Tag Archives: marriage

A possible key to unlock healing in your broken life – Characters: Ruth, Part 5

22 Nov
Photo by CMDR Shane on Unsplash

In Part 4 of our study through the ancient Hebrew story of Ruth, we watched as Ruth makes a most unusual proposal to Boaz. If you are just jumping into the story here at the end, I urge you to start at the beginning, as the drama has been building. This Part 5 will be much more meaningful, in my opinion, if you start at Part 1 and continue from there.

We concluded Part 4 with Ruth having just made a marriage proposal to Boaz. It was very risky, as it was uncommon for a woman to propose to a man, not to mention the way she did it was quite forward. Boaz could easily be offended and say, “Get away from me you inappropriate woman!”

But Boaz’ answer is a resounding “YES!”  From his comments in verse 10, we hear a hint of relief in his voice.  Apparently he is an older man, maybe wondering if a young woman would go for him.  He sees Ruth’s proposal as a great kindness, which brings us to what is possibly the most significant part of the story.

There is a word in the Hebrew that is used here.  It is hesed.  Kindness.  It is a word used often in the Old Testament, and it is often translated “love”.  So it is more than just being kind.  It is loving-kindness!

In 1:8, Naomi, when she is telling her daughters-in-law to return to Moab, says “May the Lord show hesed to you.”  So this is something God is capable of.  Or better, it can be said of God.

In 2:20, Naomi says it again when she realized that Boaz will be their kinsman-redeemer, and again, she attributes this to the hesed of God.  So twice now we have God showing loving-kindness.

But then Boaz says in 3:10 that Ruth had done a kindness to him.  This is a deep kindness. 

One commentator I read noted that nowhere in the book of Ruth do people say to God “I need help, I want you to be kind to me! Save me! Help me!” Instead, the main characters in the book go out and they themselves act with kindness.  They seem to have understood that their role in being faithful followers of God is by being like God himself. 

Do you want to experience the hesed, the loving-kindness of God in your life?  Then go share that same hesed with others.

This is the high point of the story, and from there it is all joy and wonder.  Boaz goes and pleads at the city gate because there is actually another kinsman-redeemer closer in lineage than himself.  That gentleman defers, and Ruth and Boaz are married. 

They have a son, and the son becomes grandfather to the most famous King of Israel, David.  Because Jesus was of the family of David, that means this Moabite lady, Ruth, is Jesus’ great, great, great….and many more greats grandmother. 

When you practice the Hesed, the loving-kindness of God in your family’s life, you can change the destiny of your family.

In his commentary, my OT professor, the late Dave Dorsey says, “In Ruth’s loyalty, diligence, and determination to support her again mother-in-law, combined with Boaz’s kindness and generosity, the audience is left with the central moral to the story: the admirable qualities exhibited by Ruth and Boaz can be used by God to reverse the fortunes of a whole family; or even the fortunes of a whole nation, as shown by the final outcome of this story—the Davidic dynasty.”

The same can happen in our families.  What is the tragedy, the brokenness in your family?  Will you see yourself as the one who can be used by God for renewal and healing?

How can you practice loving-kindness to the people in your family this holiday season?  The process of healing what is broken can take time, and that is normal.  Can you practice hesed at least in some way big or small this season?

Ruth chose loving-kindness when she could have easily responded to her loss and pain in a self-focused way.  She could have been bitter and angry at God.  Instead Ruth responded to her pain in a selfless way, reaching out, serving, and helping.  She decided to trust that God was at work and she reached out to her mother-in-law, Naomi. How can you reach out?  By giving selflessly, you just might launch your family on a whole new trajectory.

So where is the pain in your family that needs to be healed?  Where is the brokenness?  Ruth ran toward the broken with loving-kindness.  She could have easily stayed with her family in Moab and let Naomi go back to Israel alone.  I think most people would understand if Ruth had stayed in Moab, and we would not have faulted her.  If she had stayed in Moab, of course there still would have been healing to do in her life.  She just lost her husband.  But Ruth didn’t stay. She took an even riskier path.  She gave herself to care for her mother-in-law Naomi, who was of a different nationality, thus taking Ruth away from her support network, her family, her country!

What do you need to do to practice that kind of loving kindness in your family?

