Friday, January 10, 2020

Witches, Wizards, Sorcerers, Etc

Exodus 22:18 "Thou shalt suffer a witch to live."

I know it's been a while but I want use this next post of my topic on legalism to discuss the mythology of supernatural forces involving witches, wizards, warlocks, sorcerers and other people with supernatural powers.  I know Christianity is very touchy on this subject matter but I thought i would be a now a good time to finally analyze this area. 

I know for many in the Christian and church community, the topic of witches and wizards is a sore one.  Because many believe that such people are forbidden in the bible due to the one verse Exodus 22:18.  This includes reading books, watching TV shows or movies about such people and even dressing like them for Halloween.  Anything that has remotely to do with the slightest of these things is quickly condemned like some ultimate sin that needs to be avoided at all costs.  Ever since success of the British Harry Potter book series and then the movies based off these books, Harry Potter the story of a boy wizard has become quite a phenomenon and has quite a huge fan following.

However, for many Christians the books and the movies are frowned upon has glorying witchcraft. Many religious parents both Christians and Muslims alike have gone further in trying to have the books banned in schools on the belief it encourages witchcraft and the occult.  Back in 2005, a Christian mother from Gwinnett County, Georgia, Laura Mallory fiercely tried to have the Harry Potter books banned from one of her children's elementary schools, even going so far as to appeal to the Superior Court of Gwinnett County in 2007 when the State Board of Education decided to retain the books and her appeal was denied.  Still determined it was last mentioned she considered taking her case to the federal court although there hasn't been any latest news about it.

 A Christian mother, Grace Ann Parsons rewrote Harry Potter as a Christian theme in a fanfiction story, "Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles" under the user name proudhousewife, to replace the witchcraft of the story with a more Christian message for her children to read as well as other Christian children with concerned parents.  However, many come to believe the the stories are now satire.

 Many among the ultra Christian conservative group openly condemned these books some even resulting to book burning copies and one pastor even stating that parents are better off drowning their children then to let them read Harry Potter.  Of course not all Christians oppose the stories.  There groups who have supported and welcomed the stories.  Christian author Connie Neal wrote books in support of Harry Potter including, "What's a Christian To Do with Harry Potter" and "The Gospel According to Harry Potter".  Journalist Mike Hertenstein from a Christian magazine, Cornerstone wrote in article "Harry Potter vs. Muggles, Myth, Magic and Joy" and "God, the Devil and Harry Potter: A Christian minister's Defense of the Beloved Novels" a book by a Presbyterian minister John Killinger.  There is even a Christian fanbase of Harry Potter lovers including some Pastors.

 Despite the backlash by plenty of Christian critics, there are plenty of Christians among the Harry Potter fandom who don't view the books as a threat to their Christianity, glorifies anything evil as they view the stories for what they are, just fantasy novels about a boy wizard-in training at a magical school. Many even manage to find some Christian virtues and life lessons among these novels, that has to do with friendship, loyalty self-sacrifice, the good combating evil and doing what is righteous.  Then  there other fantasy fiction stories that attract Christian readers.  The Late author C.S Lewis, a  Christian, one time atheist who returned to his Christian roots who wrote the mythical "Narnia' trilogy that involves a magical world, with talking animals and other creatures including a witch. 
Despite his stories being fantasy, Lewis had unintentionally had some Christian themes added in them. For example, there is the character of Aslan, the talking lion who represents Jesus Christ when he dies and gets resurrected. 

Author J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote the classic "Lord of the Ring's trilogy  which also spanned a trilogy of hit films was a catholic and claimed to have used some catholic themes in his stories.   Plus they're are plenty of fantasy stories that have attracted Christian fans.  Classic children's fairy tale stories and the Disney films which are based of them.  The classic Oz book trilogy by L. Frank Baum and the legendary 1939 film classic based of one of them "The Wizard of Oz" starring the late legendary Judy Garland.  So why for some, stories that have fantasy involving magic and witches and spells are seen as something Christians should avoid at all costs?  This mentality has a lot to do with numerous bible scriptures that seem to condemns witches, sorcerers, necromancers( people who talk to the dead), mediums and any form of witchcraft or magic altogether. 

The famous verse which I mentioned above in Exodus 22:18 refers to executing anyone who practices witchcraft.  Other few examples of bible verses include Revelation 22:15 "Outside are the dogs and sorcerers the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood".  Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or daughter in an offering, anyone who practices divination, who tells fortunes, who interprets omens, or a sorcerer".  2 Chronicles 33:6 "He sacrificed his children in the fire in the valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.  Leviticus 20:27 "Any man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.  

