Scary God or Scary People?

One of the toughest problems that I have been wrestling with in the last year is how to match up the God of the Old Testament that engages in so much violence with God as revealed completely in “gentle” Jesus of the New Testament.

jesus-with-rifleAs a follower of Christ, my primary belief is not in the Bible.  My faith is in Jesus.  I follow him, not a book.  However, I choose to read that book because of my belief in Him.  And when it comes to reading that book, I do so through the “lense” of Jesus.  I base all of my theology and understanding of God on the person of Jesus, and through that filter I read the rest of the book.  Which, of course, means that I read those very troubling Old Testament passages through how God has been revealed in Jesus as well.

This has been quite a journey for me over several years.  And yet, as I have re-focused my centrality around Jesus rather than just the Bible, I can only come to one conclusion:  I believe that violence is always wrong and outside of God’s ideal for me personally and humankind generally.  Whether it be in the form of war, personal vengeance or even self-defense, I believe I am always called to “return evil with good” and not claim my right to violence.

However, there is much to still be wrestled with in this arena.  And while I am still quite a work in progress, I think a lot of understanding is falling into place.

For those of you who may have found yourself wrestling with this same topic at some point, allow me to suggest some helpful resources.

First, is an excellent article that I came across this week by Brad Cole that deals with this topic called, “Scary God or Scary People.”  Take a read here, if you are interested.  (Scary God or Scary People)

Also, Greg Boyd (author and preacher) has some very good insights in his book:

themythofachristiannation“The Myth of A Christian Nation”

and in a series of blog entries that he did last year.  Here is a link to those posts as well.

Part I
Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII

Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
PartXIII

Anyway, some of you have been asking about some good resources and hopefully this will help.  Happy thinking!

Love Connection – 3/22/09 – Part 2

Ok, this may be the most “scandalous” blog that I have written to date.  Wait, a minute… probably not.  The “Gay-Bath House” series was a bit scandalous too, huh? (Gay-Bath House article).

love-connection-jpgOh well, apparently my lot in life is to get involved in the dirty, messy and controversial subjects.   So, let’s jump right into the final question for this week, which almost gave me a coronary attack as I read it knowing I’d have to answer it!  Thanks everybody…  Let’s just get back to asking questions that are “safe,” huh?  LOL.


Question #3:
What are your views on masturbation?  Is it okay?

Wow, so we’re gonna go THERE now?  Ok.  I guess I should have known that we would eventually get here.   This question doesn’t necessarily have to do with relationships, however it is an issue that could impact relationships on many different levels.   So let’s go ahead and discuss it.

This is a very difficult question to answer.  On the one hand, many people believe it is wrong.  But, on the flip side, many Christians believe it is not.  Either way I answer I do two things:  1) I make half of everybody angry.  2) I assume that I actually know the answer.  (LOL)

So, let me give you my best effort at an answer.  It may not be perfect, but for better or worse, it is what I believe by faith right now.

First, the Bible has nothing to say directly about this issue.  The word “masturbation” is not in the Bible at all.  It is a subject, like dating, that isn’t discussed.  And without making too much of an “argument from silence” it does at least gives us a little bit of flexibility here.

However, there is one Bible text that has been used to condemn the behavior and it is worth mentioning here because its often use in this manner is not only unwarranted but flat-out coercive and wrong.

onanGenesis 38:8-10:  “Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.  But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.  What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so he put him to death also.”

Wow!  How’s that for a little provocative Bible reading?  Just tell your parents: “Hey, you wanted me to read the Bible.”

Now, when I was a teenager (like 100 years ago), this verse was quoted to me as God’s ultimate word against masturbation.  The line went like this, “See, Onan wasted his seed  (sperm) and God’s punishment for him was DEATH!!”

Nothing like a little fear that God will strike you dead to keep you from masturbating!

However, this story has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MASTURBATION.  It is a story about a strange, but merciful Jewish law that took care of widows and passed on family inheritance.

In the Jewish culture, if the husband of a woman died, his brother was required to marry her and save her from widowhood.  And if she did not have a son to pass the deceased husband’s land and assets to, then the brother was required to father a son with her.   This son would not be considered the brother’s son, but the deceased husband’s son and thus he would inherit the land.   It was God’s way of providing for families in crisis and ensuring rightful land inheritance.

In this text, then, God is not addressing masturbation at all.  He is punishing Onan for purposefully being disobedient and not taking care of his brother’s family.

So, if the bible doesn’t directly address this question, than what are we to make of it?  Is it okay?  Is it a sin?

Well . . . to say that it is a sin goes beyond what we have God directly saying to us in the Bible.  Because of this, theoretically, I believe that the act itself is not sin.

looking with lustHowever, while this makes sense theoretically, there is a very practical reality to consider.  Maybe most compelling are the inevitable thoughts that go along with this act.   And while no Bible text deals with masturbation, per se, Jesus does have some pretty radical things to say about our thought-life.

“You have heard it said that you should not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  — Matthew 5:27-28

What Jesus is saying here is that our “thoughts” are as important as our “actions.”   The intention behind what we do or don’t do is as crucial as our actual actions.

Now, even if theoretically, masturbation isn’t a sin, think of all the thoughts that usually invade your mind during those moments.  I would say that it is extremely rare that one engages in that action without some sort of impure thoughts about another person, whether you know them or don’t know them (in the case of most pornography).  And these thoughts are IMPORTANT, because they affect our relationships with other people and how we see other people.  Particularly for guys, this type of visualization reinforces “objectification” of women–seeing women as “objects” to possess rather than people to be honored and loved.

