"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? (Jesus)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? (Jesus)

Below is an excerpt from an essay by Walter Wink's essay, which can be found at the link above.

Virtually all modern readers would agree with the Bible in rejecting:

intercourse with animals

But we disagree with the Bible on most other sexual mores. The Bible condemned the following behaviors which we generally allow:

intercourse during menstruation
exogamy (marriage with non-Jews)
naming sexual organs
nudity (under certain conditions)
masturbation (some Christians still condemn this)
birth control (some Christians still forbid this)
And the bible regarded semen and menstrual blood as unclean, which most of us do not

Likewise, the Bible permitted behaviors that we today condemn:
levirate marriage
sex with slaves
treatment of women as property
very early marriage (for the girl, age 11-13)

And while the Old Testament accepted divorce, Jesus forbade it. In short, of the sexual mores mentioned here, we only agree with the Bible on four of them, and disagree with it on sixteen!

Surely no one today would recommend reviving the levirate marriage. So why do we appeal to proof texts in Scripture in the case of homosexuality alone, when we feel perfectly free to disagree with Scripture regarding most other sexual practices? Obviously many of our choices in these matters are arbitrary. Mormon polygamy was outlawed in this country, despite the constitutional protection of freedom of religion, because it violated the sensibilities of the dominant Christian culture, even though no explicit biblical prohibition against polygamy exists.

If we insist on placing ourselves under the old law, as Paul reminds us, we are obligated to keep every commandment of the law (Gal. 5:3). But if Christ is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4), if we have been discharged from the law to serve, not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit (Rom. 7:6), then all of these Old Testament sexual mores come under the authority of the Spirit. We cannot then take even what Paul says as a new law. Christians reserve the right to pick and choose which laws they will observe, though they seldom admit to doing just that. And this is as true of evangelicals and fundamentalists as it is of liberals and mainliners.

Judge for Yourselves
The crux of the matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic. There is no biblical sex ethic. Instead it exhibits a variety of sexual mores, some of which changed over the thousand-year span of biblical history. Mores are unreflective customs accepted by a given community. Many of the practices that the Bible prohibits, we allow, and many that it allows, we prohibit. The Bible only knows a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, culture, or period.

The very notion of a "sex ethic" reflects the materialism and splitness of modern life, in which we increasingly define our identity sexually. Sexuality cannot be separated off from the rest of life. No sex act is "ethical" in and of itself, without reference to the rest of a person's life, the patterns of the culture, the special circumstances faced, and the will of God. What we have are simply sexual mores, which change, sometimes with startling rapidity, creating bewildering dilemmas. Just within one lifetime we have witness the shift from the ideal of preserving one's virginity until marriage, to couples living together for several years before getting married. The response of many Christians is merely to long for the hypocrisies of an earlier era.

I agree that rules and norms are necessary: that is what sexual mores are. But rules and norms also tend to be impressed into the service of the Domination System, and to serve as a form of crowd control rather than to enhance the fullness of human potential. So we must critique the sexual mores of any given time and clime by the love ethic exemplified by Jesus. Such a love ethic is non-exploitive (hence, no sexual exploitation of children, no using of another to their loss), it does not dominate (hence, no patriarchal treatment of women as chattel), it is responsible, mutual, caring, and loving. Augustine already dealt with this is his inspired phrase, "Love God, and do as you please."

Our moral task, then, is to apply Jesus' love ethic to whatever sexual mores are prevalent in a given culture. This doesn't mean everything goes. It means that everything is to be critiqued by Jesus' love commandment. We might address younger teens, not with laws and commandments whose violation is a sin, but rather with the sad experiences of so many of our own children who find too much early sexual intimacy overwhelming, and who react by voluntary celibacy and even the refusal to date. We can offer reasons, not empty and unenforceable orders. We can challenge both gays and straights to question their behaviors in the light of love and the requirements of fidelity, honesty, responsibility, and genuine concern for the best interests of the other and of society as a whole.

Christian morality, after all, is not an iron chastity belt for repressing urges, but a way of expressing the integrity of our relationship with God. It is the attempt to discover a manner of living that is consistent with who God created us to be. For those of same-sex orientation, as for heterosexuals, being moral means rejecting sexual mores that violate their own integrity and that of others, and attempting to discover what it would mean to live by the love ethic of Jesus.

Morton Kelsey goes so far as to argue that homosexual orientation has nothing to do with morality, any more than left-handedness does. it is simply the way some people's sexuality is configured. Morality enters the picture when that predisposition is enacted. If we saw it as a God-given-gift to those for whom it is normal, we could get beyond the acrimony and brutality that have so often characterized the unchristian behavior of Christians toward gays.

Approached from the point of view of love, rather than that of law, the issue is at once transformed. Now the question is not "What is permitted?" but rather "What does it mean to love my homosexual neighbor?" Approached from the point of view of faith rather than of works, the question ceases to be "What constitutes a brach of divine law in the sexual realm?" and becomes instead "What constitutes obedience to the God revealed in the cosmic lover, Jesus Christ?" Approached from the point of view of the Spirit of the rather than of the letter, the question ceases to be "What does Scripture command?" and becomes "What is the Word that the Spirit speaks to the churches now, in the light of Scripture, tradition, theology, psychology, genetics, anthropology, and biology?" We can't continue to build ethics on the basis of bad science.

