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Monday, June 17, 2013

The belief of childbearing in I Timothy 2

Read this I Timothy 2 text in which I have underlined key words.

1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times; 7 to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth in Christ, not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire therefore that the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without anger and doubting. 9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 10 but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with full submission. 12 But I don’t permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 Adam wasn’t deceived, but the woman, being deceived, has fallen into disobedience; 15 but she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.
the practice of circumcision and culture
If a person were reading the NT for the first time and asked you what is circumcision how would you answer him/her? Some probable answers might include that circumcision was 1) a cultural practice, 2) a cultural practice in Israel, or 3) a sign of the covenant God made with Abraham, the father of Israel. Circumcision was not a cultural practice in Israel. It was a religious practice.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Cult of Artemis and the Royal Priesthood

Sisters and brothers teaching and preaching the will of the Lord
in light of I Timothy 2 and Paul's letters.

The royal priesthood of believers


(My original, longer version of this article is on this blog. I do not purport to offer an exegesis or to cover or otherwise rehash the multitude of views for and against this subject. I am confident of the content and trust readers will ponder it themselves and respond accordingly.)

Sisters and brothers, the called out saints in Christ, the royal priesthood of believers, as Peter called us, (I Peter 3:9) stand out and apart from the world in which we live. It is the royal priesthood which God in his divine wisdom ordained for the work of teaching and preaching the knowledge of his divine will. Yet, the same reluctant spirit of Moses to go to Pharoah is alive today. It manifests itself, not in the reluctance of the priesthood to go, but in how men have determined half of that priesthood, namely our sisters in the faith that is in Christ Jesus, ought not to go. Still, the royal priesthood is unlike any other in the world because of its call to minister to those who are in Christ as well as those who are in the world.

The world immerses men, women, youth and children in culture and although cultures differ between countries and the peoples of the world they all have the common effect of diverting knowledge and worship away from the living God. There are too many facets, good and bad, in culture, but it is the call and duty of priests to teach, offer sacrifice and pray with and for those to whom they minister in the body of Christ and those to whom they minister in the culture of the world. Condemning culture or casting those things we do not understand under the broad umbrella of culture does little to enlighten the saints. Similarly, “It was a first century cultural practice” as the default explanation to the saints in Bible class is as unconvincing, dry and lifeless as ancient temple ruins.

Broadly speaking, there are two views in the royal priesthood of believers attributed to Paul and which bear on the ministry and proclamation of the gospel. These include teaching and the exercise of authority by women, with the sole cause being to silence women, and the precedence of Adam in the order of creation, with the sole effect being silent women. Both of these views are plied from Paul's ministry message in Ephesus; proclaimed and written under the shadow of the temple of Artemis. The central text in this discussion is I Timothy 2:9-16. There's no question the words are Paul's anymore than their importance and prevalence in the church today. However, there is a question as to how we attribute our interpretation and meaning of Paul's words to these views as being what Paul intended.

This article is limited to the religious beliefs in the cult and culture of Artemis and how these relate to the teaching and preaching in the priesthood of believers in the assembly of the saints.

Although this article is not about culture I believe a working definition of culture is helpful as we seek to minister, not to change culture, but to bring to the transformation of the new birth those who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Culture is how different people can and do participate or interact in beliefs, customs and laws, but with no more commitment then an afternoon in the park. An atheist, Muslim, or Christian can participate or interact equally in the soccer game or a moment of prayer at a family celebration whose beliefs, customs and views of law may be at vastly different odds with every one of those of the celebrating family.

Paul arrives in Ephesus

The transforming ministry of the work of the Spirit in Ephesus began with the arrival of the apostle Paul. It was not without some obstacles. He had been twice forbidden by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6,7) from speaking the word in Asia. He exited Asia west into Macedonia, worked his way south to Corinth before crossing the Aegean Sea east back into Ephesus in Asia.

The account by Luke of Paul’s arrival and departure from Ephesus on this second missionary journey is brief. Luke relates this in two verses in Acts 19:18-21. Paul continued on his way to Jerusalem after a short stay in Antioch before heading out, again. Once again, he departed for another missionary journey from Antioch. This time Luke is just as brief with his account of Paul’s journey through the upper country of north Asia saying only,

he departed, [from Antioch] and went through the region of Galatia, and Phrygia, in order, establishing all the disciples” (Acts 18:23) before [he} “came to Ephesus.” (Acts 19:1)

There he ministered for at least two years despite no mention of the removal of the prohibition from speaking the word in Asia Paul had received from the Holy Spirit. It is significant it was here in Ephesus where Paul delivered through Timothy an instruction concerning the teaching and the exercise of authority to the royal priesthood of believers, or more specifically, to our sisters in the faith.

