What did the early Church do with converts?
How should Christians live as famiily?
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OK, so what’s all this to do with 21st Century Christians living in a very different society, in terms of needs and expectations? It’s all very well describing what we should be doing, but the fact remains that, for whatever reason, a household in the modern Western world is very different from a traditional medieval Jewish home. Let’s not get all blurry eyed and Fiddler on the Roof and all that!
You may be a parent living with your spouse and 2.4 children. Or you may be divorced, re-married, single or living unorthodoxly. You may have a family full of step-children or adopted kids, it may not even be a biological one. Perhaps you are a collection of friends, or even a disparate group of folk somehow thrown together for any number of reasons. Your home may therefore contain a single generation, two generations, even three or more. We are a society of great variety in experience and circumstance.
A traditional family group worshipping God in the confines of a stable home environment may be the ideal situation, all things being equal. But all things are not always equal. So how can we “do Church” in the many strange lands in which we find ourselves?
On the one hand, these articles are about moving forwards into the future, not judging the past and the present. On the other hand, there are the Biblical ground-rules. As Christians our primary relationship is with God, not each other and so our rules for living must flow from our relationship with Him, not from each other.
The Hebraic mindset is primarily concerned with our relationship with God, not with the rules and regulations that flow as a consequence (though I am not preaching lawlessness here). It’s therefore primarily a matter of the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)
God is more pleased by our internal response to Him than by our external posturings. If we truly examine ourselves, our motivations and desires, particularly our life decisions, we must ask ourselves whether we are truly in line with God’s revealed Word, however difficult that is going to be. And what is His revealed Word on matters of relationships and behaviour? It is the Bible, His revealed Word, ministered to our heart by the Holy Spirit and validated by our God-given consciences.
To understand what God’s views are on these matters of relationships and behaviour we must strip away the multiple layers of human understanding, cultural nuances, media and peer pressure and simply ask ourselves whether what we are doing is in line with God’s Word or whether we are using God’s Word to validate our lifestyles by stretching and straining the text to accommodate our chosen conclusions.
So, what am I really saying? If we want to move on with God, whether or not it is to take onboard some of the ideas you have read about here, we must understand that there are two ways we can do this.
We can take the Greek approach, taking the man-centred position, using our human logic and understanding to justify ourselves and make ourselves comfortable in our chosen lifestyle. We do this by finding others who tread the same path and follow what makes them comfortable. Perhaps there are Facebook groups of like-minded people, with tame theologians who have found new ways of reading the Bible to blur the edges and justify alternative behaviour.
A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24)
We will always find folk who will use the Bible to say whatever they want it to say. That is the Greek view and it is most certainly not God’s way. The Hebraic approach is God’s way because it simply poses the question, what does the God as revealed in the Bible think of this? Not what could the Bible seem to say about this. The focus should not be on the Bible, but the God of the Bible, the author of the Bible. It’s no good believing that you’ve found some loophole in God’s Word to make everything alright. God is not mocked, you are just deluding yourself if you think that He’s happy to see His precious Word manipulated by human reason driven by concerns of the flesh.
Or, to say it in a less wordy manner, if you are living in a relationship that is not the one prescribed below, then you are not going to be moving into God’s blessings.
"Haven't you read," he (Jesus) replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'and said, '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. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
So, what am I saying? Let’s first remind ourselves of our context, the Hebraic mindset, specifically living Hebraically. The key feature of this is to live God centred lives, which means that our lives must reflect Him. This means that our relationships must be as godly as our current situations permit.
Because a Christian marriage is a covenant and producing a family is a command of God ( ... be fruitful and increase in number ... Genesis 9:7), then blessings are already flowing. If such arrangements are at the centre of a church then it seems that blessings will be multiplied. Further blessings will flow in any church with God at the centre, but He won’t bless anywhere sinful relationships are allowed to flourish. It’s there, in His word, it’s non-negotiable.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
And it’s God’s blessings that we must surely strive for where possible. If your household or your church is based around stable godly relationships, whether as a biological family or as a group of Christian brothers and sisters, then the channel for blessing is in place, I believe, for God to do His work.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
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For the previous article in this series, click here.
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