December 24th, 2017AM
“A Loving Culture – Pt 1”
Aux Text: Matthew 22:34-40
Call to Worship: Psalm 85
Service Orientation: God is love. We are created in God’s likeness and image. We were created to love. God shows us how to get the most out of life by showing us what it means to love.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. — Matthew 7:12 & Luke 6:31
- (v. 1) The word “ignore” (1, 3, 4) literally means “hide oneself,” implying pretending not to see. There is a sharp contrast between the “seeing” (“look on”) and “hiding oneself” (vv. 1, 4), which shows the main point of these laws; seeing trouble constitutes an unavoidable obligation to help. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 337)
- (v. 1) Calvin says the present law shows that it is not enough simply to abstain from evil; to be guiltless before God one must also strive to do good. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 614)
- (v. 2) Ancient Palestinian houses had two levels: an upper level where the family lived and a stable on ground level where the animals were kept. Thus an animal could be brought into one’s house (1 Sm 28:24). Houses of modern Arab peasants are built similarly: three-quarters of the inner space raised for the living area and a lower level where animals are stabled (Canaan 1933, 35). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 615)
- (v. 5) Although the NIV assumes synonymity of words here by using the word “clothing” twice, these are two separate words, and the range of meanings for the former extends beyond “clothing” to vessels and receptacles, utensils, tools and implements, furniture and furnishings, and jewelry. Here it probably refers to any item of decoration normally associated with men. But the second term is more specific, referring to the outer wrapper or mantle. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 512)
- (v. 8) In 1 Sm 9:25-26, Samuel converses with Saul on the roof and spent the night there. David was walking on the roof of the palace when he saw Bathsheba (2 Sm 11:2). A tent was pitched on the roof so that Absalom “lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Sm 16:22). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 136)
The question to be answered is . . . What is God trying to tell us about love through lost livestock, clothing, birds and rooftops?
Answer: The law of God is a law of love. God is showing the practical out-workings of what it means to love.
Disappointingly, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham offers an editorial note that broadens Newsweek’s responsibility for this atrocity of an article: “No matter what one thinks about gay rights–for, against or somewhere in between–this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism,” Meacham writes. “To argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt–it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.” (Family News from Dr. James Dobson, January 2009)
If people are to live in harmony, they must be sensitive to the needs and scruples of others. Civility is defined as “the act of showing regard for others.” (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 505)
The Word for the Day is . . . Protect
Such laws about decency and consideration in one’s attitude and actions toward living beings are as striking as they are unusual in the ancient world. It is not that individually they are all important. Indeed, several of them appear trivial. Rather it is the motivating force which brought them into being. They are illustrations of the practical application of the law of neighborly love. This law is not stated in Deuteronomy, but it is implicit throughout. The union of the love and the law of God in the covenant faith furnished the Israelite with a sense of purity, propriety, and consideration which rested upon an inner rectitude which law could only express but not compel. (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 463)
What does it mean to love?:
I- Love means you protect and preserve your neighbor’s (and enemies – Ex 23:4-5) property as you would your own. (Dt 22:1-3; see also: Ex 23:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 7:12; 22:37-40; Lk 6:31)
Technological advances have rushed our lives to such an extent that we are no longer used to doing inconvenient things and adjusting our behavior out of concern for our neighbors. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 505)
The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. The Israelite who saw a brother’s ox or sheep straying was not to ignore it. He was to go to the trouble to take it back to him. The fact that the brother did not live nearby was irrelevant; he lived somewhere. If he could not be located, the Israelite was to take the animal home where it could be fed and kept until the owner came looking for it. By these words, Moses invested love for one’s neighbor with a healthy dose of reality. The Israelite who names the name of Yahweh must exhibit Yahweh’s attribute of personal concern. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 260)
Verse 1 involves stray sheep or oxen that are vulnerable to wild animals and thieves. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 511)
The person who loves is never indifferent to what might bring pain or loss to another. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 260)