What was the purpose the Holy Spirit forbade Paul to speak in Asia?
What was the purpose the Holy Spirit forbade our sisters to teach in Ephesus?

Did the Holy Spirit intend for this instruction to remain in effect forever?

The mere colossal presence of the temple of Artemis may well have made Paul realize this was the place and purpose of the Holy Spirit’s guidance of him. His mission was as clear and as colossal as the temple itself: Demolish and dethrone Artemis and the female-dominant-oriented culture which prevailed in Asia. Yet, our understanding of Paul's mission and words is almost entirely on the basis of all things Jewish or the popular mystic allure and fascination of Gnosticism. The latter was one of various corruptions of the gospel which would hit the church, but Artemis had been around much longer and was well entrenched in Asia. Certainly, Gnosticism is a valuable study of the New Testament, but how can we study and understand Paul's writings while remaining oblivious to Artemis?

Artemis of the Ephesians: three beliefs

Artemis, the daughter of Zeus, or Diana as she was known to the Romans, was introduced for the saints in Christ in Acts 19. Although Paul was literally on the sidelines and was mentioned by name he was not directly involved at that time in which a riot nearly broke out. It is the testimony of Demetrius which reveals Artemis was not merely an obscure local deity in Ephesus. She was well known and worshiped throughout Asia.

Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and Asia what
Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea.

There were numerous and different beliefs attributed to Artemis, but this article is limited to three widely held beliefs and how these have come to affect the priesthood of believers. 1) The belief that her mother gave birth to Artemis first. Artemis then turned and assisted her mother give birth to her twin brother Apollo, 2) A belief evolved from this act by Artemis at the time of her birth with Artemis asserting herself as the savior of women, particularly, at childbirth, and 3) She presided over kings. Paul seems to allude and refers to all three of these beliefs in his writings which would likely have resonated as familiar with the saints in Christ who had come out of the culture of Artemis.

The apostle Paul wrote at least five letters to churches and individuals in Asia which include: Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and I & II Timothy. Titus, who was on the island of Crete 200 miles off the southwest coast of Asia, could possibly be included in this number.

Instructions to those who teach in a church on the brink

Some time after Paul’s departure from Ephesus it became apparent there were matters which demanded Paul’s urgent attention. There were men who had strayed, wanting to be teachers of the law whom Paul said they did not understand what they were saying despite their confident assertions. (I Timothy 1:7) This was an urgent matter given the battle zone conditions in Ephesus and Paul was clear on Timothy’s need to instruct those men not to teach strange doctrine and other matters they did not understand.

There is no need similar instruction to silence or stop Philip’s daughters in Caesarea (Acts 21:9) who had the gift of prophecy. Similarly, the sisters in Corinth were not instructed to be silent and cease to prophesy, but to do all things in an appropriate and orderly manner. (The silence Paul did invoke in Corinth and which is so distorted by many is no different than a modern situation where a wife interrupts her husband who is an elder while he is addressing the congregation on the basis of their physical relationship as husband and wife, not as by the Spirit. Even then, Paul said, the Spirit is subject to those who speak and God is not a God of confusion. The instruction of silence would be just as fitting and appropriate were an elder to interrupt the preaching of the word on the basis that he must correct error. While confronting error is true, such a confrontation would make nothing less than a carnal spectacle. The matter could be handled just as well by addressing the congregation and the individual after the message.)

However, the circumstances in Ephesus represented a potential situation for sisters in Christ to become embroiled or mistaken as being part of the carnal mind-set of those wanting to be teachers of the law. Perhaps even worse was the possibility they could be mistaken in a teaching role as dominant priestesses of the temple of Artemis or her broader culture dominance in Ephesus. (It seems plausible priestesses who had emerged from the cult of Artemis would have the means to possess gold, pearls and expensive clothing and it is they who are the specific reason for Paul's instruction on the matter of their outward appearance.) Either way, their association could potentially have produced a clash with Paul’s mission on Artemis as carried on by Timothy. It is an audacious stretch to smear and embroil our sisters with others in Ephesus in the false teaching which had surfaced in the church on the basis, as some have stated, that there were some women who were gossipers and idlers. Paul never made any suggestion or statement that they were involved in teaching false doctrine. Nonetheless, the church in Ephesus seemed on the brink of becoming another Corinth.