In a little-remembered statement, Jesus said, "Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:57). Such sovereign freedom strikes terror in the hearts of many Christians; they would rather be under law and be told what is right. Yet Paul himself echoes Jesus' sentiment immediately preceding one of his possible references to homosexuality: "Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!" (I Cor. 6:3). The last thing Paul would want is for people to respond to his ethical advice as a new law engraved on tablets of stone. He is himself trying to "judge for himself what is right." If now new evidence is in on the phenomenon of homosexuality, are we not obligated -- no, free -- to re-evaluate the whole issue in the light of all available data and decide, under God, for ourselves? Is this not the radical freedom for obedience which the gospel establishes?


  1. We were always taught 'love the sinner, hate the sin'.

  2. The reason why people are confused is because OALCers and others do not know the bible. In the FALC, we were not encouraged to read the bible. Lack of spiritual education is the same as not getting a good public education. It creates ignorant people.

  3. "Why do you not judge for your-
    selves what is right ? ( Jesus )

    This fits in exactly with the
    previous central question in my
    life :

    "Do I believe what I say I
    believe, or is it something
    else ?"

  4. Many Trails Home2/04/2006 01:31:00 AM

    Troll, there you go again and I can't help but respond. I'm referring also to your comment under "Separation." I think that the reason you are not sure if you believe what you say you believe is that you confuse right brain and left brain functions. I think that "belief" is a right brain function, in other words, we believe something because we "know" it "in our hearts" and no one can convince us otherwise. But then we use all sorts of left-brain explanations as if they were the "cause" of the belief when all they are doing is justifying the belief. That's why beliefs rarely make sense to those who don't believe and yet the believer is resolute, regardless of the weakness of his explanations.

    This mode of functioning works in many other arenas as well. For instance, people will be attracted to each other and even marry because of what they "feel" when, considered rationally, it may be a very bad idea. People will buy cars and houses and come up with all sorts of justifications when it is just to support their decision based on how they "feel" about it. Beliefs are just feelings as well and therefore require no proof. That's my take on this subject.

    From Rumi (as near as I remember it): There is a field beyond being right and being wrong. I will meet you there.

  5. I heartily recommend the "Bridges Across the Divide" web-site, regardless of your views on sexuality. Especially the "B-A Mission Statment:"


  6. Troll,
    A quote I thought you'd like:
    The critical habit of thought, if usual in society, will pervade all its mores, because it is a way of taking up the problems of life. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded by stump orators ... They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence, uninfluenced by the emphasis or confidence with which assertions are made on one side or the other. They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices and all kinds of cajolery. Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens.
    William Graham Sumner, Folkways, 1906

  7. Free2b:

    Amen: Thanks for quote.
    It says it all.

  8. Post lost on previous site
    so will try here.

    Re; Cartoons

    I watched a cartoon (South Park)
    last night on Channel 50 here in

    This cartoon mercilessly
    lampoons everything and every-
    one including all religons.

    The progrom was a satire on
    Christian Rock bands and Jesus.

    Some of the remarks and depiction
    of Jesus would offend most

    My take on such satire is that
    if your faith is strong enough
    all the lampooning in the world
    should have no effect.

    In fact it might strenghten your
    faith by using such caustic wit
    to fine-tune your belief.

    All democracies have a top line
    of proper behavior. This line has
    steadily risen over the years and
    by culture.

    If Muslims are going to live in
    a free democratic society they
    had better get adjusted to
    taking their lumps like every
    one else !

    The American Press bothers me in
    this situation for not all print-
    ing these cartoons in context.
    Not on the front page but with
    an explanation as to why, to show
    if the Muslim reaction was justi-
    fied. Sure some Muslims would say
    that is just an excuse to show
    them, but that is their cultural
    problem not mine.

    Most people close to a computer
    quickly got them off the internet

    Is this the only vehicle of free
    speech left ?

    The terrorists sure make good use
    of it.

  9. Many Trails Home2/13/2006 12:11:00 PM

    Right on, Troll. MTH

  10. Roger:

    Regarding "Judge for yourselves what is right", I'm pondering some things.
    Jesus gave us a higher moral when it came to adultery by saying that "not only if a man lies with a woman, but even if he lusts over her in his heart he has commited adultery."
    During Jesus's time it was natural for him to mention a woman because there was no marriage of men. Is that because that is the way it should be? Would he not have cleared up the confusion of sexuality and given us more liberty to experience or give love in other ways during his monologue? Could he not have taken that opportunity to then say that men could get married, or gone on to say that "if a man or women lust after another man or women in their heart they commit adultery". No, there was no need as I believe that Jesus felt that homosexuality was fornication... fornication being a clear idea at that time to the readers as sex outside of marriage. Wouldn't Jesus somewhere have cleared up the wrong and tell us in some way that men are able to be married and that they too should not lust after another man in his heart as that too would be adultery?
    No, in the case of sex concerning men with men and women with women I believe Jesus, and also Paul and others, were clear in giving us God's way to live.... man with woman, either married or celibate. Not living together to try each other out before marriage, not multiple partners in an expression of "love" (orgy), not young lust turned sexual (fornication).
    While I agree that some things change with time (clothes styles, foods, etc) I do think some things are still forbidden regardless of how much society changes(exaserbated by the world's lusts- especially in these sexually charged days where sexual deviance from God's way is easily spread over a variety of mediums).