Certainly the expression “finders keepers, losers weepers” has no validity in light of this teaching. The finder is to take positive action to ensure that the lost item is returned to its rightful owner. Too often, our natural tendency is to consider our time and energy more valuable than someone else’s lost possession. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 240)
A “finders keepers, losers weepers” ethic is to be resisted; whatever one finds is to be returned to its owner. If the owner lives far away or if his identity is unknown, the finder must bring the animal home and care for it until the owner comes to claim it, or until the unknown owner identifies himself. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 211-2)
The command to love our neighbor as ourselves appears nine times in the Bible, but the Bible does not specify and say that we are to love only the neighbors we like. This covers all neighbors. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 507)
II- Love means giving a hand wherever needed. (Dt 22:4; see also: Lev 19:18; Mt 5:40-42; 7:12; 22:37-40; Lk 6:31; 10:29-37; 1 Jn 3:17)
As Warren Wiersbe says, “Emergencies don’t make people; they show what people are made of.” Wiersbe says that when a terrible storm destroyed thousands of trees in his town, “some people took advantage of the situation and used their chain saws to collect exorbitant fees from helpless people. Love of money won over love for their neighbors. But others, including many teenagers, went from place to place donating their services to help those who couldn’t help themselves.” (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 506)
It is not a crime to ignore the needs of our brothers, but it is unholy and wrong from God’s perspective. We must go beyond what the Law requires and go the second mile in helping our neighbors (see Mt 5:40-42). (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 508)
In farming communities one often finds a degree of the good-neighborliness demanded here; but in urban societies there is a well-entrenched custom of “passing by on the other side.” The Christian ethic, taught by Jesus himself (Lk 10:29-37), endorses the principle of these verses, not just towards one’s brother or neighbor, but towards all men. To fulfill it requires not only the right attitude of mind and the willingness to take positive steps to give help, but first and foremost, the mental readiness to observe and perceive the difficulties and problems of other people. There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 126)
Concern for an animal fallen on the road requires that anyone passing by should help it to its feet (v. 4). This does not necessarily refer to an animal that had strayed. More likely it envisages an animal fallen under a load with the owner beside him (Ex 23:5). Because of the weight of the load, the owner alone is unable to assist the animal to its feet. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 135)
This particular passage deals with our actions toward another person. If a “brother” has a problem, Moses declares that “you shall not. . . hide yourself from them.” In other words, don’t withhold your help from him. The parallel law in Ex 23:4, 5 uses the word “enemy” in place of Deuteronomy’s “brother.” This reminds us of Jesus’ exhortation in Mt 5:44 to love our enemies and of His teaching in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37). Our “neighbor” is anyone in need, whether friend or foe. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 240)
No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he had only had good intentions. — Margaret Thatcher
Christians have earned the criticism of being judgmental and arrogant because we stand against things that others accept for supposedly “humanitarian” reasons–abortion, euthanasia, homosexual practice, the idea that all religions are ways to salvation, and so on. One way to overcome this criticism is to live lives of radical concern even for those who oppose us. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 507)
A Christian missionary and companions in Africa were traveling on a rough road when their vehicle got stuck. Unable to get the vehicle out of the mud, they hailed a vehicle that was passing by to get help. Those in the vehicle ignored the request and went merrily along. They finally got their vehicle out of the mud and proceeded with the journey. Sometime later they encountered the vehicle that had ignored their request for help stuck on the road. The driver said, “Ah, here’s our chance to get even with these rascals.” But the missionary told the driver to stop their vehicle and proceeded to help those people. When they were driving away after helping them, the driver of the vehicle told the missionary, “Now I see the difference between my religion and yours. We try to repay evil for evil. You return good for evil.” (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 506)
A man may not have stolen another person’s animals or left his neighbor’s gate open, but God not only wants us to resist doing bad things; he also wants us to be alert to do good things. He wanted his people to stretch their kindness beyond the comfortable boundaries of those who like us, or those who look like us. In Ex 23:5 Moses even said, “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.” Such everyday acts of good will for others would give evidence of a heart attuned to a gracious God. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 196-7)