It is an unfortunate understatement that Paul’s words for unity, enlightenment and instruction, directed as much to our brothers as to our sisters in Ephesus, continue to be primarily a perpetual prohibition against our sisters, and brothers too, who love God. This, by men who love God no less, but whose career status and accomplishments are more often the qualifications by which it is determined they are worthy to lead the saints in Christ, not because they are, full of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 6) The fact there are sisters who reject as offensive the idea of one of their own gender preaching and teaching is no more a response than those brothers who beat their chest and declare defiantly, "not as long as I have anything to say about it." We know Paul was misunderstood at various times much to his dismay and sometimes utter frustration.

Today, one can only wonder about studies which emphasize language, historical interpretations and concocted, strained spins on first and twenty first century views on culture. These studies are applied to the discussion on preaching and teaching by sisters in Christ with no more clarification or understanding in those studies than the exegesis of those same scriptures. They often support or obscure a prohibition to teach written by Paul, but with little understanding as to why the Holy Spirit gave that prohibition and why Paul wrote it. Would a scene such as this provoke and admonishment to men of a similar mind-set who lead and who want to be teachers but do not know what they say or about what they (despite their defiance) strongly affirm as Paul did in I Timothy 1, today?

The target of Paul’s message: Artemis, not our sisters

Unlike the contemporary emphasis on the silence of women  in I Timothy 2 Paul's primary objective emphasis was his unrelenting attack on Artemis. The notable absence of Artemis' name in Paul's writings may suggest he was mindful to not create or provoke a hostile reaction against the church even though he himself fought with “wild beasts” in Ephesus. (Note: This reference in I Corinthians 15:32 may be yet another subtle allusion to Artemis who was the protectress goddess of wild beasts.) We know of similar measures he employed for the advancement of the kingdom of God whether it was consenting to Timothy’s circumcision (Acts 16:3) or Paul’s participation in temple rituals in Jerusalem. (Acts 21) In one instance Paul’s best-intention strategy to remain free of any obligations when he first preached in Corinth backfired on him. Men with no other intention than to malign Paul and cast reproach on him and the gospel were troubling the faith of the saints. A gospel message, they said, for which Paul could not even bring himself to receive the customary monetary gifts for traveling itinerants (while he instead relied on churches in Macedonia which supplied his needs through the arrival of Timothy and Silas, Acts 17:15; 18:5, II Corinthians 11:9) was a worthless gospel and one of which he was ashamed. Yet, Paul remained unfazed when he asserted he would do what he had done all over again. Such was his confidence in the cause of the gospel. (II Corinthians11)

Every one of Paul’s five letters previously mentioned reverberate with declarations, references and allusions to these basic tenets of our faith: 1) Jesus is firstborn, 2) Jesus is king, and 3) Jesus is savior, every one of which were assaults on the culture of Artemis, alsoOur view of these tenets of faith without regard and in isolation from the Artemis culture being torn down and demolished by Paul and Timothy's ministry is as astounding as it is to our peril.

It is a bitter irony that Paul's strategy to not permit women to teach during the battle to silence the cult of Artemis forever has silenced many of our sisters for too long through our own seriously questionable understanding of his words.

If Eve was a helper to Adam in the garden our sisters today are no less helpers in the preaching and teaching of the gospel. No, not every woman is called anymore than every man is called to preach and teach. However, whether or not those sisters are called is not a matter for brothers, anymore than sisters to forbid it, because it upsets them or they just don't think it is right. This weighty matter of the kingdom demands a response which enlightens and edifies the saints in the Spirit.

There is a muted argument (oh, the irony!) by some as to any question or discussion on Paul’s clear words regarding women and teaching. Quite simply, some saints reason, Paul is so clear on his instruction concerning our sisters there is nothing to examine or study the matter. Really? The test of this reasoning is to compare and apply it with other equally simple, clear words spoken by Jesus to remove the eye and cut off the hand which caused us to sin. Who takes these clear words of Jesus literally without any discussion?