There are plenty more scriptures in the bible that condemns these practices that it seems logical many Christians would condemn these things as sinful even in pop culture and media which appears to glamorized them.  The most famous story in the bible is that of King Saul and the Witch of  Endor 1 Samuel chapter 28.  In this story, King Saul was battling against the Philistines, and he had tried to contact the Lord but received no answers via dreams nor prophets.  He had already banished all the mediums and magicians from the land so he decided to get in touch with a medium known as the Witch of Endor and goes to her in disguise asking her to summon up the spirit of the prophet Samuel to receive advice about the Philistines. When she does this, she is shocked at the sight of Samuel as she is the only one that can see him and then realized who King Saul is. Saul ask her of Samuel's appearance and she gives an accurate description he convinced it's  Samuel.  The spirit of Samuel tells him that the Lord has turned against him since he didn't obey Him regarding the Amalekites and informs Saul that Israel will lose the battle against the Philistines the next day and he and his sons will die.  In the 1 Samuel chapter 31, Samuel's prediction comes true and the King and his sons do all die the next day and the Philistines win the battle.

 There are many who believe that the witch didn't conjure up the spirit of Samuel at all but that it was a demon disguised as Samuel and Saul was punished by God as a result even though this "demon" predicted Saul's and his kingdom's downfall to the Philistines.  However, others believe the spirit really was that of Samuel since the witch was shocked by his presence and gave a accurate description of him.  It's believed that God made an exception by allowing the spirit of Samuel to be summoned in order to warn Saul of his fate and the fate of Israel do to his disobedience to him since God normally allow spirits to return to the living.  Then there are those who believe the witch was a con artist and faked the whole seance, pretending not to recognize Saul and that she saw Samuel's spirit since she was the only one who could see him.  She likely knew what the prophet Samuel looked like before as was able to dub her voice by using ventriloquism.  As for the predictions, it was known that the Philistines were winning in the battle so it wasn't too much speculation they would defeat Israel, and it was only mentioned that Saul would die not how he would die as Saul committed suicide rather than be killed.

 Back to the question whether God condemns witchcraft, sorcery, psychics or any kind of magic, the Law of Moses, condemns these practices for numerous reasons.  First, it was believed that spirits didn't come from God but were demons in disguise of familiar spirits as I mentioned with the example of King Saul and the Witch of Endor and listed the three possibilities of what transpired with the spirit of Samuel.  As for witchcraft, going back to Exodus 22: 18, the Hebrew translation for witch was "m'khashepah" which was referring to a woman who made drugs or spells to harm others by causing either their deaths or loss of property.  The masculine form of  this word is "m'khasheph".  Many believe the word was mistranslated and really meant "poisoner".  The King James version of the bible translated the word to mean witch  this the verse was used as an excuse by both King James I and V1 to persecute those accused of witchcraft.  In fact witch hunting and persecution became predominate during the medieval era throughout Europe and later America where many were unjustly executed for being a witch due to religious fanatics, ignorance and hysteria up until the 18th century. 

So what does this all mean regarding witches, wizards, sorcerers etc?  Many today are aware that such things don't exist neither does magic and they are all just fantasy only real in stories, books, TV and films and as such no threat to society.  So reading stories about such people or watching them in films whether they're good or bad shouldn't be seen as a threat to anyone's Christian faith children or adults alike if they don't allow such stories influence their walk with Christ and children should be taught the different between what is real and make-believe.  Besides much of these stories are about the good triumph over evil anyway as the case with Harry Potter and the Oz stories.  So allowing fear and paranoia get in the way doesn't help but causes of us to result to legalism and fear dictate our Christian lives.  Plus there are those who practice wicca also claim to practice witchcraft although they practice is what is known as white magic or good magic using their skills for good and not harm.  In fact wiccans are against doing harm others in general.  Although this wouldn't be a wrong itself, wiccans do worship other gods which is against God's will plus the the fact magic isn't real. 

In more modern times we can separate from reality and fantasy and enjoy stories that have magic, witchcraft, sorcery, fairies etc. or even dress like them for Halloween without seeing it as threat to our Christian virtues.  As Christians as long as we put God, Jesus Christ our Savior as the center of our lives, that's all that matters no matter how many Harry Potter, or the Lord of the Rings series we read or watch.  

Friday, August 9, 2019

Christians Relationships with Non-Christians part 3

2 Corinthians 6:14-16" Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people

This is the third and final part of this post about Christians having relationships with non-Christians. 

At the end of the part 2 post, I mentioned Apostle Paul statement in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 was not referring to relationships romantic or otherwise, but instead he was warning new converts in the Christian faith not to mix their new Christian lives with their former pagan beliefs and practices. 

So what does this means to people who for Christians who date or form friendships with those outside of their faith?  I don't believe that these verses are forbidden any form of relationships with non-believers be it platonic or romantic but I do believe it makes it clear that Christians shouldn't engage in any behaviors and practices with non-believers that are sinful and against God. In other words, they shouldn't allow their relationships with those outside the Christian faith to lead them to turn away from God since as Christians, we should be devoted to our Lord and Savior foremost above other things.  

