The Definition of Marriage

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Answering the Gay Question Part 4

What does the Bible say about marriage?

There has been a lot of talk about what the definition of marriage is in this country.  Is it between a man and a woman or between two people regardless of sex?  The conservative Christians hold to the idea that the Bible states that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  After all God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

There is really very little consistency in the books of the Bible as to what really defines marriage.  Shall we have one spouse or multiple?  Is divorce ok or not?  Exodus 22:16 says that if a man rapes a women all he has to do is pay a price and he gets to marry her.  Good thing we don’t follow that one today.  I have found only one verse (1 Timothy 3:2 & 12) that says a man should only have one wife.  In that instance the writer is specifically talking about overseers and deacons and not necessarily about everyone.

What about Jesus?  Jesus didn’t really say much about who should marry.  His main statement is that there should be no divorce and boy we aren’t very good with that one.  In that verse he says, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulterer, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”  Matthew 5:22.  Many people argue that since Jesus said wife and did not talk about a husband’s husband or a wife’s wife that marriage is between a man and a woman.  My question to them would be why would he?  The question of homosexual marriage was not happening in their time.  If he started talking about irrelevant things then he would have become irrelevant.

Going back further to Adam (or Mankind as it could be translated, Eve meaning the source of life), there is a contradiction in the two creation stories that is worth looking at.  Many discuss that the two become flesh as meaning that God wanted male and female to partner up in marriage.  However in Genesis 1:27 it says that God created man (Adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created him, Male and Female he created them.  So they are already of the same material.  They are already of the same flesh.  So why would God (Elohim) in Genesis 1 create them in the same image and God (Yaweh), in chapter two create them differently?  Which is correct?

In Genesis 3 the story continues and Yaweh declares that the woman will be ruled by the male. (Vs. 16) By the way, that belief in male domination is about the only consistent marital connection throughout the Bible.

Also we must take into consideration that the writers of Genesis lived in the days when a man could have multiple wives and taught according to that belief.  Paul however said that you should only get married if you burn for another.  1 Corinthians 7:9-10.

1 Corinthians 7 also says that divorce is ok in some circumstances, that according to Jesus was not.  But according to the Pentateuch it is ok.  So which is right?  Isn’t Jesus supposed to be the final answer and yet our churches are full of divorced people?  Many of them are in leadership too, but that isn’t what the writer of Timothy says.

Colossians 3:18-19, 1 Peter 3:1 and Ephesians 5:22-33 all tell women to submit to their husbands as we do to the Lord.  There is no equality in this. We submit all things to the lord.  Our entire life is given up and we serve him faithfully.   Is this what women want? Do women want to serve the husband?  To give up their entire life and follow the man wherever he goes without getting explanations?

Of course we have rejected this idea and want a partnership in marriage.  We want one spouse for life.  But if that somehow does not work out, there is forgiveness and you can be reinstated in the church and in life.  There is no real sound definition in the Bible.  The only definition is what we want to believe it is.  Maybe that is how God left it.  For us to decide who we want to love.  After all, he loves us all and created us all, so why shouldn’t we be able to love that person who God created for us?

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Change Yourself Please

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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Leo Tolstoy

When I went off to college to begin my pastoral life I was ready to take on the world.  I remember even a few years after college saying that one day I would be preaching the ordination ceremonies.  I wanted nothing more than to win the world for Jesus and show people how ministry is supposed to be done. The churches that I served at changed that attitude, but made me a better person in many ways.  It made me want to stand up more against what I saw as hypocrisy in the church.

Even in college I was a little rebellious.  All the important people seemed to attend a church right next to the campus.  I went there some my first semester but found it lacking and many of the ministry students to be superficial.  Many seemed to only be going there because it was the in place to be, not because it was a place to do real ministry.  So this place was not for me.  I found myself at a church with very few of the college students, but at a place where I could really minister.  I was determined then not to be part of the “in crowd”.

My guess is that most people want to be in this kind of crowd.  Some people want to because it makes them popular, some because they won’t be noticed and some, because it’s easier than doing things yourself.  You don’t have to think for yourself.  Just agree with the crowd and go with the flow and there won’t be any trouble.  You’ll have a nice and easy Christian life.

I don’t think that is what Jesus was like.  He was an outsider who made waves.  Almost everyone who followed Jesus was not in the in group.  He did not make it easy for anyone to follow him.  His motto was “Follow me and die”.  Isn’t that really what “Take up your cross and follow me” means? According to tradition all of the disciples but John died because of their faith.  Why do we think that Christianity is supposed to be easy? No!  It’s supposed to be hard.  Hard to go against the crowd.  Hard to make a difference and yet a lot of Christians want to hole up in their nice cozy churches and sing their sweet hymns in their nice clothes, while bums on the street freeze and the next door neighbor goes hungry.

Christianity should shake up society, push them beyond their comfort zone into real love and acceptance no matter if you are an illegal alien or a homosexual (Samaritan) a government official (Give unto Caesar, tax collectors) women, men, rich or poor.  Jesus took time for each one of them and never put them down.  No he reached out to them.