Jesus, the Son of God: three beliefs

The three aforementioned tenets of the cult of Artemis were that: 1) she was firstborn, 2) she was the savior of women, and that 3) she presided over kings.

However, Paul boldly asserts Jesus, not Artemis, is the firstborn. (Col 1:15, 18) Although Jesus was born to a woman (Galatians 4:4, Paul's only allusion to the virgin birth) He is the firstborn, not from woman, but through the resurrection declared to be the Son of God.

Then, Paul boldly asserts Jesus is the savior of man (kind), not only woman as was Artemis. Whatever the image revered (Acts 19:35) by the Ephesians which fell from Zeus Paul repeatedly asserts the purpose for which Jesus came (not fell) from heaven and was sent from heaven and to give himself as a ransom for all was to save mankind. (I Timothy 2:6)

Finally, Paul boldly asserts Jesus is king eternal (I Timothy 1:17) and has a kingdom (Col 1:13). All things, including thrones and dominions, were created by him, through him and for him. (Col 1:16) There were no kings before Jesus on his throne and there will be no kings to succeed him or preside over him or his eternal throne.

created, not born

Lastly, unlike Artemis who was born to a woman, Adam and Eve were created into this life. They were formed by the one who created all things. Paul’s specific mention that it was the man, Adam, who was created first is an enlightening if-you-must-know affront to Artemis’ claims of being first-BORN. It is also an enlightenment for his Gentile brethren, and not, as the saints are told, today, a primer or a reiteration on the Torah for a Jewish audience on the order of creation. It seems improbable Paul's focus was on who was deceived, deceived first or deceived completely, because ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) This is not an imperative command by Paul for our sisters to busy themselves bearing children, but that WHEN these sisters in Christ bore children their joy would be a two-fold affront to Artemis. 1) They could rejoice in the birth of their child, and 2) they could rejoice in their salvation which was in the Lord Jesus. Paul's mention of the disobedience by Eve was as much Adam's and, this, is the sin problem of man and woman. The indisputable truth is that salvation from sin for women (and all mankind) is through faith in Jesus, not childbearing or Artemis as savior.

Paul’s wording that the woman fell into transgression may be yet another allusion to the deception of Artemis as savior. The female goddess Artemis (born, not created) was as disobedient and deceived as was Eve. Anyone who would presume to declare themselves a savior when they themselves have fallen into transgression is quite deceived. The familiarity in Ephesus, particularly among devotees of Artemis, of the fall may well have been related and associated in their mind with whatever, the image which fell down from Zeus. (Acts 19:35) It may well be that Jesus alluded and played on the familiarity of that fall in his opening admonition to the churches in Asia of which Ephesus was the first he addressed: Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5) Salvation is the reason Jesus, the Son of God, came into the world. Unlike Artemis, there was redemption and salvation for Eve and all mankind from her disobedience, deception and fall.

Therefore, Paul's statement that woman is saved through childbearing is not concerning salvation from sins. It is not the woman, our sisters, upon whom Paul seeks to invoke and impose Eve's disobedience so as to lord it over them. Eve was unlike Artemis in that Eve was created; Artemis was born. Eve was like Artemis in that despite their reversed order of birth, Artemis being born first then her brother Apollo and Eve being created second; they both similarly fell into transgression and were deceived. Paul's peculiar wording that the woman has fallen into disobedience seems suggestive of something present, as in the present reality of the female goddess Artemis. Yes, Satan was/is the enemy, our adversary, and in Ephesus his name was Artemis for which reason young widows in Christ were to bear children . . . and give no occasion to the adversary for insulting. (I Timothy 5:14, the second of only two times Paul refers to women and childbearing and both are in this letter. I am mindful of the reference in Galatians 4 of Hagar, but Paul himself declares that childbearing reference is an allegory.) The salvation of the woman (and the man) is contingent upon their continued life of faith, love and sanctification with sobriety, _ not Artemis. Let us not deceive ourselves about the disobedience of Adam. (Romans 5:14)

Conclusion

The apostle Paul was not timid about using tactics in the war to topple and dethrone the cult of Artemis. In the Ephesus church, under the shadow of the temple of Artemis, there was no time for the priesthood of believers to be party to a spectacle in the scheme of something far greater than men teaching what they did not understand or women teaching at all. There would come a time when sisters would help, as ordained in the garden, either their husbands or their brothers in Christ in the teaching and preaching ministry of the gospel. The time came for Paul after being forbidden two times by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. He finally arrived in Ephesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit began his transforming ministry with the royal priesthood of brothers and sisters, some by their teaching others by their silence, in Christ in Ephesus, but each supporting, helping and aiding as co-workers with Paul.

