Tag Archives: Paul

1 Corinthians 13 (III)


reLOVEutionWe continue with my meditations on 1 Cor 13, Pauls love chapter. See also part I and II.

The next verse is the last of the first part of this chapter, and goes on in the same way as verse 1 and 2 which we’ve already read:

If I give away everything I own,
and if I give over my body
in order to boast,
but do not have love,
I receive no benefit.

(I recommend you to read this several times and think about it in all its implications and everything else that comes up when you read this. Asking the Holy Spirit for guidance before you do this is not a bad idea either.)

Paul still talks about all we can have and do without having love. This time he says we can sacrifice all we have including our own body, but without love we will not benefit from it.

The interesting thing is that when we compare the 3 first verses, the first verse says that without love we will just be meaningless, the second verse says that we are nothing, and the third verse says we won’t get any benefit. We can’t bypass love as a Christian. Not with knowledge, nor with strong faith, nor with any sacrifice we could make.

In medieval times we did have places called ‘godshuizen’ (god-houses) in this part of Europe, in which poor people were given housing and food. Sounds very good, but in fact the whole idea was that the (rich) people who founded such things just did it because they wanted to be sure they would go to heaven after they died. If this was indeed the reason why they built those houses and took care of the poor without really caring for them, we can doubt that it did really work. Paul here seems to assume otherwise…

Without love we are nothing!

There is some ambiguity in the original meaning of the second part, so some translations speak about giving over the body in order to boast, while others speaking in giving over the body to be burned, but the principle stays the same. Modern people don’t bother much with giving up their body anyway, so I don’t know if this particular sentence is that relevant for us. We do seem to revere our body more than that we are willing to sacrifice it.

But what Paul says here is very important. We can give and sacrifice everything we have and more, if it isn’t out of love (or at least creates love in us in the process), it will not do any good to us.

I must think of one more thing here: Jesus quoting the prophet Hosea to the pharisees in saying “Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13). Let that sink in, here is the Living bible version:

‘It isn’t your sacrifices and your gifts I want—I want you to be merciful.’

We need to be merciful. We need to be loving. Sacrifices of any kind are meaningless without love…

Without love nothing can ever mean anything at all…

So what is love? What characteristics does it have? That’s something for next time. (you can cheat by opening your bible though…)

Peace

Bram

1 Corinthians 13 (I)


I don’t know where my year of demodernisation is going, apart from trying to stay away from too much Dawkinsian naturalist fundamentalism and not ingesting too much American stuff at the same time. At the moment it might seem that I’m mainly exploring the occult, and sometimes going back to discussions about sex(ism) and stuff like that. I will try to go to completely different domains too though.

I thought it might be good, being a Christian blogger of sorts after all, to spend some time on the bible parts (and other texts probably) I’m trying to meditate on, and write rather short posts -or longer ones like this one- about them. So I will start in this post with a series on one of my favorite chapters of the bible, one of the most famous parts of Christian scripture: the famous ‘love chapter’ from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13;1
1 Corinthians 13 is maybe one of the most romanticised parts of the Christian bible, but it seems to me that both the importance and the depth of what Paul is telling us here are often understated. The consequences of this chapter are beyond what you’d think when you just read it superficially. That’s why I’m going to break this into small parts of one or more verses, to let every detail sink in.

We begin with the beginning:
If I speak in the tongues of men
and of angels,
but I do not have love,
I am a noisy gong
or a clanging cymbal.

Rosetta_Stone I do know a few languages. My native language is Dutch, and my second language is English (especially written English even). I do know a bit of French as a Belgian, can understand a little bit of Latin, and if I’d work on it I’d be able to read some old Greek again. And then there are languages in which I know only a few words. (My Japanese is better than my Russian, but still almost non-existing…)

There are a lot of human languages that are spoken today, and even more if we count the extinct ones in which texts still survive. One can spend a lifetime learning to still master only a fraction of them. And then there are the languages of angels, of which we do know nothing, and will never know anything, they use our languages to communicate with us, but I do know some Pentecostals believe some people who speak in tongues might have a ‘prayer language’ that’s not human but angelic.

