Posts tagged ‘Heart’

Stopping Sexual Assault

Kevin Spacey

Credit: Netflix

Roger Ailes.  Harvey Weinstein.  Kevin Spacey.

These are just a few of the more recent names that have turned right-side-up the seamy underbelly of sickening sexual power-plays for the world to see.  Charges that these men sexually assaulted people with whom they worked have sparked a social media movement among countless victims of sexual assault, who are now declaring, #MeToo.  These men’s alleged sexual crimes have been roundly condemned, both in word and deed.  Roger Ailes, who has now passed, was ousted from the powerful cable news network he founded.  Harvey Weinstein was likewise booted from his own company.  Production on Kevin Spacey’s hit show “House of Cards” has been suspended.

Sexual assault is one of those issues on which all people with any moral center can agree: it should never happen.  So, why does it?  From a theological perspective, sexual assault can be said to be a result of humanity’s fall into sin, a fact to which the many gruesome stories in the Bible of sexual assault attest.  And no inexorable march of human history toward increasing moral enlightenment seems to be able to arrest the problem.

So, what can make a change, or even a dent, in the tragedy of sexual assault?

Our modern sexual ethics have, in many ways, been reduced to the word “consent.”  As long as people consent to any kind of sexual activity, any kind of sexual activity is permissible and, yes, even moral.  Indeed, in our sexually indulgent culture, it is considered immoral to restrain and contain one’s sexual desires, for sexual desire is considered to be at least a window, if not the window, into a person’s core identity.  But, as David French points out in an article for National Review:

The practical result of consent-focused morality is the sexualization of everything.  With the line drawn at desire alone, there is no longer any space that’s sex-free.  Work meetings or restaurants can be creative locations for steamy liaisons.  Not even marriage or existing relationships stand as a firewall against potential hookups …

 When everything is sexualized and virtually every woman is subject to the potential “ask,” scandals like those that rocked Hollywood, Fox News, and – yes – the Trump campaign become inevitable. And they’re replicated countless times on a smaller scale in schools and workplaces across the land. Desire is elevated over fidelity and certainly over propriety, so bosses bully, spouses stray, hearts break, and families fracture.

Mr. French is precisely right.  Sexual assault is a huge problem.  It is a huge problem in and of itself, which is why we must stand with the women – and the men – who are victimized by it and declare, “No more!”  But it is also symptomatic of another huge problem – a sexual ethic that has become so attenuated that it amounts to little more than a “yes” or “no” answer to an ask.

Andrew T. Walker, the Director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted last month:

So much cultural & personal hurt due to sexual sin.  Maybe the church should see its sexual ethics as a gift of common grace to the world.

 – Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) October 10, 2017

Mr. Walker packs a lot of profundity into 138 characters as he invites us to entertain a wholly different, and certainly a more robust, sexual ethic than that of our culture’s as the remedy to our sexual assault problem – a uniquely Christian sexual ethic.

The Christian sexual ethic is wholly different from our culture’s not only because its content is sweeping, as any glance through Leviticus 18 will quickly reveal, but because its very trajectory is countercultural.  In a culture that approvingly trends toward the permissive, Christianity vigilantly trends toward the restrictive.  This is why Jesus says things like: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).  In sexual ethics, Jesus goes far beyond consent.  He cuts straight to the heart.  Even what happens in one’s interior life can be an opportunity for sexual immorality.

Why would Jesus trend toward the restrictive with regard to sexuality?  Is He a prude?  Or a prig?  Or a Puritan?  Hardly.  He simply knows that with great power comes great responsibility.  And sex does, in fact, carry with it great power.  So, Jesus is inviting us to handle with care.  To quote David French again:

It virtually goes without saying that the sex drive is incredibly powerful.  Sex is also a remarkably intimate act that often has a profound emotional impact.  An ethic that indulges that drive while also denying the emotional significance of sex will inevitably wreck lives. The wise person understands that desire – even mutual desire – can be dangerous. 

It is time for us to take a step back and recognize this reality.  In a culture that lionizes consent when it comes to sexuality, Christians have something much more profound to protect and prosper sexuality – a conviction that sex is best when sex is contained, not so that joy in sex may be decreased, but so that joy in sex may be released.

November 13, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Heart Cleaning

When I was a little kid, one of the places my dad used to take me was the zoo.  I loved to see the animals – the bears, the giraffes, the elephants, and the otters.  I especially liked the otters.  They always seemed so playful and energetic.  But as much as I enjoyed seeing the animals, they were never my favorite part of my zoo trips.  No, the highlight of these trips was always my ride on the zoo train.  At my local zoo, they had a real, coal burning, steam engine which ran a mile long trek around the perimeter of the zoo grounds.  And I loved to ride it.  The wail of the train whistle, the chug, chug, chug of the pistons, and the waft of the smoke rising from the train’s stack always mesmerized me.  I also loved the open-air cars.  There was nothing like having the wind blow in your face as lots of beautiful scenery whizzed by beside you.  In fact, I always wanted to hang my head out the side of the car and feel the wind rush through my hair.  But in each car, they had these notices posted: “Please remain seated and keep your hands and arms inside the car until the ride has come to a complete stop.”  I despised these notices.  And my dad would never allow me to fudge the rules…not one bit.  Whenever I’d try to stick my hand out the side of the car to feel the breeze, my dad would grab it and point it up to the notice.  I could look at the scenery whizzing by outside, but I could not stick my hand out the window to get closer to it.  I had to keep my hands to myself.