It certainly doesn't mean that Christians can't form lasting relationships with non-Christians or whether it's friendships, or even date and marry them either. In fact, some closet friends who are either from another religion or no religion at all could have a very positive impact in a Christian's life.  For example, Despite Christian beliefs, one could learn to have common ground on certain things like sharing the same hobbies, certain philosophies, morals and ideals on certain things outside of religion and complement each other in a good way. 

 Also, if they're of another religion, one could try to learn more about their religion without embracing it but understanding what they believe and why finding certain similarities in certain principles and giving respecting their beliefs while remaining devoted to one's own faith in Christ.  Christians can even still partake in certain celebrations of with them that don't compromise their faith like attending a Jewish friend's Bar Mitzvah or a Hindu friend's birthday party etc.  As for sharing one's religious faith to them, I think that is okay especially if they ask questions about their faith and one doesn't just shove their views down their throats, constantly criticizing them or judging them too much or act in a way superior to them and that their beliefs are beneath Christians.

 It's important to remember our non-Christian friends are not projects or tasks and it's not a Christian's duty to lure them into embracing their Christian faith as their own but to follow Christ example by showing love to others, be humble never condescending, or arrogant.  If non-Christian friends want to learn more about one's faith then by all means share the gospel to them, if they show an interest the Christian faith and the possibility wanting to embrace Christ in their lives than by all means as Christians we can encourage them to attend church, speak to the pastor, attend bible classes etc, enable them any way possible.  

The most important thing is to except one's non-Christian friends for who they are and if they have another religious faith or no faith respect that without any agenda of trying to change them, convert them as it should be their own choice and will to find and embrace Christ in their lives if they ever choose to. 

Then their is the question whether it's okay to date form romantic relationships and even marry non-Christians.  Many who support having interfaith friendships or friendships with those who have no faith are against marrying or dating non-Christians fearing it could lead them to stray from God or definitely complicate their devotion to Him.  However, as I mentioned before, the unequally yoked verse wasn't referring to marriage and therefore, the bible doesn't ouright condemn marrying outside the faith.  

In fact, there are a couple of scriptures that mention believers being married to non-believers. 1 Peter 3:1-2 "Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."  Then there is 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 "To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy". 

Of course, these verses were mainly focusing new Christian converts from the pagan culture whose were already married and their spouses didn't convert to Christ but remained in their pagan religion.  But the point remains, the bible doesn't flat out forbid Christians from marrying or dating anyone outside of their faith as many have been led to believe. 

However, I will admit although it is not forbidden for Christians to date, form romantic relationships or marry non-Christians or non-practicing Christians, there still should be consideration to take before making that step. Will the different beliefs complicate the relationship by causing a lot of tension?  Will it cause one to stumble and stray away from Christ out of peer pressure, the need to please their romantic partner or spouse rather than honor God?  It is very clear that as Christians, participating with non-Christians in behaviors or rituals that goes against God is forbidden and we shouldn't put a date, romantic partner or spouse above God.  

All these facts should be taken into consideration before thinking about dating a non-Christian let alone marry one.  That doesn't mean such a relationship or marriage can't survive and overcome the differences if one's spouse or partner is willing to accept and respect one's Christian faith and that we won't do anything that causes us to stray from Christ but it could make things harder in some cases. On the positive side, Christians may even be able to influence their romantic partner or spouse to find Christ themselves. I'm in no way saying that Christians should date or marry non-Christians for the agenda of converting them in what is known as missionary dating or marriage.

 Just like with friendships, that could backfire if one keeps shoving their faith down their partner or spouse's throat and treating them like mere projects or a task.  Instead they should be loving them and accepting them for who the are. Also risk the possibility they may never follow one's faith especially if they are of another religious faith and are devoted to their religious views as much we are devoted ours.

I will say if as Christians if our non-Christian friends, boyfriend/girlfriend engages in a lot of immoral, indecent and just sinful behavior and tries to peer pressure us into partaking in their immoral activities and behavior and doesn't show any regards to our faith at all then it would be a good idea to remove ourselves from such relationships.  We could try to help them see the error of their ways first but if that fails and their influences causes us to stumble, then it's best to walk away.  

In a marriage is a slightly different story but if the non-Christian consist of engaging in immoral, destructive and sinful behavior that starts affecting one as a Christian in a negative way, then it would be best to remove oneself from the spouse.  I don't mean divorce but separate until they are willing to see the errors of their ways and turn away from such bad behavior.  Also, the Christian spouse can set a an example as a follower of Christ by their actions not by lecturing or forcing their faith on their spouse in the possibility their spouse will someday turn to Lord on their own. 