It actually does not matter. We could know all languages of all language-using beings in the universe, but if we don’t have anything to say, it doesn’t matter.
It will all be worth nothing more than senseless noise. I do feel a bit offended as a drummer here that Paul uses cymbals and gongs here to signify something like ‘useless noise’, but it’s true that banging on a cymbal is always a lot of noise, and unless that noise does fit in some context, like a composition, or a ritual, or a lesson or practice for learning to do these things, we shouldn’t do it.

Someone once said to not break the silence unless you can improve it!

And what is the only way to improve the metaphorical silence? What is the only way to make those languages more than mindless noise?

Love

Yes, let that sink in, Love!

Anyone who knows the NT should not be surprised. Love is what it all is about according to Jesus. To love God with all that we are, and to love our neigbor as ourselves is the whole law. And it is the purpose of the law. It’s the Kingdom of God breaking in into this present age when we live in this love.

And nothing else makes much sense.

This goes deeper than I can realise and I’m only scratching the surface here,  so I think I have to meditate some more on this one verse before I go to sleep

Peace to you all

Bram

Do we Christians really live as followers of Jesus in the Spirit?


jesus-really-follow-me-twitter-450x408

How would the world look if all who call themselves ‘Christians’ and affirm that Jesus is Lord would take verses like the next ones foundational to their every-day life and to every decision?

How would the world have looked if people who claimed to be ‘Christian emperors’ or kings over ‘Christian countries’ filled with ‘Christian people’ would have meditated on verses like these every morning and did everything to let the Spirit transform them in such a way that this was the ‘normal’ for everyone?

Why, for those who dare to call ourselves Christians, is this so often not the ‘normal’, but do we derive our ‘normal’ from the fallen world around us because we need to be ‘realistic’? Don’t we believe that the Kingdom of God is a reality that will stay when this reality has faded?

Don’t we have to stick to what’s more real? Isn’t our world just a ghost compared to what is to come, and is the way of life laid out in these verses more real than our world now in a sense, even though its hard for us to see this and to align ourselves with the coming Kingdom.

 

Luke 6
27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Are we even among ‘those who are listening’ that are addressed here?

It is said elsewhere that we will be known by our love as Christians. I must say I don’t always see that. I do see a lot of seminars in Christianity, about leadership and being a good Christian man and be victorious in Christ and whatever. Where are the seminars that help us find ways together to love our enemies, give to those who ask, resisting violence with love and not hate? Why don’t we do everything in our might to grow into what is described by Jesus here?

I know want to be sure as protestants that we are ‘not saved by our works’.  But isn’t the goal to be the sort of people that love God and our neigbor with everything that we are? The kind of people that would populate heaven (or the new Earth), the kind of people that are at home in a place were all evil is taken away?

Are we different as Christians? Are we known as Christians because we are ‘kind to ungrateful and evil people’? Are we known to be merciful because we believe that Our Father is merciful?

Galatians 5
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.

How many of the ‘works of the flesh’ are not present in modern Christianity, even apart from the hidden sexual sin and horrible abuse that’s going on.  Things like “hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions and envying” for example, can sometimes be on the foreground without anyone even noticing them. And they seem to have been since the early councils…

Note also that the freedom spoken about in Galatians 5:13 is the opposite of what our modern individualist sense of freedom (especially in the way some Americans are obsessed with it). We have the freedom not to indulge in our own longings but to serve the other in love!

Why are we as Christian so often even worse than the ‘sinner and tax collectors’ Jesus talks about? why don’t we assume it normal to go beyond this and really love our fellow humans, whether they are our friends of enemies, so people see Gods love through us?
Why are we as Christians so often distracted with stuff that go against the words of Jesus here, or are very clearly in Paul’s list of ‘works of the flesh’.

I can ask myself, but it would be very different if I as a Christian had always had examples of people living like this around me and finding it as normal as Jesus and Paul and the first church did… The world indeed would be very different if all Christians would find what is described in those 2 bible passages as normative and reality-shaping.

These verses  could be normative and reality-shaping for Christians.

These verses SHOULD be normative and reality-shaping for all of us Christians…

Can we please please please take this stuff more serious as Christians?  This broken world needs it.