III- Love means being free to be who you are, not what you are seduced or deceived to be. (Dt 22:5; see also: Rom 1:18-32)
If you consider it truly, there is an incongruity that nature itself abhors. For why, man, do you not want to appear to be what you were born as? Why do you put on a strange guise? Why do you ape a woman? Or why do you, woman, ape a man? Nature arrays each sex with its own garments. Men and women have different customs, different complexions, gestures and gaits, different sorts of strength, different voices. (Ambrose, Letter 15 .2) (Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 3, 312-3)
Similar to verses 9-11, this inunction seeks to preserve the order built into creation, specifically the fundamental distinction between male and female. For a person to wear anything associated with the opposite gender confuses one’s sexual identity and blurs established boundaries. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 512)
Verse 5 might appear to be out of place in a discussion of the preservation of life, but that is not the case. Moses insisted that Israel not blur distinctions that go to the continuance of life itself. A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing. The prohibitions against cross-dressing are not pointed at masquerade parties but at a larger issue–the loss of male and female roles in a healthy society. Israelites were to respect God’s design and not call their assigned sexuality into question by wearing inappropriate clothing. Moses knew that behavior provokes values just as values promote behavior. The Lord detests such behavior because it places a fog around distinctions that he constructed. God is against anything that blurs the lines between the sexes. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 261)
“There is a direct correlation between our anxiety and our efforts to live up to the false image of who we or others think we ought to be.” — Steve Brown
So natural is sin, and so unnatural are God’s requirements, that almost the entirety of the Bible tells the story of man’s inability to obey these requirements through his own natural effort. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 153)
The morality that God demands of man stands in contrast to the standards of behavior that come to him naturally. Precisely because these standards go against our nature, we need to be reminded of God’s law every day of our lives; and every generation must recall this law and claim it anew for itself. Thus the ancient Israelites were commanded at Sinai always to wear specially woven tzizit or “tassels.” (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 159-60)
The chief result of the Fall is that we now determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. But in this self-determination we are far less free and independent than the serpent’s lie convinces us we are. In fact, to our natural, impulse-driven compulsions we are slaves and do not know it, comfortable in a state of bewitchment. In modern language, we are in denial.
Into this cold, Luciferian illusion of freedom from sin, freedom from the consequences of choice, and darkness masquerading as illumination, God shone on ancient Israel the true searchlight of a law above, outside of and prior to fallen nature. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 163)
No honest look at current scientific research allows us to view homosexual practice as peaceable and harmless. For the vast majority of homosexual men, and for a significant number of homosexual women–even apart from the deadly plague of AIDS–sexual behavior is obsessive, psychopathological and destructive to the body. If there were no specific biblical principles to guide sexual behavior, these considerations alone would constitute a compelling argument against homosexual practice. Our bodies must not be martyrs to our desires. (Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 130)
For Paul, homosexual behavior epitomizes, in sexual terms, the revolt of humanity against God. It is sinful because it violates the plan of God, present from creation, for the union of male and female in marriage. (Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 162)
Paul’s profound analysis of the human condition in Romans 1 finds in homosexuality an example of sexual sin that falsifies our identity as sexual beings, just as idolatry falsifies our identity as created beings. Homosexual behavior is “revolting,” not because heterosexuals find it so–they have their own dirt to deal with (2:22)–but because it epitomizes in sexual terms the revolt against God. It is sinful because it violates the plan of God, present from creation, for the union of male and female in marriage. (Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 85)
The concern is either to discourage homosexuality, or to prohibit transvestite practices found in Canaanite and Mesopotamian worship (Braulik 1922a: 161-2). The latter is suggested by the word “abhorrent” (cf. 12:31). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 337)
