesus, everything in the scripture is for the purpose of increasing our love for God and our love for our neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40)

So if you believe that Scripture is giving you a justification for marital rape, abuse, assault, neglect and any other forms of hatred, I am here to warn you and to disabuse you of that notion.

God hates pride, scorning, reviling and the twisting of sexuality into a weapon of hatred.

So, where does the idea come from that if a man is burning with ungodly lust, then he is to get married and inflicted it on his wife?

From this passage:

8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.
9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Cor. 7:8-9)

Is Paul really teaching that self-control comes from pouring your lust upon your spouse? That cleansing and healing come another way than by the gospel?

Certainly not.

Paul is answering a specific question. First century Christians had a lot of questions about life and how to live now that Christ has come. Some early Christians were plaguing the church by teaching that really holy Christians didn’t get married. Others taught that really holy Christians were always married. Paul answers one of these questions, and then another.

In our text, he is responding to the accusation that he wasn’t really an apostle because God intended people to be married, and Paul wasn’t married. Paul is answering that accusation.

But he doesn’t want the “anti-marriage” party to have ammunition either. He is promoting love, not quarrels over the law.

So now, suppose there are two young people who have fallen in love. Both are believers. They can hardly sleep at night. They long to hold one another and live together as husband and wife.

And someone tells them that they can’t marry because…whatever reason they wish to insert here.

Paul is teaching them that marriage is good, designed by God. Sexuality is created by God and is good. A whole book in the Bible is about godly sexuality and how it is a picture of Christ and his church.

When we deny the right of  lovers to marry in the Lord, we are needlessly putting them at risk of fornication, but far worse than that, we are denying the goodness of God’s creation, teaching them that there is something about their bodies that is evil and wrong. False teaching about sexuality always increase shame and guilt and drive us into hiding, just as it did with our first parents in the Garden.

Even if they manage to avoid sinning against God, they are burning with passion with no relief in sight. It is like telling a starving man that food is a sin. It is not only wrong, it increases the torment of the conscience with no relief.

This is Paul’s concern. Let them marry!

He does not at all mean that a man who is addicted to pornography, violence, ungodly lusts and other sins can be “cured” by inflicting them on his wife.

There is only one cure for that. Repentance and faith and crying out daily for the gift of the Spirit.

Jesus died for us so that we might live. He did not die that we might continue in our pursuit of death.

Marriage is about love and unity, becoming “one flesh”. Sex is powerful and can become a tremendous weapon of hatred against those who are supposed to be safe. Love is safe, affirming, mutual and life-giving. Hatred destroys.

Don’t use the Bible to justify hatred.

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Male Headship again

I believe that the Scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.

I do not, however, identify with Complementarianism, believing that it, as formulized by John Piper, Wayne Grudem, et al., is a corruption of the Bible’s teaching.

That being said, it is curious to me that some of the Complementarian persuasion tend to emphasize the headship of the husband when it involves authority, making the rules, deciding all issues and demanding unquestioning obedience – but his headship is strangely missing when involving culpability.

For example, the male (according to many CBMW writers and bloggers) is the rational one, the one able to separate emotion from reason and therefore the one capable of making decisions. The woman is easily deceived, emotional, irrational, and therefore built for submission and nurturing.

And yet, at the same time, a male cannot be expected to control himself when a young girl happens to wear a sleeveless blouse. He cannot be trusted to dine with a female business colleague alone, and must be chaperoned when he is courting a young woman, and is excused from culpability in sexual assault if his victim is:

  1. not dressed right
  2. drinking too much
  3. in the wrong place at the wrong time
  4. straying from home
  5. bathing in the courtyard behind the walls of her home but visible from the neighbor’s roof.
  6. or being too attractive
  7. or simply being too feminine.
  8. or simply being a woman.

A man, according to some in the CBMW movement, is the natural authority and leader, according to nature and the Bible – unless it involves his own sexuality, in which case he is not in control at all. It seem strangely backwards to me.

In fact, it doesn’t take much research to see that whenever there is great sin involved, everyone is responsible except for the male in “authority”.

It seems to me that it goes back to the fall, with “the woman thou gavest me…”

And it also seems to me that the responsibility of headship involves, at the very least, the spiritual gift of self-control. Is not our example of headship Christ himself?

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women, Patriarchy

Born of the flesh…

Before Christ came into the world, God promised that the seed of the woman, which was to come through Abraham, Judah, David, and so on – would redeem the world.

For this reason, the genealogies were so, so important and the scripture is full of them. God would fulfil his promise, and the genealogies were given to trace God’s working through history as he brings forth the promised seed.

Until Christ. After Christ, there are no more genealogies.

What the Jews missed is the same thing that the modern patriarchalists miss – salvation isn’t in the family after the flesh. All that we inherit from the flesh is the corruption of Adam. All that we inherited from our fathers is the corruption of Adam.

Jesus corrected this way of thinking when he said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh…you must be born again.”

Nicodemus, like every good Pharisee, looked for salvation in the genealogy, rather than in the promised seed. But our earthly families mean nothing if we are not born again. Not even Abraham’s physical seed would inherit anything if they were not engrafted into Christ (Romans 11)

This is why Jesus said that unless we hate our fathers and our mothers and our earthly families, and our own lives we cannot see the kingdom of God.