Holy Spirit come!

the love of money vs. the way of Christ…


Thee ebible.com verse of the day, reminded me again how different the Way of Christ is compared to the assumed ways of life of this modern world:

5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. ” 6 So we can confidently say,”The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5 – 6

In a world where our current economic systems are based on greed, ‘more more more’, and ‘I’m cooler than my neighbour coz I have X’, and where people think that greed is a good driving force behind an economy, the Way of Christ is actually quite subversive…

If  only all of us Christians would effectively live according to the last of the 10 commandments about not coveting what belongs to our neigbor, there would be a big problem for our contemporary Marketing and Advertisement industry, which tries to create new needs every day, and tries to sell us everything we don’t need… (And then I’m not even talking about the commandment before that one, about not bearing a false witness!) If one would try to set up a system that is opposed to the words of Jesus and the OT laws, our late modern consumer capitalism would be a pretty good candidate of what would emerge…

But instead of keeping our focus on what shouldn’t be but is, let’s look at what should be and how it’s meant to be, and let’s for a moment meditate on the following words of Paul in 1 Tim 6:

:6 Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. :7 For we have brought nothing into this world and so1 we cannot take a single thing out either. 6:8 But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.6:9 Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains. 6:11 But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.

The way of Christ is not to follow money, which becomes an idol called Mammon in the bible, but to use money or the unrighteous Mammon (if we have it) to make friends. Yes, people are put before money here.  And people who hoard riches, which are living out our neoliberal dreams in other words, are even used in the gospels as an example of human wickedness… Kingdoms are clashing here. Which one do we choose?

The way of Christ is to love, first and foremost. Mammon should desacralised and instead of turned into an idol that guides our lives, and riches and money are to be used to help other people, and not to build our own empire. Jesus even said to the rich young rules that he had to sell everything and give to the poor if he wanted eternal life, and before we are too quick to dismiss that, let’s remember the first church in the book of acts effectively lived like that, as did the first Christians in the first centuries, a lot of monastic orders throughout the ages and even New Monastic today…  So it’s not impossible…

Imagine how the world would be different if we really followed Jesus, settled for enough and shared the rest with all those in need. It has been done before. The Roman emperor Julian the apostate, who didn’t like the Christians very much, said that ‘the Christians fed their (Roman) poor in addition to their own. So why do we think of these things as so otherworldy?

And I am part of the problem here!

I know I’m preaching to myself now, and I still have a long way to go in this.God help me, Spirit lead me, Jesus teach me!

Any additions, examples, whatever?

shalom

Bram

Easter bible meditation


Read slowly, and take the time to meditate on it in silence

Lectio divina style

I’m not going to comment, just let the Spirit speak.

(1 cor 15) 1 My friends, I want you to remember the message that I preached and that you believed and trusted. 2 You will be saved by this message, if you hold firmly to it. But if you don’t, your faith was all for nothing. I told you the most important part of the message exactly as it was told to me. That part is: Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say.He was buried ,and three days later he was raised to life, as the Scriptures say. Christ appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. 6 After this, he appeared to more than five hundred other followers. Most of them are still alive, but some have died. 7 He also appeared to James, and then to all of the apostles. Finally, he appeared to me, even though I am like someone who was born at the wrong time. I am the least important of all the apostles. In fact, I caused so much trouble for God’s church that I don’t even deserve to be called an apostle. 10 But God was kind! He made me what I am, and his wonderful kindness wasn’t wasted. I worked much harder than any of the other apostles, although it was really God’s kindness at work and not me. 11 But it doesn’t matter if I preached or if they preached. All of you believed the message just the same. 12 If we preach that Christ was raised from death, how can some of you say that the dead will not be raised to life? 13 If they won’t be raised to life, Christ himself wasn’t raised to life. 14 And if Christ wasn’t raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith. 15 If the dead won’t be raised to life, we have told lies about God by saying that he raised Christ to life, when he really did not.
16 So if the dead won’t be raised to life, Christ wasn’t raised to life. 17 Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins. 18 And those people who died after putting their faith in him are completely lost. 19 If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else.
20 But Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life. 21 Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ. 22 Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us. 23 But we must each wait our turn. Christ was the first to be raised to life, and his people will be raised to life when he returns. 24 Then after Christ has destroyed all powers and forces, the end will come, and he will give the kingdom to God the Father.
Christ will rule until he puts all his enemies under his power, 26 and the last enemy he destroys will be death. When the Scriptures say that he will put everything under his power, they don’t include God. It was God who put everything under the power of Christ. 28 After everything is under the power of God’s Son, he will put himself under the power of God, who put everything under his Son’s power. Then God will mean everything to everyone.

