Your Son, Your Only Son Whom You Love

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2

abraham-isaac

In the story line of the Bible, the sacrifice of Isaac represents a direct threat to God’s covenant promise to Abraham. God had promised Abraham, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” How can God make Abraham’s descendants a great nation and a blessing to the world if Isaac is dead? I can think of no better answer than the one offered by the author of the New Testament epistle of Hebrews. “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” But while that is how I approach this text theologically, it’s not how I approach it emotionally.

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Here are the Bishops I was Looking For

Recently, I asked who the bishop might be who would step forward to defend our church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality? Apparently, there are 12 of them in Africa.

We are deeply saddened that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church in favor of social and cultural practices that have no scriptural basis for acceptance in Christian worship and conduct. Yet they continue to attempt to persuade members of the Church to incorporate these practices as an accepted code of conduct within global United Methodism.

As leaders of the church in Africa, we call upon all United Methodists, Bishops, clergy and Laity to an unreserved commitment to the Holy Bible as the primary authority for faith and practice in the church. We call upon all members throughout the connection to adopt practices consistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. We submit to the teachings of Scripture that God designed marriage to be between man and woman, and the procreation of children is a blessing from God (Gen. 2:24-25; Psalm 127:3-5). Scripture also teaches that all persons are sexual beings, whether or not they are married.

However, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant bond of a faithful monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and not within same-sex unions or polygamy. The Christian marriage covenant is holy, sacred, and consecrated by God and is expressed in shared fidelity between one man and one woman for life. In this vein, we denounce all forms of sexual exploitation, including fornication, adultery, sexual commercialization, slavery, abuse, polygamy, etc.

As shepherds of God’s flock, we covenant to be in ministry with those of our members who adopt practices that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.

From the Beginning of Creation

Mark 10 on Marriage and Divorce (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1: A Certificate of Divorce
Part 2: And Marries Another
Part 3: From the Beginning of Creation

We have not yet dealt with the heart of Jesus’ teaching, which is his appeal to the Genesis account of creation.

As I concluded yesterday, Jesus’ cultural situation was significantly different than our own. His words don’t fit a culture in which “no fault” divorce makes any sense. The legal mechanism of divorce will vary from culture to culture, but they only exist because people are tragically broken to begin with. WIth his appeal to the Genesis story of creation, Jesus points us to God’s intentions for humankind.

When Jesus asked his inquisitors about what Moses commanded, they pointed to Deuteronomy 24. A more central commandment, Jesus answered, is found at the beginning of the book of Genesis (also considered one of the Books of Moses).

At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

Jesus is quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. Genesis is foundational to end-of-marriage discussions precisely because it is foundational to the beginning of marriage. Only when we know what marriage is can we speak intelligently about the end of a marriage.

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And Marries Another

Mark 10 on Marriage and Divorce (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1: A Certificate of Divorce
Part 2: And Marries Another
Part 3: From the Beginning of Creation

In Mark 10:11-12, Jesus declared that whoever sends his wife away and marries commits adultery against his first wife. A piece of paper did not justify what was otherwise unjustifiable. The sent-away wife is the victim of her husband’s decision to cast her aside in favor of another. He has harmed her economically, socially and personally. Jesus affirms the dignity of women by denying that they can be thrown away like yesterday’s stale bread.

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A Certificate of Divorce

Mark 10 on Marriage and Divorce (Part 1 of 3)

Part 1: A Certificate of Divorce
Part 2: And Marries Another
Part 3: From the Beginning of Creation

This is the first of three posts examining what Jesus had to say about marriage and divorce in the tenth chapter of Mark’s gospel.

Mark 10:2-12 consists of two related but distinct thought units related to marriage and divorce. Mark 10:2-9 is Jesus’ public response to some Pharisee’s question on the lawfulness of divorce. In Mark 10:10-12, Jesus responds privately to questions from his disciples on the same subject.

Divorce and Deuteronomy 24

When some Pharisees asked Jesus whether it was permissible for a man to divorce his wife, Jesus replied by asking them what Moses commanded. The Pharisees responded by pointing to their interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4: Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.

Jesus asked what Moses commanded; the Pharisees responded with what Moses permitted. That’s not quite the same thing, so perhaps Jesus had something else in mind with his question. We’ll get to that in a later post.

Before Jesus points the Pharisees to a different commandment, he critiques their response. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is a strange passage that really isn’t about divorce; it’s about a man remarrying a woman he’s previously divorced after she’s been married to somebody else. Jesus, however, accepts the Pharisee’s inference: if a man is going to send his wife away, he must give her a certificate of divorce.

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