 The point is there shouldn't be two extremes that some Christians fall into whether it's isolated themselves from the world by living in a bubble where they shun any possibility of good friendships with others outside of their Christian faith.  Also by missing out  in forming relationships with good people that could impact one's life.  Then on the other side not only forming friendships or relationships with non-Christians but engaging with them in sinful and indecent behavior for worldly reasons to prove their open-minded and non-judgmental.  God still should be the center of our lives and while we can make room for a diverse group of people in our lives.  

I do personally think a bit differently on dating and marriage and which there is nothing wrong with wanting to have relationship or a spouse with someone that shares your faith as your grow together in Christ which in the long run is likely more ideal. However, if a Christian happens to form a relationship and fall in love with someone who doesn't share their Christian faith that could be a challenge in itself but not necessary a challenge that can't be overcome as long as there is a mutual understanding that Christ comes first in one's life. If that becomes to difficult for both parties to handle than it's not a good idea for the relationship to continue which would be quite painful for both parties but nothing should jeopardize one's walk with Christ. 

Once again, long and thoughtful consideration should always occur when thinking of a romantic relationship with someone outside the faith.  Regardless of the choices we as Christians choose with non-Christians, I think the we are still are to follow Christ's example and always show kindness, respect, love, patience, humility, compassion and understanding to those outside the faith whether they are of another religious faith or no faith at all.  We are not to show hate, prejudice, condescension, overly judgmental, even if we feel in our hearts some of their views are wrong, still treat them with honor and respect.

Remember God loves us all even those who don't embrace them as we are all is children, his creation.  

Christians Relationships with Non-Christians part 2

2 Corinthians 6:14-16" Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?  What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
    and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
    and they will be my people

This is part 2 of my previous post I had already posted but decided to split them into parts due to the fact they were it was just too long. 

Anyway, I was discussing about Christians having relationships among non-Christian people.  It just appears there is great confusion among many Christians whether they should have any form of relationships with people outside their faith whether romantic or just close friendships.  Many who are against forming any close relationships with non-Christians will use the verse 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 to justify their positions referring to the phrase "unequally yoked".  Other verses referring to non-believers are 1Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character."  2 John 1:9-11 "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works."  

It's really crystal clear to many Christians that we shouldn't have close socialization or forming close bonds and romantic relationships and certainly not marrying non-believers out of fear of being tempted or influenced away from God, committing sinful and immoral behavior.  But the question is what is exactly an unbeliever, a person who doesn't in God, in Jesus, an atheist, who doesn't believe in religion or they believe in another religion outside the Christian faith?  

There are plenty of non practicing Christians commonly known as secular people who believe in God and Jesus but they just don't embrace the Christian religion or there are others who are of another religious faith like Judaism who do believe in God. Then there is the mindset that others not part of the Christian faith are sinners, who are out committing sinful, immoral and wicked behavior. I read that too in other comments from Christians on who they're non-Christian friends are out getting drunk, getting high, sleeping around just doing wrong and it's because they're not Christians.  

But the fact remains, they're are plenty of people outside of the Christian faith, be it secular, atheist, agnostic or from another religion who for the most part are good, moral, upstanding people who don't do drugs, get drunk, or even drink alcohol at all nor are they sleeping around or engaging plenty of acts they are considered sinful.  Instead they are just living good and decent lives by trying to do right and live positive and avoid any negative behavior even if they are not always successful all the time. 

As I mentioned before, we live in a fallen world and are imperfect people and we will all stumble no matter how much we strive to live good and wholesome lives and this includes Christian folks. Many of the non-Christian or secular people share many morals and ideals that could be considered Christian virtues. For example, many non-Christians or secular folks can be forgiving, merciful, compassionate, self-sacrificial, non-judgmental, open-minded, tolerable to those who are different than them who care about their fellow human beings, care about the environment, value plenty if not all living creatures, are devoted to charity and other worthy causes to help others and make the world better. 

 I would even go on to say some of these non-Christians or secular folks are better at these virtues and morals than some of the so-called Christians. So what about the verse about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers?  As I mentioned before, many Christians turn to the verse 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 which precisely mentions this but does this meaning really imply not being friends or dating, marrying nonbelievers?  

This is similar to the verse Deuteronomy 22:9-11 "Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled. Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together. Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together".  Another similar verse is found in Leviticus 19:19 "Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animal. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material".  

Regarding the first verse apparently, yoking or tying an ox with a donkey together to plow a field wouldn't be good because donkey having weaker strength than the ox wouldn't be able to catch up thus slowing them both down and it would be more burdensome as both animals who have different strengths.  Plus the fact that in the Old Testament, the ox as a clean animal representing godliness and the donkey was an unclean animal representing sinners. 