Avatar and the core of the christian view on marriage


edit: this can be seen as a follow-up to the posts about the emerging joneses and my anarchist marriage‘ and ‘post-human broken sexuality vs the beauty in this innocence

So I gave in to the pressure of following the hypes of the current western culture, and went to the cinema to watch that one movie everybody seems to have an opinion about these days – avatar. And in fact I liked it much more than I ever expected to… The alien biology and ecosystem was intriguing to my curious kid-like biology-obsession, and the 3D experience was overwhelming! There sure is a lot that can be said about Gaia-pantheism, colonialism, capitalism, militarism, white guilt, and Pocahontas, but I don’t have the time and the energy to do that. And others are already doing that and will continue to for a while I guess… But I still had to write more on this blog about marriage, and the movie gave me inspiration.

The na’vi of Pandora, an alien tribal race looking a bit like like long blue cat-like humanoids, are very interesting in that respect:  They are are monogamous creatures who mate for life. Their mechanics of reproduction are similar to that of humans and Terran mammals. When an appropriate mate has been selected, the male and female Na’vi will connect queues (something inside their braid, which can connect their neurons with those of other beings) to create an emotional bond that will last a lifetime. The intertwining of queues is both highly erotic and profoundly spiritual, but does not in itself lead to reproduction.

Traditionally, once a Na’vi male has passed the tests on the path to manhood and has been accepted into the clan as an adult, he is not only allowed to make his bow from the wood of the Hometree, but he is also expected to choose his woman. After the woman has been chosen, the new couple are mated before Eywa (their God, in a Gaia-pantheïstic sense, or the common consciousness of all the life on the planet). After the resulting embracing and kissing, the couple is sent to sleep by Eywa, and the two dream hintings of their future together. The couple will experience the pleasure of Tsahaylu (the bond) from the moment of connection, until they awaken and have completed mating, when they disconnect and return to the clan, mated for life.

The connection does not automaticly mean that Eywa accepts the couple and mates them: Once the bond is made between the couple, the ultimate in intimacy, pleasure that is unfathomable to humans, causes the somewhat unwillful sharing of the couple’s good memories, and is a sign of Eywa’s acceptance. If a couple can be foreseen to not have a pleasant or happy future, Eywa has been known to reverse the feeling produced by making Tsahaylu, a sign to the couple that mating would only, in simple words, ruin their lives together, and therefore prevents the mating, because of it’s life-long span.

What is so interesting about those blue aliens? Well, I do tend to think that they may give us a clearer picture of the essence of marriage. Surely, homo sapiens isn’t stricly monogamous most of the time. But I as a Christian believe that we were meant to be. Marriage is something that was created into the  human blueprint, even if we deny it…

So When the pharisees want to discuss divorce within the realm of the mosaic law, Jesus refuses to play that game with them, and instead of pointing at the (God-given!)  law, he goes back to the creation of man and woman, to  genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.” Marriage was meant to be part of humanity from creation on…

The phrase ‘one flesh’ has a double meaning: it has a sexual meaning, but it also means that the 2 become one life unit, they become a  family, in which children are born and grow in a loving environment. So sex and marriage, or becoming a family, are meant to be synonyms. Sex in the hebrew culture is seen as the sealing of the marriage covenant, which is exactly the reason why it shouldn’t be played with lightly… Paul says somewhere that having sex with a prostitute is wrong, not because there is no relationship as we would think, but because even then you become ‘one flesh’ even when there’s no chance in the world that you’ll ever start a family with that prostitute…

So I do not believe in pro-marital sex. If it’s really pro-marital it is a timing problem, an earlier sealing of the covenant, which may complicate everything… But if it doesn’t lead to marriage, it is in fact an aborted family . and it is very clear what’s wrong about adultery I gues…

Another thing that I liked about the na’vi is the spiritual dimension of marriage. The na’vi are mated by Eywa, just as we Christians believe that we are joined together by God (‘what God joins together, man shall not separate) and I not only truly believe that, I can wholehertedly affirm that from my own experience. God brought me and my wife together, and is the one who joined us. Not the priest, or the belgian state… We were brought together firstly  by Him, and then by our own vows and the way we live them out for the rest of our lives. The rest are affirmations, which may be practical and needed, but not the essence…