A most unusual marriage proposal – Characters: Ruth, Part 4

21 Nov

Do you remember your marriage proposal? Or if you aren’t married or engaged, do you have a hope or dream for what your proposal will be like? In our culture proposals have become more and more elaborate. Today we learn about a very unusual one!

The ancient Hebrew story of Ruth has been unfolding, moving from tragedy to hope. If you want to catch up, read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. At the end of Part 3, we learned that Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, has gotten over her bitterness at losing her husband and two sons when she observes the Lord’s blessing on her life through Ruth, who not only stuck with Naomi, but also goes to work for their relative Boaz and he cares for them with food. So Naomi concocts a plan.  It might sound bizarre.  Look at Ruth chapter 3, verses 1-4 where you can read Naomi’s plan.

What Naomi suggests amounts to a marriage proposal, but it sounds totally unfamiliar to what we would consider a marriage proposal. Naomi says Ruth should go to Boaz’ barn at nighttime, because it was harvest and Boaz and his workers would be working late to bring in the harvest, so they wouldn’t go home but would sleep in the barn. Naomi instructs Ruth to find Boaz asleep, uncover his feet and lay down there!

Are you thinking, “Huh? How is that a marriage proposal?”

Imagine people a couple thousand years from now trying to explain the significance of our engagement rituals.  Men spend lots of money buying a rock, usually a very shiny one, and they pay to have that rock fastened to a ring, and then they super nervously get down one knee and ask a woman to accept the rock.  She starts crying tears of joy. Assuming she says yes, he then puts the rock on her finger, and that starts a process whereby they will be together for the rest of their lives.  Totally normal and romantic and even emotionally joyful to us, right?  But imagine people from another culture looking at that. They might think our ritual is weird.  That’s very similar to what we just felt reading what Naomi says Ruth should do.  Uncover his feet while he is sleeping! 

And yet we need to know that what Noami suggests is not totally normal for their culture.  In their culture, Naomi and Ruth are being forward.  

Even here in the USA in previous generations, a girl never approached a guy to ask him out.  You would be considered a floozy.  Parents would be very suspicious about a girl who just called a guy on the phone to talk.

What about a Sadie Hawkins Dance?  That is a dance, usually once/year, where the girl asks a guy to be her date to the dance.  But it is the exception that proves the rule. 

In America, however, things have been changing to the point where little by little women are taking the initiative to ask men out.  Though it is still most common, in my observation, that males make the first move.

Back to our story.  What is going on here?  Like I said above, the harvest has to get in, so Boaz is up late into the night working, and he crashes in the barn for a few hours.  Like sleeping in your the office when things are so jammed up at work, you can’t come home. 

If any of you noticed a sexual connotation to what happens next, you are right!  Ruth is very daring.  She doesn’t actually do anything sexual, but when she finds him there sleeping in the barn, and she uncovers his feet, this is a proposal for marriage.

The imagery is fascinating. Look at verse 7.  This uncovering of the feet essentially says, “Open your bed for me to come in.” 

It could go very wrong, and she could be shamed if he wakes up to a woman sleeping next to him and says, “What the heck are you doing…get out of here you inappropriate women.” 

But Ruth is not inappropriate at all.  Instead I want you to notice a beautiful wordplay that Ruth uses.  Look at verse 9.  As Boaz groggily rubs the sleep out of his eyes, not even sure who this is and what is happening, Ruth says to him, “I am your servant Ruth, spread the corner of your garment over me.”  In the original language, Hebrew, this is literally the phrase “spread your wings” over me.

If you’ve been following along with the story, do you remember where we have heard that phrase before?  Look at Ruth chapter 2, verse 12. There Boaz had said the same thing to Ruth when he first met her. It was essentially a prayer of blessing: “May God bless you as you have taken refuge under his wings.” 

It very well could be, and I would say likely, that Ruth is remembering these words that Boaz said to her, and basically is saying to him, “You are a kinsman-redeemer (which we talked about in Part 3), you are part of Naomi’s husband’s extended family, and you could be the means by which God provides refuge for us.”

In no uncertain terms, Ruth is saying, “You desire God’s blessing for me? Will you be that blessing, and thus will you marry me?”  Do you see the boldness in that? It’s so risky.