Almost certainly it is about the perverted crossing of genders either in orgiastic rites involving transvestitism, or in some form of pagan worship, or both. The final phrase of the law shows that some form of serious immorality or idolatry was involved. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 241)
There was a connection between cross-dressing and some features of Canaanite fertility religion. Worship directed to Astarte, the twin sister of Baal, sometimes featured men masquerading in women’s clothing and women appearing in men’s clothing. Homosexuality was also associated with Baal worship. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 197)
The immediate design of this prohibition was not to prevent licentiousness, or to oppose idolatrous practices (the proofs which Spencer has adduced of the existence of such usages among heathen nations are very far-fetched); but to maintain the sanctity of that distinction of the sexes which was established by the creation of man and woman, and in relation to which Israel was not to sin. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 409)
The power of the testimony of Christians rises in direct proportion to their unwillingness to mix truth with error and to trim their sails to the prevailing winds of the culture. Purity brings no one to Christ, but it does give credibility to those who proclaim him. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 260)
As the property of a neighbor was to be sacred in the estimation of an Israelite, so also the divine distinction of the sexes, which was kept sacred in civil life by the clothing peculiar to each sex, was to be not less but even more sacredly observed. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 409)
Styles change from one time and place to another; it’s impossible to dictate a specific dress code for all the rest of human history. God wants men and women to appreciate the dignity of their own sex, instead of assuming the appearance or preferring the role of the opposite sex. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 198)
During the days of Moses, garments worn by men and women were very similar (robes); so this command was designed to keep a woman from appearing as a man for purposes of licentiousness. The major difference between male and female robes was their decoration or ornamentation. This passage does not teach against women’s wearing slacks, hats, shoes, gloves, or other items that are now worn by both sexes, but rather against the wearing of any item specifically intended for the opposite sex. The distinctives of each sex should be maintained and protected in regard to outward appearance. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 241)
The impersonation of the opposite sex is usually for vulgar and lewd entertainment. In heathenism such exchange of garments was generally for immoral purposes. (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 464-5)
Over time, the choices we make fall into ever more predictable patterns because the pattern of choices tends to be self-reinforcing. As we practice certain behaviors, they become easier and easier and we become “better and better” at them. As they become easier, we also tend to choose them. The more we choose them, the more deeply embedded they become, and so on. What starts out relatively free becomes less so as time goes on. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 144)
Maintaining that morality is determined by nature is a specifically pagan error that we fall into when we argue either that homosexuality is right because it is genetic or that it is wrong because it is not. Ultimately, any rootedness of homosexuality in nature does not remove it one whit from the domain or moral choice. In its genetic, familial, or psychological influences, homosexual impulses and behavior are no different than the many other natural behaviors that God, in spite of their naturalness, calls sin. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 160)
The modern mind sees the demand that we live to some extent against our own natures as merely foolish, or misinterprets it as implying a radical asceticism that rejects all forms of pleasure. But it sees as truly cruel the judgment that supposedly falls on us for not being willing to resist our genetic influences. To the modern mind, as to ancient pagans, our bodies are ours to do with as we please so long as we feel we harm no one else. This is not the biblical view at all:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20 (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 161)
From a certain perspective it might seem strange that God would establish a standard of behavior impossible for us to meet. This is the perspective of those who claim that a genetic component to homosexuality–or to any other impulse–contradicts its sinfulness. But from the Judeo-Christian point of view, when we honestly confront what our natures, left to their own devices, really are–and what in the way of suffering they produce–we can only be grateful that we have been granted a vision of genuine goodness, however beyond our grasp. In this state of sorrow at our inadequacy, we can turn from prideful dependence on ourselves to voluntary dependence on God. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 162-3)
