It is Better to Bleed

This, this I like. Again, from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

Abba Longinus said to Abba Acacias: “A woman knows she has conceived when she no longer loses any blood. So it is with the soul, she knows she has conceived the Holy Spirit when the passions stop coming out of her. But as long as one is held back in the passions, how can one dare to believe one is sinless? Give blood and receive the Spirit!”

In this, I am reminded of Martin Luther’s admonition to Philip Melanchthon in 1521:

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

Why the Biblical Story Matters More than the Law

I have been working away this afternoon on the last of three long essays on sex, love, and marriage in scripture (the first two are here and here). In fact, I found myself buried in Hosea and Ezekiel and realizing that the essay was careening out of control. Which my essays are sometimes likely to do.

In part, it is because I stuff this digression in the middle of it. So, I thought I’d pull it out and let it sit on its own. The piece on marriage — what kind of marriage God and Israel really have — is still coming.  Continue reading

What it Really Means That Christians Are Sinners Too

A reader asked me about my post, Toward a Biblical Sexual Ethic,

I do appreciate your panoramic treatment of the Scripture story when you deal with issues. It’s refreshing, totally. However, in the spirit of “what would you do if…” questions – what happens if you are brought to a position of leadership in a local church where there is congregational support to ordain to leadership a non-celibate gay or lesbian? Where would you come down on that matter? Just trying to figure out where your “gray” becomes “black and white”.

I’m not sure I answered well. I’m not sure this is going to be much of an answer either. Continue reading

How God Saves (And What God Saves Us From)

I have a confession to make: I love the Book of Judges.

Judges is a tough book to love, I know. It’s violent. Life is messy. There’s little “softly and tenderly” in this book, from the winnowing down of Gideon’s army to fight the Midianites to the primal urges of Samson, who fought and fucked the Philistines with equal fervor. It is human life at its ungoverned rawest. It is Israel, the people of God, at its idolatrous worst. (I’ve been threatening to send my editor at Wipf & Stock a proposal for book that looks at war, and all other human activity, through the lens of the last three chapters of Judges.) I don’t even think any of our liturgy comes from Judges — at least Numbers contributes the benediction!

And yet, I don’t think you can understand scripture — can truly appreciate who Jesus really is and what Jesus really redeems us from — without understanding and appreciating Judges. Continue reading