Couple that with the fact that masturbation is about selfish gratification (as opposed to sexual intercourse which when performed “in love” as intended is done as much for the other person as for you) and you at the very least have a less than beneficial activity.

So when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure I can make that judgment call for you.  I don’t know what goes on in your head.  Only you do.  And I don’t know what God’s Spirit convicts you about.

But it might help as you think through this issue for yourself to be reminded that sin is not primarily a legal infraction.  Sin is not like a speeding ticket.  God isn’t necessarily keeping track of all your tickets and waiting for you to “pay-up.”

Instead, I believe sin is more like an infection.  It is something that messes up your relationships with God and other people, like an infection messes up the way your body is supposed to work.

With this in mind, I don’t think God is going to kill you for it and you won’t be sent to hell for masturbating too much.   However, it may warrant a bit of caution.  Just because something may not be sin, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good for you or for your relationships with other people.   And if this issue causes problems between you and God or you and other people, you would be wise to listen to that prompting of the Spirit and choose differently.

Ok.  Hope that helps.

By the way, for those counting at home, I said the word, “masturbation” nine times.  Oops, make that ten.

Love Connection – Passage 3/22/09

love-connection-jpgWell, here we are in our last couple weeks of this series, “Love Connection” and I think it has been kind of fun.  Hopefully you have too.   I know we still have much to learn about our relationships with each other, and yet I think we’ve learned a bit along the way.  Hopefully this conversation will remain as a record of our time here.

Here are the questions from this weekend’s PASSAGE message.


Question #1:
Do you think dating in high school is necessary?

I’m actually kind of surprised that this question hasn’t come up previously.   It seems like there are a lot of opinions out there on this one.   Some people think dating is the best way to find a mate, and others think that dating is a cultural assumption that should be challenged.  One writer even wrote a book called, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” where he encouraged people to swear off dating all together.

And beyond the opinions, there are many different guidelines that parents set out for their students; each family has its own rules.  *DISCLAIMER:  you should do whatever your parents say!!!!

high school datingSo what does the bible teach us about dating?  Very little.  In fact, the Bible doesn’t really prescribe any particular way that people should date, court or be “arranged” for marriage.

That alone is interesting isn’t it?  You’d think that as much as we talk about it that it would have some pretty big “air-time” in the BIG BOOK.   But, sometimes a lack of discussion of a topic in the Bible might indicate something important.  Perhaps there isn’t a mention of a particular method of “love-finding” because there isn’t a “RIGHT” and “WRONG” way to do it, from God’s perspective.

I mean, if God has created us to be able to choose WHO we will love (rather than pre-determining who we will love) then maybe he has given us the choice as to HOW we choose this person as well.

So should you date in high school?  Maybe.  Should your parents arrange a marriage for you?  Maybe.  Should you go on only group-dates and build friendships that will lead to a love commitment?  Maybe.

Do you see what I’m saying?  Maybe the question is not whether or not we should date people exclusively, but what kind of “daters” or “non-daters” we will be…

Three weeks ago, after the last message I answered a question that got into this subject.  It might be worth a read or a re-read if you want some more on “the kind of daters” we should be.

You’ll find the discussion in “Question #1” at this link:

https://nickloyd.com/2009/02/26/love-connection-passage-22209-part-two/

Hope that’s helpful…

Question #2:
What is your opinion on long-distance relationships?

They are difficult.

Hahahaha…  Well, they are, aren’t they?

long_distance_love_cThis is a good question because many people start dating-from-afar.   Sometimes the physical distance between people is over many states or countries.  But, in another way, physical distance can be almost as far if you live in the same county but go to different schools and rarely see each other.

Look, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with a long-distance relationship.   They are different.  And they are difficult.  But all relationships are difficult.  Whether you are talking about long-distance or close-encounter relationships (hahaha, sounds like some weird alien love, LOL), there are both positives and negatives.

Let’s look at the positives.  In some ways long-distance relationships may have potential for greater health.   One benefit of distance is that it often forces people to learn about each other on a deeper level than just physical.  Obviously if you live far apart physical contact will be limited.  Because of this, phone conversations and text messages and facebook chats become the primary method of affection.  But this affection-from-a-distance is healthy in that you are LEARNING deep interests, motives, beliefs and personality traits of the other person.

Also, a little distance test is good for any relationship.  People in relationships formed in close physical proximity have a tendency to quickly become dependent on each other.  You know the feeling:  “I can’t live without seeing him today!”   And yet, we have already learned that we were never meant to find our fulfillment in other human being; only in God.   Being apart physically may help keep that distinction more obvious.

datingcartoon15However, while there are some benefits (in theory) there are also some drawbacks.  People living away from each other don’t have the opportunity to experience the other person in “real life.”   There is only so much you can learn from phone calls and late-night text messages.  Who a person is on the phone and who they are in everyday life with their family and friends may be very different.

Also, the time and focal commitment involved in “long-distance” relationships often comes at the expense of a person’s other relationships that are more local.  When a person’s mind is off with his girlfriend in “Arizona” it is then difficult to invest in relationships (friends, family, etc.) or responsibilities right here in Everett.  To some degree this is true of all relationships, but more so with long-distance ones, I think.

Anyway, I think there are probably more positives and negatives that could be said here, but hopefully you get my point.  Long-distance relationships may be either good or bad, but that probably has more to do with the convictions of the two people involved than the land (or sea) that is between them.

Thanks for the great question!