Thus Rabbinic discussions of homosexuality begin with the fact of its sinfulness and moral unacceptability but quickly make two important points. First, as in all matters pertaining to human failings, a strict distinction must be maintained between the sin and the person. Although homosexual behavior is to be condemned, homosexual persons are as beloved of God as everyone else; they are to be treated with no less dignity than we want for ourselves. This is, of course, no different than what the Christian position is ideally–hating the sin but loving the sinner. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 218)
Monotheism observes that although the satisfaction of instinctive drives gives pleasure, by itself it ultimately does not give joy. It knows, rather, that we are so constituted–because of our dual nature–as to require something that goes beyond mere pleasure; that the pursuit of pleasure apart from God leads inevitably to emptiness and despair; that to worship pleasure is ultimately to court despair and thus to seek death. (Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth, 234-5)
Of course Paul did not write of “sexual orientation,” but if we apply the category to his thought, it is apparent that he does not assume that each person has a heterosexual orientation; rather, he explains that created humanity has a heterosexual orientation that has been corrupted by rebellion against God. (Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 82-83)
IV- Love means protecting and preserving Mother Nature. (Dt 22:6-7; see also: Gen 1:28-30; 9:2-3; Dt 20:19-20; Psa 8; Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31)
The wisdom of this counsel is obvious. Taking the mother but sparing the young would have meant the death of all, for unhatched eggs and fledgling birds depend on the mother. Israelites are not to kill for killing’s sake, nor to exploit natural resources without concern for the survival of the species. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 513)
The protection of the mother bird has an analogy with the fruit trees, spared in siege warfare (20:19-20). The common idea is preserving the means of life. There may also be a respect for the mother bird as life-giver, echoing the law forbidding boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 337-8)
Moses was teaching the Israelites to protect their food source. By letting the mother go they could anticipate the production of more young in the future. Again we see the relationship between our obedience and God’s blessing, “that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days.” (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 242)
If the mother is also taken for food, then the population of birds would be depleted, and food would become scarce. This rule paves the way for the many hunting rules in operation today that regulate how many animals of a given species may be killed in a given season. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 509)
Animals are part of God’s creation, and we have been given the responsibility to care for all creation (Gn 1:28-30; 9:2, 3). Principled living goes beyond our attitude toward the nonhuman aspects of creation. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 510)
Michaelis (1814, 2:427-8) thinks this directive is not a law per se, but more like “a rule, the breach of which is punished by the transgressor being no longer considered a true sportsman, but a poacher, and a disgrace to the fraternity of Jägers (hunters).” People taking birds along the path will do so unobserved, making this a rule hard to enforce. It will have to work largely on the honor system, like present-day hunting and fishing. Hunters will not kill young deer, and fishermen will throw back undersized fish. Michaelis does agree that judges could still have punished transgressors of this rule (just as modern-day game wardens can fine violating hunters or fishermen), also that a transgressor might later want to make a guilt offering when his conscience begins to bother him. One must also recognize a humanitarian concern in this law (Driver; von Rad), seen elsewhere in the injunction not to boil a calf in its mother’s milk (14:21) and in the Levitical law not to slaughter a cow or ewe with its young on the same day (Lv 22:28). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 619)
Well-being in the land will depend upon people being careful not to extirpate indigenous birds. Michaelis (1814, 2:419-22), like Calvin and others, thought this law was promulgated in order to protect the species, to keep it from extinction or near-extinction. He says the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus would understand it better than theological commentators. Extirpation of a species can upset the balance of nature. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 619)
V- Love means promoting the welfare and safety of everyone. (Dt 22:8; see also: Ex 21:28-34; Lev 19:18; Mt 7:12; 22:37-40; Lk 6:31)
It is another case of concern not merely not to kill, but actively to care for the lives of others at one’s own cost. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 338)
The roof of a house was used for many purposes, such as sleeping in the summertime, doing household chores, and entertaining. Because of this constant use, a parapet was to be built around the outside edge of the roof for safety purposes.
