Blessed Curse

Image by Stephen Waterhouse
In the Sunday School class I teach we have been going through Dr. Efird’s study on Genesis.  This past week’s lesson was on the end of Chapter 3 through the start of Chapter 6.  Basically it is the curse and eviction of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and the genealogy to link the Hebrew people to Adam and Eve.
What caught my attention is the reason God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.  I have grown up and gone through undergrad, grad school and have even read it myself countless times always thinking that Adam and Eve were kicked out as a result of their sin.  But then Dr. Efird read and explained Genesis 3:22-23; “The LORD God said, “The human being has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever,” the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to farm the fertile land from which he was taken.”  What he points out was that God removed them from the garden so they did not stay in their sin forever.
The end of the 22nd verse is an unfinished thought.  “The human being has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  Now so he doesn’t stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever,…”  It seems that the implications of staying in the garden would be eternal life.  But it would have been eternal life soaked in sin.  Therefore God removes them and gives them limited life, mortality.  The reality of sin is death but death saves us from sinful immortality.  
God loved us so much that he sent us out of the garden in order for him to save us from ourselves.  If humans had stayed and eaten the fruit that gives us immortality, we would have not been able to be saved.  So God removes the people in order to provide salvation.  
The curse of not being in paradise was actually a blessing. 
The living word is still inspiring and opening up new doors of knowledge and wisdom.

More thoughts on Gay Marriage

Usually when watching the Daily Show, I watch Jon Stewart’s commentary and then skip the interview. He is not my favorite interviewer by any means. Yet, I did find this one interesting. Mike Huckabee was on promoting his new book, Do the Right Thing. The conversation moved into a debate over gay marriage. Huckabee stuck to the fact that voters defined marriage as one man and one woman. Stewart refereed to Old Testament ideas of marriage as in polygamy. Nothing Biblical fell out of Huckabee’s mouth, no scriptural reference at all.

That got me looking into the Biblical accounts of a traditional marriage. Here is what I found (please add more if you know of any)
Gen. 2:18, 21-24 – God sees Adam as lonely and desires to make a companion for him, God creates Eve.
Malachi 2:14 – speaks of the marriage covenant, but is trying to get people not to marry foreigners.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2 – Paul tells us not to marry but that if we do every man should have a woman and every woman a man.
Ephesians 5:22-33 – wives submit to husbands, husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church. Talks about how a marriage should work, as far as the relationship itself
1 Peter 3:1-5, 7 – again talks about the relationship aspect of marriage
Hebrews 13:4 – states that marriage should be honored by all

Other than these there are rules about who should can marry a widow, how to set your daughters up with good husbands. There are stories of people trading their daughters for political purposes and many more, and even weirder scriptures. Besides the ones above nothing really speaks to why marriage should be between a man and a woman. Besides the Genesis passage, all the others speak to relationships and not to why marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman.

Is our stance on marriage = man & woman, based off of more tradition than scripture? Are we fighting the idea of gay marriage because of social ideals or scriptural based theology? There was a time when a black man was seen as 3/4 human and women were property. Those were social ideals that were overturned. Ten years from now will we look at this issue and think the same thing?

I have a feeling I know what some people will say. Gay marriage is cultivating unbiblical morality. If gay marriage is legal then we are promoting homosexuality. I am wrestling with that idea as well…more to come.

Jon Stewart makes some good points and I think Huckabee (as a Baptist minister) should have come out stronger on Biblical principals. Yet he is also probably still trying to run for some sort of office and may want to shun the ‘preacher’ side of things. Here is the interview.

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Gay Marriage

What is the purpose of marriage? Why do two people vow to spend their lives intertwined? We are communal people who desire to be around and with others. But is that the only reason we marry? Is it only in order to have a buddy to go through life with or only to feed our sexual desires?

These are some of the questions that I have been wrestling with recently. I have been wresting with the issue of gay marriage. Am I for it or against it? Is there really anything biblical against the idea? Why is the government involved in marriage anyway, if it is a religious structure? I still have a ton of questions.

