Friday, July 31, 2015

God Made Them Male and Female

And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment [regarding divorce]. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:5-9).

Supporters of same-sex marriage took quite the arrogant victory lap on social media last month when the Supreme Court handed down their decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Two major focuses of the assault seemed to be 1) Christians shouldn’t judge homosexuals because their holy book tells them not to judge, and 2) Christians are just haters and homophobes, because Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. In a previous article I examined one of the memes prevalent in my Facebook news feed, which I referred to collectively as the “Judge not…” meme. This article will focus on a rather irritating, though clever, little meme featuring Stephen Colbert, which asserts that Jesus never had anything to say about homosexuality.

Fellow Christians, I hate to admit it, but Jesus never said the word, “Homosexual.” He never explicitly said anywhere in the New Testament, “Don’t go around having sexual intercourse with other people who are the same sex as you.” I’ve searched the New Testament front to back and still can’t find a passage where Jesus denounces legislation legalizing gay marriage. I guess that the “marriage equality” crowd has got us on this one, and we need to fall into line with the rest of main-line liberal Protestantism, and a big chunk of American Evangelicalism.

Before we go painting #LoveWins on our LCMS churches in rainbow colors and ordaining transgender pastors, perhaps we should go back and take one last look at the things Jesus did say regarding marriage, men, and women. After all, just because the word “homosexual” wasn’t uttered by Jesus, doesn’t necessarily mean that he condones the lifestyle. If that were the proper method for interpreting the Scriptures, we could do away with the doctrine of the Trinity, as that word is also MIA from the pages of the Bible.

When asked by the Pharisees about divorce, Jesus appeals to the beginning of creation. He points out to them that, “God made them male and female,” a fact which was obvious to his audience. Jesus is saying here, however, that the estate of marriage was intended by God from the beginning to be comprised of a man and a woman. It is the natural created order. Or, if you are a Darwinian Naturalist, it is the natural law produced through “millions” of years of “evolution.”

In this passage, Jesus defines what marriage is, and his definition makes it clear that gender is essential to it. He doesn’t have to continue on and say, “But God did not make them male and male; neither did He make them female and female, nor male and female and female, or…” All other combinations are excluded by the example which Jesus gives. Societies can pass laws legalizing whatever type of relationships they wish, but no human law can negate the natural law God has built into his creation. God made them male and female and, for this reason a man leaves his father and his mother and becomes “one flesh” with his wife.

But what about polygamy in the Bible? What about adultery? Jesus can’t mean that marriage is supposed to be exclusively between one man and one woman, because the Bible is full of polygamy, adultery, and all other manner of what up-tight confessional types call “sin.” Yes, the Bible does record many instances of polygamy. I am well aware of Abraham and Solomon. The Bible also records many murders, thefts, and other felonies, but this does not mean that God is giving mankind Carte Blanche to commit these acts. The Bible records that Cain murdered Abel, yet we don’t call for the legalization of murder because it’s “in the Bible.” The Bible records David’s adultery with Bathsheba, yet we do not claim that it is sanctioning such behavior by us in the present day. The Bible isn’t even sanctioning such behavior by the people about whom it reports, contrary to what the liberal Bible scholars and social activists would have people believe. God specifically judges the actions of David, Solomon, and many others by commanding, “You shall not murder,” and “You shall not commit adultery.” Likewise, the Bible records at least one instance of homosexual behavior in the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18 and 19 recounts the destruction of Sodom because of its wickedness:

Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know,” (Genesis 18:20-21).

What was the sin of Sodom? Homosexual lust.

But before they [the two angels] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them,” (Genesis 19:4-5).

Lot’s plan to avert the assault of the townspeople on his angelic visitors was less than noble. He offers his daughters to the crowd as a substitute, perhaps rationalizing that heterosexual rape of his virgin daughters would be less wicked than the homosexual rape of guests under the protection of his roof. Yet, no one in their right mind would suggest that the Bible condones fathers handing their daughters over to be raped. Nevertheless it’s recorded in the Bible. 

Those passages about Sodom and Gomorrah are from the Old Testament though! They don’t apply, and that still doesn’t negate the fact that Jesus never said anything condemning homosexuality. Checkmate! Well, not so fast…

In the passage cited above Jesus quotes the Old Testament, specifically Genesis 2:24, by which he calls to mind the passage read at many a Lutheran wedding:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Genesis 2:18-25).

Jesus Christ is Immanuel – God, with us, God incarnate. He is the image of the invisible God, by whom all things were created.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:15-20).

Jesus is the very God who created and sustains the world. He told the Jews this and, when they heard him assert that he was the great I AM who had told Moses his name through the burning bush, the God who spoke to Abraham, they were ready to stone him for blasphemy. The Jesus speaking to the Pharisees in Mark 10:7 is the same person speaking the words recorded in Genesis two. 

That also makes him the God who spoke the words recorded in Leviticus 20:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them (Leviticus 20:13).