One note, I think we should have the same realistic way to look at divorce. A dicorce is the final affirmation that something is going wrong, and that the marriage is broken, but before that there  most likely already is a problem for a long time, and that problem  is a sin against marriage already. It’s not that everything is okay until you are married and then you are a pariah and sinner. A damaged marriage with continuing destroying habbits  can be as harmful, and as devastating, also to ones relationship with God… And we should not make divorce the worst of all sins, those people are broken already most of the time, and condemnation will push them farther away from God… And we should not forget that the worst of all sins, above all sexual sins, is pride. which we all are guilty of from time to time…

And if I look around in this fallen and broken world, I see that the institution of marriage is dead for a lot of people. Lots of people have a ‘one flesh’ relationship and even a family with children, that may stay together for life, but they will deny that they are married. This is utter nonsense and a case of ‘it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, makes eggs out of which little baby ducks come, and is in fact a duck, but until we have a paper which says that it’s a duck we can’t call it one’…

But we don’t need to revive an institution or any human construct. If the culture changes, we need to re-evaluate those things, and maybe just get rid of a lot of ballast… We need to go back to this simple basis for marriage. Our cultural contextualisations are just that. And they can lead our attention astray from the core of what marriage is intended to be, or they can make it difficult for a couple to join each other in marriage, or they can loose their meaning in a given society…

But what we need is to get serious about love and sexuality. Sex is designed to make a bond, though when you have sealed and broken such bonds without love it is likely to not work this way anymore in ones life. Sex without marriage is not a sin because we make the bible say so, but because it is harmful.

And we are called to show the people among us the reality of love through our friendships, relationships and marriages. May we all grow in this…

shalom

Bram

Christianity should not at all be sexist…


Christianity should not at all be sexist.

Sexism goes against anything Jesus stood for!

I’ll say more: All sexism in Christianity is synchretism. It’s christianity mingled with men’s traditions. Most of them have nothing to do with the bible though they try to read the bible through their own grid and justify it with pulling texts out of context. Trying to force the woman/man roles of the first century on people from this age wouldn’t work at all. Call it what you like, but some things that go with the name ‘biblical complementarianism’ are just sexist and synchretism with some kind of american conservatie tradition. Which I as a belgian know nothing about, and which can seem as alien to me as the world of the first century, even though some people here try to copy it…

The core of biblical equality lies in Paul saying that in christ there is no greek or jew, no man or woman. These differences may be substantial in our society, they shouldn’t in our churches, for they are meaningless in the Kingdom, the transnational Kingdom of God that trancends all borders and biological differences. We are one in christ. God created the humans in his image as man and woman. all good characteristics of both sexes come from God, and He is not male, but trancending both sexes…

Women were considered second rate civilians by much people in the old days, even bij the rabinic jews of Jesus’ time. Jesus didn’t care about that. He broke all social taboos when he sat next to the samaritan woman at the well. Het let the unclean woman touch Him. Het let the sinful woman wash his feat with expensive oil and her own tears. He didn’t say to Mary to go help her sister with the work, but he affirmed her in coming to listen to her. and a woman listening to a rabbi was simply not done. Jesus treated women as equals, as human beings, as friends, and that in a society with sex segregation. Could it be any more revolutionary anti-sexist???

The same with Paul if you read him properly in the cultural context: In normal Greek and Roman literature women and slaves were never addressed, it was written for a male-only audience, and their roles are talked about by those free males. The very fact that Paul addressed women, slaves and children, who were not considered real people, in his letters was totally revolutionary and subversive. By writing to women and slaves, and by addressing them first, he was giving status to those without status and he was giving worth to the worthless. How on earth did we manage to turn that into sexism and the oppression of women???

Yes, Paul may say wives should submit to their husbands, but he also says we all should submit to each other…  (read a great article about that topic here)

We should not allow anyone to hurt our sisters in christ by putting them under some strange laws which are wrong contextualisations of bible verses taken terribly out of context. We should love our neigbor, male or female, as ourselves. And together try to follow Christ in the way He has Chosen us. I’ve seen women with a calling doing great things in the Kingdom, and you have to be an indoctrinated autistic without a heart to write that off as unbiblical… Then you should erase the deaconess Phoebe, the female aposte Junia, and the judge Debora also from your bible… Or the good housewife from proverbs 31 who is mora like a manager than anything else…

God bless ya all sisters and brothers…

shalom

Bram