Though contemporary America is far more egalitarian than ancient Israel, it is still in our culture very uncommon for a woman to propose marriage to a man.  How much more in her culture, then, was Ruth making a bold, rare move! Because of that, the gap between verse 9 and 10 is interesting.  I wonder how long it took Boaz to answer Ruth.  Maybe it was quick.  Sometimes the answer is obvious.  Perhaps he had been thinking about this for some time and just didn’t know how to go about it.  But as in our culture when people get engaged, the guy is usually a nervous wreck, wondering “What is she going to say when I pop the question?” Ruth was probably very nervous.

How long did Boaz wait to answer? What will Boaz say? Check back in to the next post!

Anger, Revenge and War – Characters: Samson, Part 3

6 Nov
Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

Anger can lead to awful revenge. Revenge can escalate to retribution. Warring parties can strike at each other, over and over. We see this in conflicts between nations and ethnicities. Political parties unwilling to see one another in any way except negatively. Husbands and wives that fall apart in nasty divorces. Friendships taking sides. Churches split.

In this series of posts, we are learning the story of one of ancient Israel’s most famous characters, Samson, and as we’ll see, it is a story of anger and revenge. After a birth and childhood (Judges 13) that was wonderfully ordained by God, which we learned about in Part 1, Samson makes some choices that are decidedly ungodly (Judges 14), as we saw in Part 2. The writer of Judges has just told us that Samson lost a bet with Philistines who attended his wedding feast. We pick up the story at the beginning of Judges 15.

Imagine you are Samson’s new wife’s father. You hear that her Israelite husband has just killed 30 of your Philistine people in order to pay up a ridiculous bet.  Think about that.  One man kills 30 men.  I wonder how that happened. One man is no match against 30 men.  The 30 will always win.  An extremely talented soldier might be able to handle 2-3 in a fistfight.  But 30?  Or maybe Samson didn’t face all 30 at the same time. Maybe like Batman he took them out covertly one by one? We don’t know.

Either way, when the Spirit of Lord came upon him, Samson is no longer an ordinary man.  This is brutal stuff we’re talking about here.  It is war.  And war is ugly and awful.  If you are the father of that Philistine girl, you would not want her marrying the man who just killed 30 of your people.  That’s like allowing your daughter to marry a mass-murderer.  Or allowing your daughter to marry an enemy super soldier. Nope. Not going to happen.  So Samson’s father-in-law gives his daughter to one of the Philistine guys at the wedding.

Bold move, right?

That means Samson’s marriage is over 7 days after it began, because he committed a mass atrocity.  Again, this leaves us scratching ours head about Samson.  He clearly has deep inner issues. And we’re only just getting started in his story.

Like I said, this was the beginning of war.  In Judges chapter 15 as the story continues, things go from bad to worse.  Samson goes to find his wife, as he would.  He doesn’t know that his father-in-law gave her away to another man, and Samson believes he is married. At the house, his father-in-law tells Samson that he gave Samson’s wife away, but he says Samson can have her younger sister, because apparently she is more beautiful anyway. 

What?  That’s a very odd offer.  He won’t give away one daughter, but he will give away the other?  Was he afraid of Samson?  It’s crazy.  This gives us an indication, perhaps, of what Philistine society was like. Still, it seems like an awful offer, especially from the viewpoint of the younger daughter!

Considering what we know of Samson thus far, how do you think Samson is going to respond to the news that his Philistine father-in-law gave away Samson’s wife?  Think Samson will be calm, level-headed, answering, “Yeah, I didn’t want her anyway…she betrayed me…Ok, I’ll take the sister.  Thanks.”?  Nope.  Not even close.

Samson is angry!  Get this.  He catches 300 foxes or jackals.  Not one or two.  300.  300?  That alone raises so many questions.  How?  Just how?  Where do you get that many?  How long did it take?  Where did he keep them once he caught them?  I can hardly imagine the logistics of this. 

Then he makes a 150 teams of two foxes, tying them together by their tails, attaching torches to their tails, and he sets them loose in the Philistines’ grain fields, vineyards and olive groves.  This is scorched earth warfare in the ancient world.  From a military perspective, I have to admit that it is very strategic.  The resulting fires would have caused massive economic devastation to the enemy.  If you can’t feed an army, that army can’t fight.