The point was that God wanted the Israelites to be set apart, to not to intermarry with the Canaanites and wind up taking part in their practices that consisted of the pagan religion worshiping other false gods and idols, child sacrifice etc.  Regarding the 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, this verse isn't referring to marriages, relationships or friendships all all. Instead Apostle Paul was addressing new converts to Christ in the Corinth city who didn't let go of their pagan ways, even trying to blend their Christian values with that of their old pagan practices, still partaking in pagan rituals in the pagan temple including worshiping pagan gods. Paul was warning them that they can't mix their new lives as Christians with that of their old pagan practices, that their have to live completely as new members in the body of Christ.  

I'll post the rest of this article in a third part.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Legalism Part 1 Women, Fashion, Makeup and Jewelry 2

1 Peter 3:3-4  "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."

I discussed in my previous post about the church's legalistic views on women regarding wearing nice clothes, makeup and jewelry as many have believed it's a sin against God.  I explained about the bible verses used to justify their stance and I would analyze more biblical scriptures in this post that have also been used regarding this debate.   Other verses that have been used against women which I also mentioned in the previous post is 1 Peter 3:3-4.  However, this verse was never about banning women from wearing jewelry or nice expensive clothes if you understand the entire history of context of 1 Peter chapter 3.

 In Greco-Roman culture paganism was commonly practiced but many pagans were converting to Christianity.  Apostle Peter in this chapter was addressing married women who converted but had husbands who remained unsaved.  He was instructing rather than nag, argue or badger their husbands to convert to Christ, they should have a submissive attitude and win their husbands over to Christ by their behavior and actions. The wives demonstrate a Christ-like attitude in the marriage setting a example to the unbelieving husbands and it's this Christ-like demeanor that is their true beauty rather expensive clothes, jewelry and fancy hairstyles.

Wives shouldn't rely on these materialistic things hoping to seduce their husbands into be be won over to Christ but their true inner beauty.  I also mentioned in my previous post the verse Jeremiah 4:30(Feel free to view my previous post to check the verse) that many might also use to discourage women from makeup and jewelry. But the true history behind this verse has nothing to do with makeup or jewelry really.

 Jeremiah chapter 4 describes the people of Jerusalem and Judah having turned away from God and engaged in idolatry where they worship Pagan gods of other nations.  God was very displeased and told the prophet Jeremiah his plans on their destruction by allowing them to be invaded by foreign nations.   Jeremiah describes an unfaithful woman who puts on makeup and jewelry and wears the color red as a metaphor for Judah who was unfaithful to God when the people engaged in idolatry and her lovers are a metaphor for the foreign nations who the people of Judah believes are allies but in actuality are their enemies who will invade them.

In 2 Kings 9:30(you can also check out my previous post for this verse too), this verse refers to Jehu who pursued a wounded King Joram in the city of Jezreel killed him and became the King of Israel and was prepared to confront Joram's mother Jezebel the Queen who had lured her deceased husband King Ahab away from God and worship the pagan God Baael was well as other dastardly things. When she heard Jehu was coming, she painted her eyes, and adorned her hair. Some scholars believe she was planning on seducing Jehu into becoming his wife, while others just thing she was acting in pride and defiance.  Regardless of her intentions she met her demise in the end.

Also, during the Ancient times in the middle east including Rome, Egypt, Greece makeup that involved painting the eyes was quite common and in Egypt both men and women painted their eyes. Jewelry was also common in Israel and other middle eastern countries. Both men and women in Israel wore jewelry including bracelets and ear rings as put of the cultural norms.  It is important not to confused god-mandated standards with cultural norms and customs by taking bible verses out of context but unfortunately that has become a current theme that has impacted many aspects of Christianity by enforcing a lot of man-made restrictive rules and regulations in order to be more godly.

As for nice fashion, makeup and jewelry, these are well and good as it has been the tradition for women church goers to dress up nicely for Sunday service. It's perfectly fine to want to dress nice and look beautiful in any occasion whether church, dinner, social event, a romantic date etc. without any shame or guilt.  However, the true problem lies when as Christians we allow ourselves to become too self-indulgent on these things  to the point of vanity, defining our worth in such materialism.

As Christians we should be defined by our glory in honor in the Lord and following Jesus Christ our Savior.  That's we our true beauty lies.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Legalism Part 1 Women, Fashion, Makeup and Jewelry

1 Timothy 2:9-10 "In like manner also, that women in modest apparel, with shamefacdeness and sobriety, not with broided hair, or gold or pearls or costly array; but which becometh women professing godliness with good works"

I wanted to to start a series of about legalistic man-made rules often enforced within the church and Christian community altogether that often hinders Christians walk with Christ.  These rules are well-meaning but very misguided in it's way to be used to keep Christians on the right path with God due to misinterpretation of the bible, scriptures often taking out of context and often has more to do with controlling and policing Christians. Sometimes these results with Christians being kept under law where they are scoring points with God and trying to earn his favor rather than being under grace which is the true way to live godly.

