My many years of being a Christian haven’t alleviated something that I’ve never really liked about Jesus:
In his discussion on marriage and divorce, Jesus doesn’t make any room for abused partners to leave their attackers.
You can read Mark 10 or Matthew 19. Jesus is confronted with a question as to what circumstances can justify a man divorcing his wife. Jesus answers by saying that man shouldn’t separate what God has joined (although he seems to make room for divorce when one partner has committed adultery).
I don’t like that the gospels or the subsequent books of the New Testament don’t include a provision for someone who has been abused in their previous marriage to find a better and more loving spouse. Now, it could be true that they don’t necessarily need to come right out and say this. For instance, in 1 Corinthians, Paul says that a believing spouse is free if their unbelieving partner leaves a result of their faith. Jesus didn’t say anything like that, but his apostle makes room for this situation, anyway.
Still, I find it troublesome that we don’t have an explicit condemnation of spousal abuse. We do have examples of apostles condemning the abuse of slaves by their masters, but they don’t say much about the abuse of wives by their husbands.
I guess I just wanted to get that off my chest and see if anyone else has any unspoken anxiety about what they find in the Bible. If so, consider the comments section your place to express yourself.
One of the boundary markers of contemporary evangelicalism is how you feel about the role of wives and husbands in marriage and whether those two are partners or whether the latter has a God-ordained authority over the former.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Ephesians 5, which is commonly referred to in this debate, can’t be used to answer the question of “Who gets to be in charge?” when its focus is on husbands and wives serving each other. Appealing to a text about servanthood to justify the ultimate authority of husbands is just weird to me. If anything, it seems to reflect a desire for power that Jesus specifically told his disciples to avoid.
Disciples: “Which of us will be great in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus: “The world pursues power and lords it over others, but it must not be so with you. Whoever would be the greatest among you, let him be the least.”
Disciples: “Yes, yes … but who gets to be the leader of the least?“
On Wednesday, I looked at Rachel Held Evans’ blog because a guest writer, Kristen Rosser, had posted an article on Ephesians 5 and whether marriages reflect the relationship of Christ and the church. The whole thing is worth the read, but I want to refer you to a particular part:
The illustration being given here is not general, but specific. Husbands and wives are to imitate this particular picture of Christ and the church.
And this is where I start whispering my Amen’s.
She went on to write:
The husbands were the ones with control in that society. Wives were not in a position to be able to make any substantive changes to turn marriage as it was understood, into marriage as the Lord wanted it in the church. It was husbands who had that power. So husbands are instructed to imitate Christ’s love for the church. But the specific picture/illustration given them to imitate is not one of authority and leadership, but of giving and sacrifice. Husbands were told to love their wives the way Christ loved the church when He gave Himself up for her—gave up His power and position to come down to the level of a servant— so that He could raise the church up to His holiness.
Husbands’ imitation of this picture of Christ would not involve holding onto their society-given rights and powers, but emptying themselves of them.
I agree with Rosser. The fact that the apostle Paul actually limits in what way a husband can be said to be like Christ in marriage is an indication that this metaphor doesn’t provide husbands with a blank check of authority. Husbands are specifically told in what way they’re to act as Christ does toward the church–and it isn’t by insisting that they’re the ones who get to lead. That attitude reflects the disciples, salivating at the thought of their heavenly promotions, than it does the mindset of our Lord.
Go check out her article when you get the chance.
Rob Bell took a lot of undeserved heat from evangelicals over his last book Love Wins. Bell was accused of being a universalist when, in fact, he did little more in his book than mimic what evangelical-hero C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce decades ago.
It’s a shame that so many people dismissed the book out of hand, because they would have found some great gems within its pages. Among its treasures is a particular passage in which Bell addresses those who couldn’t imagine that they could believe in an angry God.
Could they imagine such a deity?
Yes, they can.
Often, we think of little else.
Every oil spill,
every report of another woman sexually assaulted,
every news report that another political leader has silenced the opposition through torture, imprisonment, and execution, every time we see someone stepped on by an institution or corporation more interested in profit than people, every time we stumble upon one more instance of the human heart gone wrong, we shake our fist and cry out, “Will somebody please do something about this?”
I think part of the good news of Jesus is that God will do something about it.
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Anyone who’s ever dived into the debate of what the Sodom and Gomorrah story in Genesis was actually condemning is probably familiar with the ideas that they were destroyed because of either or a combination of their luxurious living at the expense of the poor or their ill treatment of visitors. These facts are often pointed out to counter the conservative argument that Sodom was condemned for its same-sex practices.
Upon reading the text, here’s what I’ve noticed: we don’t have any indication that the men of Sodom were interested in same-sex relations until after God had decided to destroy the city.
We don’t know if the crowd’s desired treatment of the two angels was typical of how it always treated guests, but there’s a couple of reasons to suggest that this was not normal practice in Sodom.
First, if every male who passed through Sodom was raped, then how did Lot manage to make it without being assaulted? Why does Lot treat Sodom as if it’s a safe enough place to settle down, and if it was dangerous for men like him, then why didn’t he leave?
And second, if Lot knew that having sex with other men was a regular desire of Sodom’s male population, then why does he offer them his daughters when he knows full well the crowd wouldn’t find them desirable? Lot’s actions regarding his daughters here is despicable, but why even suggest handing them over to a crowd that wouldn’t want them?
I’m not sure we have any biblical warrant for thinking that homosexuality was a regular feature in the life of Sodom, whose crimes nonetheless made it worthy of the fate it received. But I could be wrong, so I hope my readers will chime in.
Is there any reason to think that homosexuality was a recurring part of Sodom’s life?
Sound off in the comments.