The Philistines find out that it was Samson who burned their fields, and guess what they do?  Run away defeated?  Nope.  They murder his wife and her father, which are their own people!  Who knows?  Maybe they blamed the father-in-law for handling things poorly. 

Will that calm things down?  Maybe it would calm some people or make them scared.  You often hear about that kind of thing in movies, right?  People threaten to kill your family to scare you, quiet you, get you to run or stay away.  But this is Samson we’re talking about.  Look at Judges 15:7, where we read that he is now even angrier than before.  He says he will not stop until he gets revenge on them, and that is exactly what he does slaughtering many of them.  The war is escalating.

The Philistines respond by mustering an army to get Samson.  They ride out to Judah, one of the Israelite tribal areas, where Samson was staying in a cave.  The men of Judah are really concerned about this troop movement of the Philistines.  Remember that the Philistines have been ruling them for 40 years.  This was a menacing move on the part of the Philistines, and the men of Judah could easily be thinking that the Philistines had come to make trouble, especially when you consider the devastation Samson has just done to them.  But the Philistines say, “No, we’re just here for Samson.”  The men of Judah, then, gather together a force of 3000 men to capture Samson.  That’s a huge number of men.  Apparently they knew that Samson was a force to be reckoned with! 

They find him and agree with Samson not to kill him, but just to tie him up and hand him over to the Philistines.  They do just that, and when they deliver him to the Philistines, the Philistines rush toward Samson with a war cry.  They are filled with revenge.  What happens next is unparalleled. 

The Spirit of the Lord comes on Samson again.  He breaks free of his bindings, picks up a jawbone of a donkey, and uses it as a weapon, again breaking his Nazarite vow not to touch dead carcasses.  Samson doesn’t care, and he uses the jawbone to strike down 1000 Philistines!

I wonder what that looked like.  He must have been moving so fast and so forcefully, empowered by God, that he was a blur of supernatural power, mowing people down.  No arrows, no slingshots, no swords, no armor, nothing could stop him.  It didn’t matter if they encircled him with a 100 men.  Nothing they could have tried would have worked.  My guess is that they tried many tactics, but nothing was stopping Samson.  After losing 1000 men, my guess is the Philistines gave up and retreated.

Throughout the story of Samson, the body count numbers have been increasing, haven’t they?  We are way, way beyond the killing of a lion.  This is now all out war, and Samson, all by himself defeats an army of the Philistines.  It is an astonishing feat of individual victory.  For the first time in 40 years, Israel is free from Philistine rule.    

But look at verse 18.  Imagine the physical toll it took on Samson to be a soldier fighting all by himself.  Yes, the Spirit empowered him.  For sure.  There is no other explanation.  But we also learn he is thirsty.  That is an understatement!  He is thankful for the victory God gave him, but he is also impatient and gruff with the Lord.  God opens the place making water pour forth, and Samson can drink.  Still, Samson clearly shows his immaturity and disrespect for God.

As the chapter concludes, we learn that Samson leads Israel for 20 years. But as we did in Part 2 of this series, we have to ask what we are learning about Samson. Though he has amazing victories over the enemies of Israel, empowered by God, the victories are completely individual. Samson isn’t leading the nation back to God. He is just getting revenge, flowing from his anger. Israel is free, but are they moving in God’s direction?

So far Samson’s story has been one of moving away from God, fueled by a vicious anger and revenge. Samson’s story continues in the next post. Perhaps Israel’s newfound freedom will see Samson lead them to God. What about you? Is there any anger and revenge in your life? What would it look like for you to move in God’s direction?

What that little pocket on jeans can teach us about church family – Titus 3:9-15, Part 1

12 Aug

Family.  Who do you think of when you think of family?

Growing up my family was my dad and mom, and my brother and sister.  Five people.  I’m so thankful that they are still my family. 

When my wife, Michelle, and I got married, though, we started our new family.  God blessed us with children, and eventually we became a family of six. 

A few weeks ago, our oldest son was married, and now we have a daughter-in-law, making our family seven. Although, it could be said that we have become a family of five, as my son and his wife started their family. (I think we’ll just go with “a family of seven”!)