It is true that many of us “inherited” the covenant of grace by the teaching of godly fathers, but this did not come through the flesh, but through the promise of the Spirit (Romans 9) – but that is another story.

As Christians, on the one hand we appreciate and strive for strong, godly families. But too often, we look for salvation there rather than in the seed. We repeat the same error as the Pharisees of old. We are not saved because of our physical descent. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. God calls his people from every family – the traditional one, the untraditional one. Single mothers, single fathers, divorced parents – to show us that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

When the modern patriarchalists speak of the father as the priest of the home, they deliberately forget that fathers have not been priests since the book of Exodus. The priesthood was given to Aaron and his sons and from that point, no father EVER sacrificed for his family in a manner acceptable to God. God, by the process of revelation, pointed to only ONE priest, and only one acceptable sacrifice – Jesus Christ.

Our whole salvation consists of this: we are taken OUT of our families according to the flesh and engrafted into Christ’s “family tree” by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3-4) and thus we are children of Abraham.

This is not to deny the 5th commandment. As children, we heed all their good instruction and correction, as the Heidelberg Catechism puts is. And as parents, we are to raise them in the Lord, not according to the flesh. Our boast is not in our family tree, but in Christ alone.

Sometimes we hear “As the family goes, so goes the church. As the church goes, there goes the world. But this is a misunderstanding of scripture. Righteousness will never come by the law, even the good laws. This is simply works righteousness, and we fall for it because who doesn’t want a happy family. But the teaching points us to the law, not to Christ. If the family performs right, the church will perform right and then society will perform right.

This is no different, in effect, then Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, or any other ism.

This is a big topic, but one I’ve been mulling over lately.

It is why Jesus was born of a virgin. Salvation is in the promise, not in the flesh.

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Filed under Gospel, Marriage

The Banner of Love

I’m preparing for Bible study tonight. God reveals himself to us by his names. His name revealed in Exodus 17 is “Jehovah-nissi” – which means, “Jehovah my banner”.

So I am doing a study on the word “banner” and got sidetracked by the Song of Songs.

3 As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. (Cant. 2:3-4)

In the history of the church, it has been noticed that there is a parallel between God’s love for his bride and a man’s love for his bride. This parallel is seen in the Song of Songs. In order to understand it, one first has to understand the ordinary language. This is a bride in love, praising her groom and overwhelmed with his love for her.

She sings, “His banner over me is love.” “Banner” in this instance is a flag. It is used as the flag identifying the tribes as they journeyed through Israel, similar to state flags today. A flag is a rallying point, an identification, a symbol that symbolizes the essence of the social structure.

Think about these words. His banner over me is love. Run it through your brain for a moment. Think about a man and a woman in love. Now think about the basis of a marriage covenant. What flag would you put over your covenant that sums it up completely – Authority and submission? Command and obedience? “Two ships that pass in the night?” “Two separate flags” “The male flag held up by a tired woman?”

Or “love”?

Maybe a quick example. Most frequently in CBMW circles, you hear this advice concerning wives and husbands. “A woman gets her say, but if the man and the woman can’t come to an agreement, then she must submit to what he says.” It sounds like good advice. And I know that I am finite and can’t possibly exhaust every possibility, but I cannot, for the life of me, think of an example of how this would work.

When I ask, I get something like this. “He wants to buy a motorcycle. She thinks it is dangerous and a waste of money. They can’t agree. Eventually, she must submit.”

Hmmmm. I guess I see things differently. If the banner over her is love, that brings to mind another question to the husband. “Why do you hate your wife so much that you are willing to cause her so much unrest and unease over something so trivial as a motorcycle?”

Take another example. “He thinks we must homeschool the children. This causes her great anxiety and she does not believe she can do it. They do not agree. She must submit.”

Really? If the banner over her is love, why doesn’t he love her enough to listen to her concerns? Is she not also a believer led by the Holy Spirit? Do her gifts and abilities matter so little to him? Is his commitment to a principle so important that he is willing to sacrifice his wife on that altar?

Do you see where I am going? It changes the question from authority and submission to one of love.

And a simple reading of the Song of Songs will show that true love of a woman is not the same thing as love for a pet or love for a possession. Love is not the attachment one has to property, but value, honor, respect, attraction, desire, longing. It upholds personhood and dignity, choice and opinion. Love desires communication and connection.

And when we have this straight, we have a tiny glimpse into who God is and what Christ has done for us. He also longs for us as we long for him. His banner over ME is love. And yes, this love changes my nature and my affections so that I more and more die unto sin because I know that my beloved hates it. But that is not the same as “authority/submission”. That dynamic was the dynamic of the Old Covenant, which was broken (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

And so, as the great Song prophesied, the Groom comes for his Bride, and his banner over us is love.

Like marriage, this dynamic changes everything.

How you think of your marriage will affect how you think of Jesus. How you think of Jesus will affect how you think of marriage. They go together.

And the question for both is this: Whom do you truly love? Yourself, or your wife?

Yourself, or Jesus Christ. Is your faith simply a love affair that you are having with your own sense of superiority? Or is it a living faith in a living savior? Do you long for the coming of the bridegroom, or are you more concerned about losing your position and your social status.

It’s something to think about, anyway.

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Filed under Gospel, Love, Marriage