Jesus said to pray for your enemies and those who persecute you.  Do you have enemies? Does anyone persecute you? If not maybe you should think of changing yourself.  All the great reformers (Christian or not) had enemies.  Jesus, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and even Mother Teresa had their enemies. Mostly from the institution they belonged to.  Jesus was a Jew and went to the temple like a good Jew but was rejected by its leaders because he showed them the true path to God instead of their traditional ways. The reformists were rejected by the church.  Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an American; Gandhi was killed by members of his own party.

All Christians are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  That means that if there is someone in need that we reach them.  We don’t ask them to be like us, or for their green card.  We just help them, care for them, love them.  Do you want to see the world change?  Be Radical, be a heretic, be a world changer by changing yourself.  Don’t be afraid of change, be afraid of not changing.

Rethinking Sodom

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The idea of marriage has been a big issue in the past few years.  I have taken opportunities to study and read a lot about what the Bible truly says about marriage , sexuality and relationships.  Sometimes I find myself surprised by what it actually says and sometimes what it doesn’t say.  This is not about marriage but it is about Christians possibly interpreting passages incorrectly.  So read the following and see if we might be doing just that.

Some of what I have read has suggested that our idea of the meaning of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah may be incorrect.  That it has nothing to do with sex, but how we treat each other.  The story in Genesis chapter 19 is compared with the story in Judges chapter 19.  The story in judges, I have never heard a sermon or Bible study that made the sexuality an issue yet the two stories have a lot in common.  Let us first look at the similarities between the two stories.

Both stories have strangers going into a town in which no one seemed to help them.  Eventually, someone came and took them into their home.  It was considered normal, even expected, that when a stranger came into the town that the people would immediately take care of their needs, yet in both stories this does not happen.

After the men are taken into these homes people of the town come and demand that this stranger be sent out so that they can rape them.  This is of course where we get the idea that it is about homosexuality.  However, most psychologists and counselors today will tell us that rape is not about sex.  It is about power or control over the other individual.  So did they want sex or to control or hurt the stranger whom they were supposed to protect and take care of?

Following this in both stories the people of the town are offered women.  The daughters of Lot are offered in Genesis and the daughter of the man of the town and the stranger’s concubine in Judges.  Remember that throughout the Biblical times women were simply property so they were simply trying to buy their way out of the situation.  The people of the town did not want the property.  That would not help them control or have power over the strangers.  In Judges the men of the town did take the property and destroyed it.  In other words they killed the concubine.

After these events the strangers were able to leave and then judgment came on the cities.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone and Gibeah was destroyed in a war with the other tribes of Israel.

Then both Lot and those of Gibeah are given wives and children through unconventional means.  Lot has sex with his daughters and the men of Gibeah kidnap some women for their wives.  Again, women are property so there is no protection for them.  And in the future King Saul was from Gibeah.  (1 Samuel 10:26) Lot’s children became the nations of Moab and Ammon.  The book of Ruth tells us that Ruth is about a Moabite.  Ruth is the great grandmother of King David.  So, both of these stories ended up leading to future kings of Israel.

Those that believe that this story is about how we take care of our neighbors or strangers also refer to Ezekiel 16:49 “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud and had plenty of food and lived in great comfort, but she did not help the poor and needy.”  So Sodom and her daughters were proud and did things I hate in front of me. So I got rid of them when I saw what they did.”

No place in this verse does it list sexuality, but it does list not taking care of others.  They also discus Isaiah 1:16 and 17 “Wash yourselves and make yourselves clean. Stop doing the evil things I see you do. Stop doing wrong.   Learn to do good. Seek justice. Punish those who hurt others. Help the orphans. Stand up for the rights of widows.”  In verse 10 of this chapter God starts comparing Jerusalem with Sodom and ends with these words.  Again, nowhere is sexuality used but taking care of others is mentioned.

Isaiah 3:8 & 9 continues this idea. Especially since the people of the town did these acts in the open seemingly with no care about it.

“This will happen because Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen. The things they say and do are against the LORD; they turn against him.  The look on their faces shows they are guilty; like the people of Sodom, they are proud of their sin. They don’t care who sees it. How terrible it will be for them, because they have brought much trouble on themselves.”  Isaiah 3:8 & 9

The final part of the discussion is that just before the strangers enter into Sodom, Abraham is visited by three strangers, but Abraham takes care of them.  He makes them a meal and spends time with them.  This is what we are called to do in contrast to what happens in Sodom.  Also, the conversation between Abraham and Yaweh in chapter 18 discusses the righteousness of the cities.  It never mentions any specific sins.

So what do you think?  Is it possible that we have misinterpreted this story?  I do encourage you to read the stories over again and see what you think.

I must add that Sodom is talked about in nine verses in the New Testament   Only Jude 1:7 seems to discuss sexual sins but does not specifically say homosexuality.  Sodom is mentioned 38 times in the Old Testament.  I have read all those verses but very few have anything to do with sexuality.  Most of those that do mention sexuality seem to deal with spiritual adultery and none mention homosexuality.   However, I encourage you to be your own judge.  Read them and get back to me.  I’ll be waiting.