Earlier in the summer my extended family got together at the beach for my parents’ 50th anniversary.  My parents were once just a family of two, but in fifty years time, their family was now more than 20, with all the spouses and grandkids. 

Furthermore, family is not simply biological.  Three of my nieces and nephews are adopted, and yet they are completely a part of my parents’ family. Also, one of my second son’s friends calls Michelle and me, “mom” and “dad” because of the close nature of our relationship. You may have relationships like that too. For those of you in church families, I hope that you experience that kind of closeness with the people in your congregation. In this series of posts on Titus 3:9-15, we will conclude our study through the letter Paul wrote to Titus, and we will see how Paul describes the church family he was a part of, and how that family was to relate to one another, in the difficult times and in the joyful ones.

When I read what Paul says in verses 9-11, it occurred to me that we might give these verses the following subtitle: How not to be a church family. Why?

Look at verse 9, for example. There Paul will tell Titus what the people in the church should do: avoid that which is unprofitable and useless.  It seems pretty obvious that people should avoid what is unprofitable and useless, right?  But it’s like we’re suckers for it, as much as we can get caught up in it.  Have you ever been involved in an unprofitable, useless discussion? Have you ever participated in an activity that initially seemed worthwhile, but in time was revealed to be a waste? For me it was phone apps and games. You can read about my personal journey to free myself of them here.

What useless or unprofitable activity is Paul talking about? He mentions three things: foolish controversies, genealogies, and arguments and quarrels about the law. Paul here is primarily describing theological controversies in the church, based in what he already said in 1:10-16 about the misapplication of the OT Law to Christians.  Now here in 3:9-11 Paul is saying that the controversies we get caught up in are often silly and thus should be avoided. 

Paul’s principle for Christians in a church family, then, is: “avoid what is unprofitable and useless.”  Let me make an analogy. Did you ever think about that small right front pocket in most jeans?  Why is it there?  Well, when jeans first became popular in the late 1800s, that pocket was pretty handy because lots of people used pocket-watches.  In time that pocket became part of what makes jeans uniquely jeans.  So though those mini pockets are rarely used anymore, clothing companies keep putting them there.  Here’s the thing, in 2019 you could say jeans’ mini-pockets are useless.  Even when cell phones were small, they didn’t fit in there. Try to put anything in there, and it’s almost impossible to get out. But if jeans didn’t have those pockets, they would look weird. That’s the funny thing about life.  We can get accustomed to what is useless, and normalize it!  We can accept it.  We talk about it.  Get excited about it. Or upset about it. 

How does this happen in church families? The classic example is the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.  In a building project one faction says the carpet should be tan, and another faction says the carpet should be blue.  They get angry, fight, refuse to agree, and the church splits.  Talk about useless and unprofitable. Sadly, there are many other such examples that church families have allowed to become divisive.

Paul says in the church, though, we should be people committed to avoiding what is unprofitable and useless.  He was mostly talking about conversations, beliefs, ideas, and practices of how we live out our faith.  The problem is that Christians will have differences of opinion about what is the profitable verses unprofitable, and what is useless versus what is useful.  At Faith Church we have a variety of opinions like this, as I’m sure you do in your church family.

So we need to agree to disagree, lovingly.  We can and should get along in a loving way, though you may have differences of opinion with those who think differently than you. As we continue this series of posts, stay tuned, because we’ll talk further about how Christians in a church family can navigate those differences of opinion in a godly way.

Non-negotiable qualities of church leaders – Titus 1:5-9, Part 4

20 Jun
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In Titus 1:5-9, Paul says leaders of the church should be blameless. This week we have been looking closely at this passage to see if we can learn what blameless leadership is all about. In today’s post, we see that Paul tells Titus to look for leaders who have demonstrated a number of qualities that are non-negotiable.

First, in verse 6, Paul says that blameless leaders have one wife.  Is he talking about polygamy here?  Did the Romans have multiple wives?  It is highly doubtful, historians tell us, that polygamy occurred much in the Greco-Roman world.  Instead, it seems that Paul is referring to the common practice in which Greek and Roman men would have concubines. Sadly, this wasn’t considered aberrant in their culture.  It was accepted.  Paul says Christians will have a different viewpoint.  They will not have concubines.  Christians will have only one wife. In other words, church leaders’ should have a high view of the sanctity of marriage. Why? Their marriages will have a profound impact on those leaders’ relationship to the church, and vice versa. What this means is that Titus should be looking for leaders who have strong marriages, and who protect their marriages from infidelity.