I have attempted to avoid the tactic of modern day culture politics which infuse gender to foment this subject in pursuit of the equality of political correctness as well as the stiffness of egalitarianism and complementarian exchanges. This is a key reason for the preferred use of the biblical term, the royal priesthood which does not distinguish between male or female. Other approaches to this subject include different views with different possible word meanings and interpretations of the text. The approach in this article has been devoid of the familiar and available excellent language and historical approaches to this subject. This perspective of the cult and culture of Artemis is rooted in Acts and the epistles of Paul and is in isolation from the common words and verses spun ceaselessly and with precious little accomplished. It is as valuable as gender, grammar studies and Jewish interpretations which have dominated the discussion.

There's a significant, if not powerful, account about how Artemis came to seize the children, specifically, little girls, of the people of Ephesus. It speaks loud volumes to what the church continues to do with little girls. Little boys do not escape the message even if it takes them some years to gain some understanding of it.

When the Ephesians learned a wild bear had killed a little girl they hunted it down and killed the bear. Artemis, protectress goddess of wild beasts, was enraged (clue: note how often anger appears in Paul's letters) and declared that thereafter virgin girls would be dedicated to serve in her temple. Of course, these girls grew up to be women who bore children whom Artemis "saved" time after time. It was when these women came to the knowledge of the love of God in Jesus that they rejoiced, not only in their salvation, but in childbearing.

What is the point about Artemis and how the church brings up little girls? It is really a reversal in the church from what it was in the temple of Artemis: Little girls grow up from their early childhood being devout and dedicated only to reach that point as women when they can no longer bear to serve while simultaneously living in the reality that they are prohibited from teaching and preaching in the assembly of the saints.  Some little girls from their youngest years grow up actually thinking and being let to believe that they, like anyone and everyone, can and will teach and preach the gospel of the kingdom of God.

The obvious reality as it plays out in the church and for those little girls, then young girls, then women is that there are a lot (really?) nice things (serve communion? take up the collection?) which they can do in the church, _ it's just not teaching and preaching in the assembly of the saints in Christ. Whatever nice and good thing they do they may do it as unto the Lord, but they may do it _ divided, segregated by gender. It does not require great insight to discern the similarities towards women, our sisters in Christ, and the church's past, slow reluctance towards the ending of slavery and the emancipation of blacks in America. Little boys are not exempt. They grow up and as men can see, even though they may not have a understanding or comprehensive response, to what they only see as the sequestration of their sisters. Thereby, half the royal priesthood of believers continues to be silenced.

This is a call for the royal priesthood of brothers and sisters full of the Spirit to hold true to the calling of God to teach and preach the will of the Lord whether in the assembly of the saints or in the city park. This is not a matter of personal like or dislike, comfort or discomfort. I had no idea or intentions of a change of mind, that is, of understanding on this matter when I began to examine it. The change of mind was not difficult, despite having not so much opposed our sisters in ministry as much as a misunderstanding that teaching and preaching as a matter of being about the Father's business was to be filled solely by men. It was when I stayed clear to avoid a rehash of the familiar arguments from both sides and examined not just a word/verse or passage, but the overall ministry of the apostle Paul that I, no, the Holy Spirit, brought me to gain the perspective reflected in this article. The time has come. Who can forbid that brothers and sisters teach and proclaim that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father? Maranatha.