If an accident occurred and there was no wall or railing around the roof, the homeowner would be liable. The building of a parapet not only protected the host from guilt but was an opportunity to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18) by showing concern for the safety of others. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 242-3)
Heidelberg catechism question # 105
- What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?
- I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor–Not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds–And I am not to be party to this in others (Gn 9:6; Lv 19:17-18; Mt 5:21-22; 26:52); rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge (Prv 25:21-22; Mt 18:35; Rom 12:19; Eph 4:26).
I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either (Mt 4:7; 26:52; Rom
Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword (Gn 9:6; Ex 21:14; Rom 13:4).
Worship Point: Worship the God of the Universe Who wants you to live life in all of its abundance so He gives us His Laws so we might better know how to do that.
I think one of the biggest problems 21st Century Western civilization has in regard to today’s message is the fact that we hardly ever recognize that this is God’s world and we ought to give heed to how He wants us to treat it and run it. We have assumed that we have authority to do as WE want with total disregard for the wishes of the Creator. This not only lends itself to our backing ourselves into corners we have no way of getting out of; but we deeply offend the God of the Universe Who should be worshiped and obeyed; not ignored and snubbed. — Pastor Keith
Gospel Application: Jesus knew that the greatest thing we needed for our welfare and benefit was for someone to come and live for us the perfect life we were supposed to live and die the death we deserved to die. That is why there is a Christmas. Jesus came and fulfilled the Law.
To say that those things that God forbids are not wrong is to burn the bridge of repentance which is the only way to God. — paraphrase of Steve Brown
When Jesus encountered a woman caught in adultery (surely a member of an oppressed group), he responded not by saying, “Go and do what your body tells you to do,” but “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11). The Bible does not liberate people from righteousness, it liberates them to righteousness. (Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 59)
A number of years ago a particular denomination issued a report on human sexuality. Among other things, it suggested that we should no longer label as sin such things as fornication, homosexuality, adultery, or pornography. When I heard of the report I was so angry that I literally could not speak. I apologized to the congregation, sat down, and tried to compose myself.
Never before had I experienced anger that made me speechless. Usually, the angrier I become, the better I talk. After praying about it, I realized that for one of the few times in my life, I was experiencing the anger of God–and it was a fearsome thing to behold!
Listen carefully: God was not angry because of the sin of homosexuality, fornication, adultery, or pornography. Does that surprise you? God was angry–and I believe that I expressed that anger in my speechlessness–because the report had said that sin was not sin, thus burning the bridge of repentance, which is the only real source of power for the Christian. The report’s horror was not that it seemed to forgive some horrible sin. God does that all the time. The report’s horror was that it said that there was no need for forgiveness. (Steve Brown, Born Free, 158-9)
Spiritual Challenge: As Christians we need to be conscious of how we can better promote the welfare of all. We should be the most compassionate, the most generous, the most safety minded, the most environmentally aware and the most loving. How are we doing?
To grow in faith you must be willing to risk. The greater the risk the greater the opportunity for growth in faith. (Chuck Swindoll message, Faith and Vision)
Deuteronomy, then and now, reminds us that we are a community. The behavior of one affects others. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 243)
So What?: In 21st Century Western Civilization we are told from nearly every political, social, economic, special interest, religious, or civil voice how to promote what is best for the world. I would not trust any of them . . . ONLY God. Allow God’s Word and His Spirit to guide and inform you of how to best live as God intended.
To the extent that I reject my ragamuffin identity, I turn away from God, the community, and myself. I become a man obsessed by illusion, a man of false power and fearful weakness, unable to think, act, or love.
Gerald May, a Christian psychiatrist in Washington D. C. writes: “Honesty before God requires the most fundamental risk of faith we can take: the risk that God is good, that God does love us unconditionally. It is in taking this risk that we rediscover our dignity. To bring the truth of ourselves, just as we are, to God, just as God is, is the most dignified thing we can do in this life.” (Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 138)