Next in verse 6, Paul says that blameless leaders of the church will have faithful children.  That’s a tough one because at a certain point, kids who have been raised in a loving home can choose to rebel.  Even if they were raised right, and at no fault of their parents, they might choose to give up the faith.  While grace needs to rule the day here, Paul has something important for parents and kids to consider.  Parents are to parent their kids toward faithfulness, and kids are to choose to be faithful. What you teach your children and how you parent matters.  God doesn’t want leaders who are all about leading in the church but not caring for and leading in their homes.  That is part of being blameless; it’s a lifestyle that you are living, not just a way you behave in one spot.

Paul goes on to tell Titus to look for blameless leaders who see themselves as God’s stewards.  The word he is using here is defined as a household manager.  The leader of a church does not own the church, God does.  Paul says, therefore, that the blameless leader will view the church as God’s work.  None of us should think that we own the church, or that the church is somehow ours. It is God’s. We are simply stewards, managing the church for God.  That means Titus should look to appoint leaders who handle the church like God desires.

After talking about blameless leaders’ various roles and relationships, he talks about their character. Under the general principle of blamelessness, Paul now says that these leaders will be people who avoid five things and attain six things.

The blameless leaders avoids the following five vices.  They are not:

  1. Over-bearing.  This is an arrogance that is the result of self-will and stubbornness.  They think they are so much better than everyone else.  They are always looking down on others, always saying, “I am better.”
  2. Quick-tempered. The person is a bully. 
  3. Addicted to wine. This could be expanded to addiction in any of its many forms.
  4. Violent. This is a person who is ready and willing to pick fights. They are demanding.
  5. Pursuing dishonest gain.  Specifically this word has greed at its core. This person is shamefully greedy. 

As I look at this list of five vices, the word “narcissist” comes to mind. While I don’t believe narcissism encapsulates all that Paul is talking about here, it sure relates to much of the five. What is narcissism? As the Gravity Leadership crew discovers in this fascinating and helpful podcast interview with Chuck DeGroat, narcissism is more than “a person who is in love with themselves.” Narcissists have a strange attraction for many of us, and yet they’ve caused immeasurable damage. After listening to the podcast, I’m convinced Paul would say to Titus, “a church leader must not be a narcissist.”

So what kind of character qualities should Titus be looking for? Paul says that the blameless leader will demonstrates that they are pursuing six virtues (starting in verse 8).  They are:

  1. Hospitable.  This word has a connotation of hospitality particularly to strangers.
  2. Loving what is good.  This person really likes goodness. 
  3. The NIV 84 says the third quality is “self-controlled”, but the word the NIV 84 translates as “disciplined” at the end of the list in verse 8 is better translated “self-controlled.” Granted, they are very much related.  The word here is more about what is prudent.  A person who is sensible, making wise decisions.
  4. Righteous, “upright”. This person does what God requires. Follows God’s ways.  It is more outward.
  5. “Holy”. A person who is growing a heart that is more and more like Jesus. It is more inward. 
  6. Self-controlled. See #3 above. This person is in control of their emotions and choices.

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? It seems like only Jesus would qualify. Years ago I served on a denominational team that was administrating the process of nominating candidates for the role of Bishop. In my denomination, the Bishop is the leader of the whole denomination, and thus we created a list of qualities that we were looking for. We used biblical passages like Titus 1:5-9, and the result had me thinking, “No one fits this. A person would have to be perfect. We’re looking for Jesus, and there was only one Jesus.” But as we discussed earlier in this week’s series, blameless leadership does not equal perfection. You might review that discussion, as the list above could be intimidating. Paul did not intend to give Titus an impossible task, but he does set the bar high.

In conclusion, Paul says, “Titus, look for people who have distinguished themselves using these lists.  Appoint them to be leaders.”

And what will these leaders do?  Paul has a job description for them, which we will look at in the next post.