Selected reading:
Religious Cults Associated with the Amazons by Florence Bennett Anderson
A Woman Called by Sara Gaston Barton
Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal by Carroll Osburn
I really appreciate the heart and spirit with which Carroll Osburn treads through the multiple views on the subject. He's got a great response to each, yet I was surprised at his own less-than-substantive conclusion on the subject. There's no doubt he is quite capable of expounding long on I Timothy 2, but I expected a bit more.
The Early Amazons: Modern and Ancient Perspectives on an Ancient Myth
Reading 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Its Literary Context
The single most glaringly audacious assertion in the above article is  Doug Heidebrecht's mistaken alignment of our sisters with false teaching as one of the reasons for Paul's instruction concerning our sisters in the faith.The Cult of Artemis and the Royal Priesthood

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Homosexual Right to Worker Benefits

I want to be clear at the start. This article centers on the oft heard homosexual claims about rights for worker benefits. It is not a defense of homosexuality. It is a defense for the right of homosexuals to receive health benefits. It must of necessity present the human relationship of marriage as reaffirmed by Jesus in the context of authority. I do not profess this article contains anything original, capable of changing anyone’s mind or any stellar points though maybe some enlightenment for the saints in Christ, my brothers and sister in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Whatever biases and assumptions I have no intention, need or desire to engage in bashing or trashing people or the choices they make for themselves. I realize this disclaimer will not prevent mindless outbursts of anger, indignation, jumping to conclusions and other works of the flesh from either side of the discussion, but you read it here. What, then, is the response of the saints in Christ to the homosexual claims for rights concerning health coverage from an employer? Do saints in Christ have a biblical counter basis for their own chants and rants against homosexual rants and accusations of hatred?


definition of terms


First, this message is directed to so-called brothers and sisters in the faith that is in Christ Jesus who mistakenly profess, embrace, display homosexuality as an acceptable and pleasing way of life for a disciple of Jesus. However, there is an equally mistaken response to the homosexual’s call for medical benefits. Second, I need to explain the use of the term homosexual in this article. The term is inclusive of same-sex (as is the original root meaning of the word) relationships between males and females. Some would say the term, though not ethnic, is offensive, but the term is about as accurate and clear as the ethnic terms, Russian, Mexican, Chinese, etc. I do not have a problem, not as though it matters, with homosexuals defining themselves as Gay.


However, it is the term Gay, as a human emotion, which is misleading and inaccurate, because while someone may be a homosexual and is homosexual always, he/she is not always gay emotionally. Merely changing a word or name designation does not produce a substantive change whether the discussion is about homosexuals or Russians or other ethnicities. Using words with a meaning other than the original to bolster one’s image or confidence may sound and feel good, but it did not originate with homosexuals. The practice of embracing words to force a new meaning on them is the modern tactic among which one can include the words “bad” and “bitch.” These are, in simplest form, solely to bolster and project an image the user wishes the world would perceive about them. It is a wish.


One last example and markedly different because it does not involve human behavior is the word translated in English as “church.” The reason it is necessary to include it here is because of the call to question authority. Actually, the old bumper sticker, now cyber icon, which calls all to “Question Authority” is good. Unfortunately, the reality is that tends to take on more of a chant or rant with to intention to LISTEN for the response from that authority. The purpose of the inclusion of the term church is related to that call to question authority.


The original word meaning of church as appears in the New Testament is according to the common use of the term. Simply, it referred to a public gathering of citizens who came out in response to the public call to come together for some civic purpose. The word found application in the obedient response of believers to the gospel message of Jesus. Those who come to him are “called out” from the world to live, still live in the world, but walk in the kingdom of heaven, now. The word has taken on yet an even looser modern adaptation as it has come to be applied to buildings where disciples of Jesus come together in worship. The significance of the original meaning of this word will emerge later in this article. Perhaps you might have picked up on a peculiar similarity of the term here and to which I will come back later.


likes and dislikes


Our interests and likes of things are often guided by what is practical, economical, fun or necessary. Laptops, phones, clothing and other items are among some of those things. Yes, the decision between what is right and what is wrong can and is sometimes overridden in order to allow ourselves what we want such as a phone purchase instead of a computer upgrade. This is not to say, and it is definitely not always the case that something is wrong merely because one didn’t make the best or right choice concerning those purchases.