While Jesus in the Gospels does not use the word homosexual, the Apostle Paul does, offering the negative argument concerning the practice. St. Paul explicitly states that men who practice homosexuality with not inherit the kingdom of God.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Did you also notice how St. Paul singled out homosexuality? Quite to the contrary, St. Paul records a list of sinful behaviors, including homosexuality, which does not leave out one person. It’s like a buffet of sinfulness – everyone can find something that they like. St. Paul continues, however, reminding the Corinthians that, despite having once been sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, etc., they have been redeemed by Christ.

St. Paul also takes Jesus’ thread from Mark 10:7 regarding the one-flesh union and explains it further, calling the Corinthians – and us today – to repent of our sins, flee from sexual immorality of all kinds, and glorify God in our bodies:

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

It is clear, even to someone who is not a Christian, that the male body was not designed (or did not “evolve,” if you want to appeal to the secular Darwinist) to mate with another male body; Likewise with two female bodies. The fact that people crave such relationships proves that something has gone terribly wrong with creation (Engelbrecht 2009). That thing is sin, and no human being since The Fall has been immune to it. In fact, we have all been utterly corrupted by sin from the time of our conception. That corruption may not manifest itself as a desire to fornicate with people of the same gender in some, but it does in many. And, those who do not struggle with homosexual desire most certainly struggle with something else. We are all in the same boat when it comes to sin, and our complete inability to overcome it.

The problem is that liberal Bible “scholars” and social activists don’t believe that Jesus is God. They don’t believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God. They don’t believe that St. Paul is an Apostle. They believe in moral relativism because that gratifies their flesh. Nothing, short of God changing their hearts, will change their darkened minds.

As Christians we are called, as St. Paul called the Corinthians, to abhor the sin of homosexuality – and all sin – and to flee from it. We must also bear in mind that Christ shed his blood and died for all men – for the homosexual, the idolater, the adulterer, the thief, the hypocrite, the murderer, the liar – no matter in what particular ugliness their sin might manifest. A homosexual, like any other sinner, needs to hear God’s word of Law and Gospel applied to their life with the goal of repentance and faith (Engelbrecht 2009).

Works Cited

Engelbrecht, Rev. Edward A., ed. The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Judge not...

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye,” (Matthew 7:1-5).

In the wake of the same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court, Facebook was deluged with memes celebrating the victory. Two of the most common memes I encountered were 1) of Stephen Colbert wanting to read what Jesus said about homosexuality in the Bible, but not being able to because he never said anything about it, and 2) some clever picture of Jesus reminding Christians to, “Judge not…” Christians may have allowed the secular society to legally redefine marriage, but we should not allow the secular, unbelieving world to misuse God’s word as a weapon against his Church. After all, when Our Lord was tempted in the wilderness, and Satan attempted to use Scripture to trap Jesus, Jesus answered right back with Scripture. So, in response to the “Judge not…” meme, here is some Scripture which I hope will put the opening of Matthew chapter seven into some context.

At first glance, this opening passage of Matthew chapter seven looks like it is telling Christians never, under any circumstances, to judge anyone else, or those same standards of judgment will be applied to them. In a way that is true. Because this passage is used to bludgeon Christians into remaining silent in the face of sin, however, one must look a little deeper into the context to find out whether or not this is what Jesus was really saying. After all, this is the same Jesus who called the Pharisees vipers and turned over the money-changer’s tables in the temple. Jesus clearly teaches his disciples to judge. The issue is that we must judge properly, using God’s Word as the standard for our judgment, rather than our own personal morality or behavior. 

Generally speaking, people are only familiar with the, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” part of this passage. What people often fail to recognize is that Jesus, in the same paragraph, called his disciples to “take the log out of your own eye,” so that they could see clearly to “take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Jesus did not forbid his followers from judging sin. He called them to judge the sin of others (the specks) in the light of their own sin (the logs), only after proper self-examination and repentance.

The “Judge not…” passage comes at the climax of what theologians have come to call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27). Most people, even if they aren’t church-goers, are familiar with the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with the Beatitudes:

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” (Matthew 5:2-12).

Throughout the secular world, not to mention American Evangelicalism, the Beatitudes are often understood as a quid pro quo. If you are poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is yours, so work really hard to be as poor in spirit as you can. If you do this, then you get that, or this thing will happen to you. Jesus, however, is not declaring here an ethical demand of his followers by laying out a law of behavior or attitude. The Beatitudes are not so much a mountain of law which one is to climb to be a better Christian, but rather it can be seen – particularly by your “old” man – as a mountain of law under which one is to be totally crushed.