All sins are not the same? [False ideas Christians believe about…Sin. Part 4]

28 Feb
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This week we have been fact-checking Christian statements about sin. In part 3 yesterday we looked at the phrase “all sins are the same.” Today we’re investigating its opposite: sins are different. There is an important sense in which sins are very, very different, and they are not the same.   In part 3, we saw how this statement is true in the claim the person made when they said that they are not a sinner because they haven’t committed murder or rape.  They are correct that there is a major difference between, say, shoplifting on the minor end, and human trafficking on the major end. 

As I already said in part 3, sins are equal in God’s eyes only in the sense that all humans are sinners.  But God’s word also gives evidence that all sins are not equal.  There is no doubt that some sins have much more devastating consequences, and are thus treated much more seriously by God.

Look at 1 Corinthians 6, for example, in verses 9-11 where Paul is talking about the equality of many sins.  He lists out a whole bunch of sins saying that they are equal in the sense that people who are engulfed in these sins cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.  But look at his flow of thought as it continues in verses 15-20.  There he singles out one sin in particular and shows how deeply damaging it is to a person: the sin of sexual immorality.  He says in verse 18, that all other sins are committed outside the body, whereas sexual sins are against one’s own body!  What is so egregious about sexual sin is that a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Paul is saying, therefore, that sexual immorality is not the same as other sins!  But hear me, he is not saying that sexual immorality is the worst possible sin.  He is simply saying that it is different and should be seen that way, as it affects a person deep within.  How many of us have seen sexual immorality wreak havoc on people and relationships?  There is such a better way!  The way of Jesus.  That’s exactly what we saw last week when the writer of Hebrews quoted Deuteronomy 31:6 in Hebrews 13.  He said that Christians should be committed to keeping the marriage bed pure. 

That means that sexual expression should be between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage only.  When you are married, Christians are not to have sex with people other than your spouse.  Before you are married, you are not to have sex at all.  Why?  Because it is an intimate gift and when handled outside of a marriage commitment it hurts, it damages and can cause lasting effects.  God of course can forgive, but there are always effects to sin. He wants the best for you, so he sets up guidelines for that purpose. You can follow that standard for disciples of Jesus because God says that he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Why am I saying this?  Not to elevate sexual immorality as some super special category of sin.  No.  I am bringing it up because in the Bible we see that sexual immorality is not the same as other sins.  Think about the damage that sin does.  This is why Paul makes a big deal about sexual immorality, it does damage in relationships.  There are other sins that do massive damage as well.  Obviously, murder.  It is right for Christians to view murder as altogether different from other sins because murder is the taking of a life.  This is but one example of many.

Another is when Jesus taught, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  He was pretty serious about protecting children.

So sins are all equal?  Or sins are different?  Both are true.  While we all have equal sin in God’s eyes, there are sins that are way worse than others in God’s eyes.  All are forgivable.  Redemption is possible in everything.  He can teach us through it all.  Some sins, just by their nature, have more effects, more ripples on more people and on His temple, our bodies, on his body, the church, and on his creation.

Marriage: covenant vs. contract? [Deuteronomy 21-24]

22 Jan
Photo by Rawpixel on Unsplash

How is your marriage? Is your relationship with your spouse doing well? Or does it need improvement, even in some small way?

Our preaching series through Deuteronomy continued this past Sunday at Faith Church looking at numerous passages in chapters 21-24 related to marriage. As I was away most of the week at my denomination’s Pastoral Assessment Center, I asked my brother, Jeff Kime, to preach.

Jeff is the Executive Director of The Marriage Hub, a ministry whose mission is to help strengthen marriages, particularly those in crisis.  Jeff and his team regularly hold marriage intensive retreats designed to give couples hope and tools to transform their marriages in a godly direction.  Even if your marriage is vibrant, Jeff, in this sermon, teaches great principles for strengthening marriages.  Maybe you’re single and wondering if this sermon is not for you.  It is most certainly for you, too.  God may have marriage in your future, and it will be important for you to learn these principles that you could apply or share with others in your life who will marry.  So take some time and evaluate your marriage or relationship status.  Ask God to help you hear from him! And then listen to the sermon.

What you’re going to learn is the difference between a contract and a covenant, and why that matters so much to how we view marriage. This past weekend, there was possibility of a major winter storm, so Jeff created a video version of the sermon.

And if you know that your marriage needs help, but you don’t know where to turn, please contact Jeff at The Marriage Hub!