My first post on legalism is about women regarding, fashion, makeup, jewelry and even modesty.  I've posting this topic because of the many times I've read and heard on internet be it articles, blogs, websites and youtube videos on this matter which has occasionally left me quite concerned, baffled and uneasy.  Apparently, there are many Christians who believe it's wrong for Christian women to wear makeup and expensive jewelry or clothes and be fashioned-oriented. Some churches even teach against this using the above bible verse 1 Timothy 2:9-10 as their reasoning.

Another scripture used to justify this reasoning is 1 Peter 3:3-4 "Your Beauty should outward adornment such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight".  

Other scriptures include Jeremiah 4:30 "What are you doing, you devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why highlight your eyes with makeup?  You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despite you; they want to kill you."

 2 Kings 9:30 "Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out the window".

The comments I've read or heard was that Christian women shouldn't wear makeup or expensive attire be it jewelry or clothes since these are worldly things. That they shouldn't wear flashy clothes or wear anything that draws attention to themselves.  That only cheap woman or whores were makeup.  No matter how well-meaning, none of these things has anything to do with a woman's walk with Christ or her godliness.  In fact, these mentalities only encourage the Christian community to play fashion police where they police and delegate what a woman should or shouldn't wear becomes legalistic and basically about control. 

Maybe to truly comprehend what Christian women who profess God should put on their face and what clothes they should wear, we need to understand what these  verses really mean. Regarding, 1 Timothy 2:9-10,  Apostle Paul who had written a letter to his disciple Timothy who he left in the city of Ephesus to oversee the church, he left instructions on its oversight.  Apparently during that time, the city was where the temple of the cult of Artemis, a Greek goddess. While many of the former  followers of this cult had converted into Christianity, the problem was many of the wealthy women in the city were flaunting their wealth during worship service by dressing very extravagant with their expensive clothes and expensive jewelry worn on their braided hairstyles. This was their way of showing off  their attire and it was causing the poorer women who couldn't afford such these to be envious. It is also possible that these women were also copying their material from the temple cult prostitutes in the way they were dressing as these cult prostitutes would dress sensual and provocative hoping o attract lustful men.  This could have caused disruption in the church, as the focus was more on the these wealthy women and their attire rather than the service who was turning the service into basically a fashion show.

Paul in his instructions was not banning women from wearing jewelry, or expensive clothes or braided hairstyles which was common at the time. He was condemning their vanity, their need to flaunt their fancy attire and dressing immodestly disrupting service. Instead he wanted to dress more appropriate for church service and they should be adorning themselves with good works instead.  The Greek translation for adorn is "kosmeo" meaning to put in order, to arrange, to decorate, render pleasing and metaphorically to embellish with honor.  Other words, women shouldn't be too focused on their outward appearance to the point of being vain, materialistic and flaunting their attire, dressing so provocative in order to show off their bodies. This encourages conceit, vanity and shallowness and causing women to lose focus on what a godly woman should be concerned with which is professing the Lord with good behavior and good works.

Many have used this verse for the modesty movement where women and girls are encouraged to cover up and dress less revealing and non-provocative attire. Although this is well meaning and can be quite empowering for young women and girls alike this, the verse about dressing modestly may not be referring to this at all. The Greek translation for modest was "kosmios" which means well arranged, proper, respectable. Paul likely was referring to women dressing appropriate for the occasion. The Greek word for shamefacedness was "aidos" which meant a sense of shame, honor, modesty, bashfulness, reverence and regard for others.  Meaning the women in that church shouldn't be flaunting themselves but have a sense of honor and modesty in their attitudes.

Even in today's society, there as been a  hyper-sexualization of women and girls in the media and pop culture for a while now that only encourages them to believe that they should flaunt their bodies, look very sexy in order to be attractive. The old phrase was "If you got it, flaunt it".  There is also the shallow and materialistic mentality that encourages them to fixate too much of their physical appearances to the point of defining their worth on their looks.  This has led to superficial attitudes, where females tend to judge others or get judged themselves by more of their outward appearances, create envy for each other. Sometimes it even leads to insecurities and low-esteem, where sometimes females as young as their preteens, resort to eating disorders, older women getting plastic surgery, face-lifts or using botox and or other women having surgeries to change, their breast size etc, too look more attractive to measure up to the high standards of beauty. 