Generally, what evokes false charges of hatred from homosexuals and their advocates is not over phones and laptops, but it is when the question of a moral choice is involved. Of course, the rapid retort that no one has a right to dictate or impose their morality is coupled with cries of hatred and homophobia. The practice of leveraging and fomenting real or imagined fear was used as much by anti communists in America during the cold war as by Muslim jihadists. It's the bravado even the clueless can bear in the form of a body tattoo or a bumper sticker. That plays well to the crowd, but it is not necessarily true. The truth is having a moral opposition and conviction against a behavior such as homosexuality is no more a matter of hatred than other behaviors such as thievery, adultery cast alongside of homosexuality in the New Testament.


what’s in it for me


So, why bother with what are other people’s interests? What business is it of mine or anyone else what or how one chooses to live and whether it is right or wrong? What’s in it for me? Furthermore, who decides what is right and what is wrong? The retorts and shouting matches, while they may say little or nothing about what is right or wrong or about moral imperatives, are mostly to obscure what is really at issue. Despite the contempt by homosexuals against a moral message by Christians the truth is homosexuals, like most anybody, have a moral standard, that is, an authority, too. It’s what, for example, compels them to voice their opposition to war, human trafficking, drug use, etc. These are moral judgments. Mostly, the dialog, if it can be called that, is from the perspective of personal likes and dislikes. It’s when moral judgments are made as these concern oneself that it produces a bad taste and best to be avoided.


the judgment of the conscience and law


Whether one’s decisions are selfish, condoned or condemned as right or wrong making a judgment is no more to be relished than coming under judgment. The cry often heard from homosexuals against the judgment of secular law or faith is to respond with the charge of hatred. This is disingenuous at best and a lie at worse. Hatred, like the expression gay, is a human emotion and while hatred is a reality it makes a poor shield of defense for the lack of response to a judgment.


Any one can choose to ignore or reject the voice and judgment of authority, whether it is their own conscience, civil law or the scriptures. No can do so without the expectation of consequences. Now, to return to the meaning of “church” as the “called out.” In it’s original use in the first century it had no religious connotation. The term referred to those who were called out or came out in response to the civic authorities for citizens to come together. Here’s the antiquity of the homosexual use of the phrase “coming out” of the closet, the hiding, the duplicity, etc., in response to the call of their own heart, their own conscience to declare their homosexuality. The saints in Christ are those who have come out from a destructive lives with no knowledge of God. They still live in the world, but no longer live for the world.


the principal involving the generosity of the generous


Jesus related a parable in Matthew 20. It is a parable of a vineyard owner who hires laborers at various times during the course of the day. It is a parable about generosity as much as human resentment and envy. Jesus taught three principals in the parable in Matthew 20:1-16.


1) Do not begrudge one who gives willingly and generously,
2) Do not overlook what you have received, and
3) Do not fall into resentment when others receive the same as you have received.


When the owner instructed his foreman at the end of the day to pay the laborers, those who worked the longest assumed and expected they would be paid more. They saw the foreman pay those who arrived late and labored only a portion of the day a full day’s wages. It was when he paid those who worked the whole day the same full day’s wages that they were filled with resentment.


They made no demands as to their rights. They were due their wages and they were paid. What incensed them was that the vineyard owner paid them all the same full day’s wages regardless of how many hours they had worked. Given the resentment by those who had worked the most hours it is not likely they would have protested for more pay for those who had endured the longer day had the circumstances been reversed. The reason is one who begrudges those who receive or resents those who are generous to give is also not one who gives cheerfully as the Lord loves. II Corinthians 9:7


There’s a similar truth regarding the payment, that is the wages, of sin. It is death. (Romans 6:23) These are due wages and the payment. The payment is the same for all regardless of how little or how long they worked for it. There is, on the other hand, the free gift of God: eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


the first principal


Whether the employer were a secular one, such as a school district, or a Christian individual, -


what is it to those filled with resentment if those employers choose to share (the first principal) equally their employee benefits with all who work in their employ?


I anticipate this response from some saints in Christ: Those laborers were not homosexual sinners, but this is presumptuous and without any basis because nothing is stated in the parable as to their character. Jesus would not support homosexuality, but this response, too, overlooks the fact that Jesus, like our Heavenly Father, never withheld his goodness and blessings from anyone whether it was a sinful woman or Judas who betrayed him.