What I do know is the purpose marriage has seen some changes over time. The goal for Abraham’s kin was to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ Marriage was a place of procreation. When you are born to Jewish parents, you are considered a Jew. Having children, building a family, was and still is a way of building up a religious people and nation. That is not the case for Christians. Children born to Christian parents are not necessarily Christian. We promise, at infant baptism, to raise them up in a way pleasing to God, but eventually that child will have to make the decision him/herself. Being born into a Christian home doesn’t make you a Christian. Procreation within marriage is not an evangelical tool or building up a religion. What is the purpose of marriage now?
Marriage is a place where the love of Christ can be shared between two people in deeper and more intimate ways. It is a place of caring, joy, support and service to one another. It is a place where sacrificial love is practiced and perfected. Marriage is a place where when life happens there is someone there who will walk through it with you. It is having someone who will hold your hand when your parents die and also make sure to change the toilet paper when it runs out. Marriage is a place where tenderness is demonstrated with a kiss after being apart for a while and finding joy in doing nothing else but holding each other. Marriage is a place where deep conversations about what makes us, us happen with honesty and love.

Marriage is what happens in the bed room, the bath room, the living room, the kitchen and all the other places life happens. You cannot confine marriage to one room of the house. How you deal with dirty dishes day in and day out is as important as how you handle what happens in the martial bed. For marriage to succeed you look at all aspects of life and you promise to do everything you can for the other person.

If this is marriage, why does it have to be limited to only a man and a woman?

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24) But David has a great post on other verses in the Bible that talk about marriage, ones we ignore constantly. How do we deal with those? How do we deal with the pieces of scripture on issues we ignore or have come to understand differently because of our post-modern thinking; like slavery, the role of woman in the church, and many others.

Peter Storey once said, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, but Steve showed up. Now what are you going to do?” He also said, “Homosexuals are the only people we demand be celibate.” We give them no way to deal with their sexual desires. A strait person could get marriage and have as much sex as s/he would like. We don’t even make that big of a deal anymore if they stray within their marriage and decide that they desire someone else instead. Yet we don’t allow two homosexuals to join in a monogamous relationship where commitment is demanded and expected.

I’m still on the fence. I see my gay friends and I feel their pain. I see them look at my wife and I and I feel sorry they cannot experience our type of relationship for themselves. Yet, I cannot ignore the current Biblical thinking as well. So here I sit, pondering on the fence.

The Five Grossest Bible Stories

I have talked about The Unofficial United Methodist Handbook for Pastors before. But I recently obtained The Unofficial United Methodist Handbook. This one is for members of a UMC, the laity. It if full of good stuff that every member should know. For example, how to receive communion, what baptism is about, how to memorize a Bible verse, or how to avoid getting burned at the stake. The book contains lots of practical advise, with humor, and serious spiritual issues as well.

One thing I found in this book is the five grossest Bible stories and tell me if you agree with their list or which ones would round out a top 10 list. (below is quoted from page 165 of the book)

  1. Eglon and Ehud (Judges 3:12-30) – Before kings reigned over Israel, judges ruled the people. At that time, a very overweight king named Eglon conquered Israel and demanded money. A man named Ehud brought the payment to Eglon while he was perched in his ‘cool roof chamber’ (probably a euphemism meaning ‘toilet’). Along with the money, Ehud handed over a little something extra – his sword, which he buried so far in Eglon’s belly that the sword disappeared into the king’s fat and, as the Bible says, ‘the dirt came out’ (v.22).
  2. Job’s sores (Job 2:1-10) – Job lived a righteous life yet he suffered anyway. He had oozing sores from the bald spot on top of his head clear down to the soft spot on the bottom of his foot. Job used a broken piece of pottery to scrape away the puss that leaded from his sores.
  3. The naked prophet (Isaiah 20) – God’s prophets went to great lengths to get God’s message across to the people. Isaiah was no exception. God’s people planned a war, but God have it the thumbs down. Isaiah marched around Jerusalem naked for three years as a sign of what would happen if the people went to war.
  4. The almost-naked prophet (Jeremiah 13:1-11) – God sent Jeremiah to announce that God could no longer be proud of the people. To make the point, Jeremiah bought a new pair of underclothes, wore them every day without washing them, then buried them in the wet river sand. Later, he dug them up, strapped them on, and shouted that this is what has happened to the people who were God’s pride!
  5. Spilling your guts (Matthew 27:1-8, Acts 1:16-19) – Judas betrayed Jesus and sold him out for 30 pieces of silver. He bought a field with the ill-gotten loot. Guilt-stricken, Judas walked out to the field, his belly swelled up until it burst, and his intestines spilled out on to the ground. [I thought he hung himself and when he fell his belly burst?]