Make no mistake, Jesus is certainly also assuring his disciples of God’s goodness, and the future blessings in store for them. The crushing weight of the law, however, must first bring us to see our sin and to repent of it. This repentance and forgiveness comes as the gracious gift of God through the Gospel. The Christian is simul justus et peccator – simultaneously justified and sinner. My new man hears in the Beatitudes assurance of God’s goodness and future blessing; my old man hears law and judgment. When we recognize our own spiritual poverty, when the Lord leads us to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, when He makes us pure in heart so that we seek to worship only the true God, then we are blessed, now and forever (Engelbrecht 2009).

Jesus goes on from here and continues with this theme. He tells his disciples that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them[1]. In other words, man is still responsible for keeping the law. He tells them that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, they will never enter the kingdom of heaven[2]. At this point, I imagine the disciples would have been shocked. Who could be more righteous than the Pharisees? The Pharisees were the very definition of righteous. If, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, I must be more righteous than the Pharisees, I must be utterly lost. For whom is there any hope then? I may not be perfect, but surely I’m at least a little better than people who commit all kinds of terrible sins! With that bouncing around in their heads, Jesus goes on to talk about sin.

Anger, lust, divorce, you think you know what those things are? Feeling superior to the man imprisoned for murder? You’re a murderer to, Jesus says, because, “…everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment[3];” Feeling proud that you have never committed adultery like your scum-bag neighbor down the street? Think again. Jesus says, “…everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart[4].” Jesus continues on, truly defining sin as God sees it, building to the climax of this section where he says we should, contrary to our feelings, love our enemies. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust[5].” He concludes this section with these words: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect[6].” If there were left any doubt as to whether or not we are sinners, or whether or not we could keep the law and earn the kingdom of heaven, Jesus’ teachings here on sin should have put that doubt to bed. He has brought all of us to the same level – we are all poor, miserable sinners, condemned under the law.

In chapter six Jesus talks about good works and religious practice. He tells his disciples not to do good works as a show to earn praise from other men, but rather that good works should flow from them naturally[7]. He teaches them how to pray[8] and, not ostentatiously to be viewed and praised by others, but in secret, as an outgrowth of their faith[9]. And finally living outwardly as they have internal faith, he teaches them to entrust their daily lives to God’s care[10]. It is only after this foundation is laid that Jesus utters the phrase, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Far from forbidding his disciples to judge other people’s sinful acts, Jesus is telling his disciples to judge by the proper standard and not as hypocrites. Kretzmann writes that the word used by Jesus in Matthew 7:1, which we render as “judge,” in the Greek implies personal, unkind uncharitable, unauthorized, condemnatory judgment (Kretzmann 1921). Christians must practice self-examination, and use God’s standard, rather than their own to judge the words and deeds of others.

If you do not realize your own sins and faults, you cannot offer admonition to a fellow Christian. One who assumes the task of taking the speck out of his brother’s eye must do so with sincere love, deep humility, and the prayer “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors[11]” (Engelbrecht 2009).

Jesus judged plenty but, being God, he did it in the proper context. In fact, the entire Sermon on the Mount is a judgment of sin, and the practices of the Pharisees. This is what he calls us to do as well. Jesus says so in as many words in the Gospel of St. John:

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well[12]? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” (John 7:14-24).

What is right judgment? What is our standard for judgment? It is God’s Word. St. Paul writes to Timothy the following, regarding the power and usefulness of Holy Scripture:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

To whom is this standard applied? Everyone. St. Paul, writing to the Romans has this to say regarding God’s righteous judgment, and how all men, standing on their own, would fare:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed (Romans 2:1-5).

The secular world will always react to the judgment of its sin with hostility – just as we Christians often do when a brother rebukes us. We cannot expect the pagan world to live as though they were Christians. Moral criticism is necessary and religious teaching cannot be discarded, but it would be the height of folly to unload one’s religious beliefs and experiences, tender sentiments, and moral convictions on anyone that comes along, no matter in what condition he might be (Kretzmann 1921). We can, however, use God’s law to make men aware of their sin in all humbleness, knowing all the while that we are sinful human beings as well. We may not be guilty of some of the specific acts described by St. Paul in his build up to Romans chapter two, but we have all exchanged God’s truth for human foolishness (Engelbrecht 2009). When we see sin, whether it is the sin of another or our own, we should respond in penitent faith, confessing our sin, knowing that God is faithful and just, and that he will cleanse us from all unrighteousness through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

Works Cited

Engelbrecht, Rev. Edward A., ed. The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.

Kretzmann, Paul E. Popular Commentary of the Bible: New Testament. Vol. 1. 2 vols. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1921.

End Notes

[1] Matthew 5:17 
[2] Matthew 5:20 
[3] Matthew 5:22 
[4] Matthew 5:28 
[5] Matthew 5:45 
[6] Matthew 5:48 
[7] Matthew 6:1-4 
[8] Matthew 6:5-15 
[9] Matthew 6:16-24 
[10] Matthew 6:25-34 
[11] Matthew 6:12 
[12] Jesus is here referring to his healing of an invalid at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-17).