The most common mentality is females in young thirteen dressing in provocative clothing to feel sexy, hoping to get the attention of boys.  Too much of these indulgences can be quite unhealthy and causes females to stray away from what really is important which who they are inside, focusing more on good moral character and doing good deeds rather than just than their appearances.   Although it's nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful and wear makeup, jewelry or nice clothes, for Christian women, it shouldn't be their main focus or what defines them but their walk with Christ and bringing glory to Him.  A true godly woman knows, that their devotion to the Lord and following His calling is what truly matters in the end. 

I will continue more on this topic in part 2 of this post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Living Biblical vs Living Like Christ

Galatians 3:10-14"10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[a] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[b] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[c] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[d] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit."

It's been a long while since I posted due to other obligations. However, now that I'm back, the next topic of my post to analyze the difference between living biblical by following biblical rules compared to living godly by following Christ.  I ask this because having read plenty of Christian blogs and articles, the common theme I read, is about what is biblical and what isn't and how we are to be biblical. This goes from biblical womanhood or femininity, biblical manhood or masculinity, biblical dating, biblical marriage, relationships, etc.

 The premise is that as Christians we are to almost everything in a biblical way, behave in a biblical way and live in a biblical way.  I can't count on the many times I read lists from other Christians on what is not biblical based on their personal convictions from getting tattoos, getting a divorce, women working outside the home, men staying at home, women wearing makeup, jewelry, high heels and stylish clothes and the list goes on. Many Christians have their own ideas on what is biblical therefore acceptable within the Christian community. 

The problem with this mindset is that many Christians will turn the bible into a personal rule book of what and what not do based on their own interpretation of the scriptures which will always vary from individuals, a church, or community on what is acceptable. This leads to legalism in which each individual group or persons will cast self-righteous judgement, sometimes close-minded or harsh criticisms, often too demanding expectations on other Christians behavior they view to be unbiblical.

Then the focus is more on how to be biblical in the way Christians act, behave, live in almost every aspect of their lives to the point of keeping score and becomes less about what is godly or what is living like Christ although many equate all being the same thing.  It can also become more about living under law rather than living under grace where Christians start constantly over analyzing and worrying about what they're doing is biblical and therefore pleasing to God based on their interpretation on what the bible verses is clear.  It also becomes competition in a way as I have read many Christians on the internet debate among each other what the scriptures mean each thinking their interpretation is the true meaning while condescendingly judge others for not understanding the context of the verses.

From my own experience on reading these comments, it seems those who arrogantly berate others for misinterpreting bible verses that suits their reasoning on the ones guilty of doing just that.  The fact remains is the bible can be a hard book to understand especially not knowing the entire history of the context of the scriptures sometimes how we interpret them will vary due to own upbringing and church influence.  Also cultural influence will also play a role in how  we sometimes interpret what is biblical.  In such a case, many on the more ultra conservative camp  in the western countries will use phrases such as biblical manhood or biblical womanhood to interpret a very cultural traditional ideal of manhood or womanhood. These same groups under the more patriarchal western influence will also equate biblical family with the more traditional nuclear family  unit or biblical dating with the more traditional courtship from the by gone era and the list goes on. 

The thing that many Christians seem to forget is that the bible is set in Ancient times in the far east in places like Israel where the culture and customs differed from this era in America.  Sometimes these cultural norms and customs play a role in the bible. One example is during Ancient times, slavery was acceptable and mentioned quite often in the bible, as is a man taking more than one wife during ancient Jewish customs.  Also arranged marriages happen, the penalty of adultery was stoning to death, men didn't have a 9-5 job every day wearing a suit to the office and women jobs was the domestic sphere of the household even if she earned extra income with a craft or trade, she did so from the home as often did the man. 

However, over the centuries and throughout the continent cultural norms evolve and vary.  Which is why it isn't good to take the bible verses too literally ignoring the historical culture, custom and societal norms of that era.  My point interpreting the meanings of the bible and how to live more "biblically" influenced by traditonal patriarchal ideals and standards isn't going to make Christians more godly neither trying to live by some of cultural norms of that era.  When Christians take the verses too literally thus establishing a "biblical living" based on those words it causes Christians to overlook the bigger picture behind those words such as the true historical meanings  sometimes creating  false doctrines which in leads to legalism.  It then turns the living as Christ following believer  about rule-keeping or where not living biblical. 

With rule-keeping becomes self-righteousness, arrogance, and close-mindedness especially to anyone who doesn't follow the "rules".  One of the ways we Christians can change this is stop looking at the bible as a rule book with all these biblical to do and do no list. Instead see the bible for what it is which is a list of stories on About God our creator, the creation of mankind, about history of the Israelites during the Old Testament and many figures from Abraham to Noah, to Moses to King David etc. Also about the story of Jesus the son of God, our Lord and Savior in the New Testament along with the many apostles and disciples afterwards etc. 