And, if we were really to press the application of these responses to Jesus we would indict Jesus for supporting slothfulness. Really, Jesus. Who in their right mind would pay a worker a full day’s wages for laboring the last hour of the work day, only? Whether one searches for slothfulness or homosexuality in the parable to justify exclusions to deny any goodwill from an employer, it is a misguided search. The point of the parable, as explained by Jesus, is about the kingdom of heaven and how the vineyard owner (God) is good. It is not about the moral character of the laborers. God bestows his blessings similarly  on those who have walked in the Lord for thirty years, three days or three hours.


marriage: a man and a woman


Jesus noted the preeminence of marriage in his discussion with the Sadducees. (Mark 12) They provoked Jesus for his selective moral judgment in a scenario involving a woman who had been married multiple times. (Interestingly, the moral judgment which the Sadducees tried to evoke from Jesus was because to their own unbelief and efforts to debunk and dismiss the resurrection which is the ultimate judgment on sin.) Jesus said, in addition to answering them about their ignorance,


Isn’t this because you are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God?
and
You are therefore badly mistaken.


and reminded these adversaries of the origin and beginning of that marriage relationship in the garden of Eden as being between a man and a woman.


What Christians are pressing for through their protest is to evoke a moral judgment against same-sex marriages or homosexuals receiving the same benefits as all other employees. However, the truth is Christians resorting to cultural and legislation measures to accomplish a moral change objective does not equate to the righteousness of God. Also, it does not reflect the spirit of those who seek to do the will of God. The dependency by disciples of Jesus on employers or government to legislate selective morality as a means of denying or depriving people, whether homosexuals or non married couples, of benefits is no substitute for and has no part with the gospel message of the love of God.


the second and third principal


Whether the laborers in the parable were sinful men or otherwise worked eleven or one hour; they were all the vineyard owner’s employees. It was his decision alone and no one else’s as to how much he paid them without being selective or inquiring as to their moral status so as to justify what he would pay each one. Whether the school district’s decision holds up in court is one matter.


The other matter is that employees who have received their benefits from the school district lose nothing, except maybe their thankfulness, [after all, it the spirit of the fight the battle was fought for what rights, not generosity] (the second principal) if homosexuals receive the same benefits. (the third principal)


indictment or vindication


The claims by my fellow saints in Christ that their protest against homosexuals receiving benefits is based on the scriptures has a ring of truth, but the fact that it is misplaced and reveals missed opportunities. As much as the scriptures do condemn homosexuality same-sex relationships are an indictment unto themselves and this is overlooked by Christians as much as homosexuals.


Heterosexual and homosexual relationships are showcase display attempts at unity between two people. Either through the difference of heterosexuals or the sameness of homosexuals they are both affected by the  mystery of unity. This is true of the witting and unwitting regardless whether or not they know or acknowledge God as the Divine Creator. This unity and oneness of God is prevalent. It is what is desired and delights all human relationships even when the moral makeup of those relationships represents a rejection of God and his will.


Yet, a union with a gender other than one's opposite is like a battery with two positive or two negative terminals. Such a thing cannot be made and still function as a battery even if it is called a battery.


Biologically, a behavioral homosexual can no more be produced by two homosexuals any more than biologically a physiological woman/man can be produced by two women or two men together.


Hence, morality, gay(ness) and faith aside, homosexuality for all its claims of loving and embracing diversity is an indictment unto itself, biologically.


However, there’s no less indictment for the assembly of the saints if we were to turn away a sinner whose attitude, behavior or otherwise a disdain for righteousness is evident. What is equally evident is that if God is in the midst of the believers: Would that sinner be convicted in your assembly as the apostle Paul described what happens when a non-believer walks into the midst of the assembly of the saints and thereby vindicate the presence of God among the saints in Christ?


If therefore the whole assembly is assembled together and all speak with other languages, and unlearned or unbelieving people come in, won’t they say that you are crazy? 24 But if all prophesy, and someone unbelieving or unlearned comes in, he is reproved by all, and he is judged by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed. So he will fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is among you indeed.
2nd Corinthians 14:23-25


conclusion


The homosexual’s cry for benefits from an employer is not one to be silenced or denied by the saints in Christ. The frequent displays in which saints in Christ align themselves together with Bible sound bites and quotations from scripture against homosexuals may sound and feel good, but this is not in keeping with the lessons from the parable taught by Jesus in Matthew 20.


The fact of the judgment of scripture on homosexuality does not preclude a homosexual receiving benefits an employer has determined he will extend to whom he chooses. This is the lesson of the parable: Don’t begrudge, but be generous. Do not forget you what you have received. Do not fall into resentment when others receive what you have received.

Portions of this article were taken from a related article.