Of  course, there are some guidelines and standards that should be obeyed that is int he bible like the Ten Commandments but we shouldn't make a habit of turning almost every scripture into a to do list.  Instead we should learn from the historical events in the bible understanding the true context and use some of the scriptures as  examples on how we can live our lives in today's society during our walk with Christ always talking cultural norms and customs of that "biblical times" into consideration.

 For example regarding verses on how masters should treat their slaves or how slaves should respond to their masters, since slavery is no longer in an existence in the western countries, this verses could be used as an example on how  employers and employees relate to one another and the list goes on.  Instead of worrying so much on how to be and act more "biblical" the answer should be how to strengthen our walk with Christ and placing God our Lord foremost in our lives.   Of course, we are not perfect and are all sinners to a degree and will stumble from time to time.

 But now that we are living under grace as Jesus has already died for all our sins, we don't need to beat ourselves over the head every time we slip up and make a mistake of not following all the "rules".  What we do is receive the Lord and his Blessing, and  our sins will be forgiven and we strive to improve ourselves as we continue the long sometimes harrowing path of Christ.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Christians Policing other Christians is Problematic

Matthew 7:1-2 "Do not judge or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

I have mentioned some of this in my a post from my first blog on the topic of legalism. However, I want to go further on this next post regarding how Christians  I have researched many Christian sites on post and articles on several topics and I can't count the times, I stumbled upon an article by posted by a Christian author including a pastor or even a blog where they felt the need to delegate what other Christians should or should not do regarding the choices in their lives in order to to be a "True Christian".

 This goes from what other Christians should watch on TV examples like horror, soap operas, R-rated films, any show or film that contains negative things that we Christians don't condone.  Or reading certain books, like fiction horror, Harry Potter series or Twilight, romance novels that have lovemaking out of wedlock.  Other topics involved are whether Christians should have tattoos, dye their, women cutting their hair, wearing makeup, doing yoga, martial arts, go dancing, clubbing, dating, ever drink alcohol, how far is too far in a relationship and the list goes on.   It seems like these authors view themselves as more of a expert in how to live a godly life and feel it's their need to tell others what to do in which they all need to follow his/her personal standards or else they're not a true believer.

Another problem is that these Christians turn a Christianity into a long list of dos and don't over every aspect in a Christian's life or else God will condemn us. I recently read two positive posts, one from Jeffrey Curtis Poor's blog "Rethink" titled "Christians Stop Being the Moral Police" and John Shore's  "What Non-Christians Want Christians To Hear" from his blog at Patheos "Above All, Love, Unfundamentalist Christians".  He is also the author the book "I'm Okay, You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop".  Of course, their arguments are related to Christians attitudes towards non-Christians or non practicing Christians, but the actions are the same regarding passing too much judgment, quick to condemn, narrow-mindedness, condescension etc.

The main motto for these so-called Christians is to wag their fingers and criticize as well as shame others who don't fit into their one-size-fits all philosophy on what a real believer should or shouldn't do often with self-righteous, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou attitudes. This is mostly built out of legalistic rules from their own interpretation of the bible, the need to feel morally superior to others and just the need to feel all knowing, self-important like they're are the true paragon of a true Christ follower and others should just listen to them.  For the most part, plenty of these Christians are well-meaning in their posts of articles and youtube videos as they believe they're helping their fellow believers out a little on how to live righteously and not stray away from Christ and possibly go down the wrong path on the naive belief what they're doing is not harmful.

But fact remains, there isn't one size fit all way to live as true Christian over issues that isn't mentioned or right out condemned in the bible nor anything that is outright against God's will.  Making a long list of man-made legalistic rules of what and what not to do isn't benefiting or building up the Christian community, as many will be confused with different points of views of what a "true Christian" should be and what is acceptable and what isn't.  In fact, these rules are basically built on the need to police and control, installing fear of of sin or looking for sin even when it isn't there.  It also encourages believers to live under law rather than grace where they bear a  heavy guilt when they break the so-called rules or don't live up to them and always looking for ways to score points with God or seek approval from other fellow believers on minor things on how to live a godly life.

As for me, I try to avoid delegating what other Christians should and shouldn't do especially involving matters that isn't biblically-mandated even though I may make a few exceptions but I desire not to live on a long list of rules on what to do and what not in order to live a Christ following life.  Instead playing moral police and policing others, I just focus on continuing to strengthen my relationship with God, grow more spiritually, read the bible whenever I can if not grow everyday, not worry so much if I stumble now and then as none of us are perfect will never be, we are all inclined to sin once and a while but keep embracing Jesus in my life and strive to live under grace rather than law.

 Reading books by Pastor Joseph Prince has helped me a lot and watching his show everyday.  I think the true thing Christians should do is to just receive Christ, keep him the center of your life focus less on on a what-to-do lists and just take it from there.