In worship and ABC this weekend, we looked at the story of a sinful woman who comes to anoint Jesus as He is dining with a Pharisee named Simon.  As I mentioned in ABC, many scholars believe this woman not only lived a sinful life, but a scandalous one as a prostitute.  When Simon sees this woman weeping over Jesus and pouring perfume on Him, Simon mutters to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).  Simon is upset that this sinful woman would dare to touch Jesus…and that Jesus would allow her to do so!  In fact, from this, Simon deduces that Jesus cannot be a true prophet – for a true prophet would never let a sinful woman come into contact with Him.  Simon believes this woman should keep her hands and arms inside her own little space at all times.  She should keep her hands to herself.

According to Old Testament law, coming into contact with something or someone which was physically, spiritually, or ceremonially unclean rendered you unclean.  For instance, Moses writes:

If a person touches anything ceremonially unclean – whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground – even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.  Or if he touches human uncleanness – anything that would make him unclean – even though he is unaware of it, when he learns of it he will be guilty. (Leviticus 5:2-3)

Moses is warning, “Be careful what you touch!  Because if you touch the wrong thing, you will get the wrong result – you will be rendered ‘unclean’!”  So please keep your hands and arms inside your own little space at all times.  Keep your hands to yourself.

A touch can defile.  This was the way the religious leaders viewed sinfulness and righteousness, uncleanness and purity.  This is why Simon is so upset with Jesus.  After all, He is allowing a clearly unclean prostitute to defile His ceremonial cleanness without so much as a wince!  Jesus, however, knows better about purity and uncleanness:

Nothing outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him “unclean.”  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean.” (Mark 7:15, 21-23)

Jesus knows that a sinful woman cannot defile a pure person, for a person becomes sinful not because of some external source of wickedness, but because of his own sinful heart! The Lutheran Confessions explain, “Neither sin nor righteousness should be placed in meat, drink, clothing and like things” (Apology XXVIII 7).  These external things cannot defile us.  It is our own hearts which make us wicked.

This sinful woman’s touch does not defile Jesus’ purity.  But Jesus’ purity does cleanse this sinful woman.  Jesus announces to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).   This woman’s sinfulness is no match for Jesus’ forgiveness.  And the same is true for us.  We are cleansed through faith in Christ!

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

October 24, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Weekend Extra – Tough and Weak Prayer

Recently, I heard the story of a lady whose husband was terminally ill with a heart condition.  For years, he had fought valiantly against his sickness, but now, his ability to fight was waning.  The time came when he had only days left.  He was in the hospital.  The doctors were scrambling to prolong his life.  And this man’s wife had a decision to make.  Should she advise continuing treatments for her husband, who was unable to decide for himself, or should she advise against it?  She prayed to her Lord.  A couple of hours later, word came from the nurse:  “He will not be getting better.  It’s all downhill from here.”  She took this word to be her divine answer and told the doctors to keep her beloved husband comfortable rather than to try to treat his disease.  He passed away a couple of days later.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we took a look at Jesus’ Parable of the Unjust Judge:

In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” (Luke 18:2-5)

Upfront, Luke states the purpose of Jesus’ parable when he writes, “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).  This, then, is a parable about prayer.  Indeed, in this little parable are embedded some very valuable lessons that can help us tremendously in our own prayer lives.

First, we must remember that prayer is tough. The woman in Jesus’ parable is persistent in her entreaty of the judge.  We should be the same in prayer.  But being persistent is not always easy.  All too often, we can be tempted to give up when the answers to our prayers come slower than we might like.  In our quick fix, microwave, lightning fast, high speed society, we are conditioned to want answers from God and want them now!  But sometimes, God makes us wait.  And this is good.  For patience can build our character and our trust in God.  But waiting is not easy.

Prayer can also be tough when the answer we receive to a prayer is not the one we want.  I think of that lady and her husband.  Surely she was praying for a miracle.  Surely she was begging for her husband to be healed.  But her answer from God through a nurse was loud and clear: “No.  His time has come.”  To receive an answer like this in prayer and then to make a medical decision like the one she had to make is never easy.  Prayer is not easy.  This we must remember.

Second, we also must remember that prayer is for the weak. There is an interesting paradox that permeates prayer.  Prayer is tough, and yet it is for weak people.  It is for people who know that by their own devices, know-how, and strength, they cannot prop up, fix up, or wrap up their lives.  In Jesus’ parable, it is a widow who entreats a judge.  This is purposeful.  For widows were well known to be weak and vulnerable in this day.  Without a husband, a widow often had no financial resources for herself or recourse against those who would seek to take advantage of her, as did this mysterious adversary in Jesus’ parable.  Prayer, then, is for people who are weak…and know it.  It is for people who understand that the most profound things of life happen not with our cajoling and coaxing, but by God’s providence and power.  Prayer demands more trust in the supremacy of God and less trust in the supremacy of self.  Prayer is for weak people and to a powerful God.

Finally, then, the question of prayer is this:  Are you tough and weak in prayer?  Are you persistent and powerless in prayer?  The good news of our prayers is that they do not fall on the ears of an unjust judge, like the widow in Jesus’ parable, but on the ears of a righteous heavenly Father who wants to help.  We do not have to persuade Him to care about us as does the widow with the judge.  He already does.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

April 11, 2011 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Weekend Extra – Mind Your Maker

The other day, I stumbled across an internet quiz which, if you answered a few simple questions, claimed to tell you whether you follow your head or your heart.  The questions included, “Is kissing in public cute or should it be avoided?”  “Are flowers, little romantic notes, and romantic restaurants an important part of dating for you?”  After seven simple questions, I learned that I followed my head more than my heart.  I’m not surprised.  After all, I’ve considered this characteristic of my personality before…in my head.

There is a regularly peddled belief, often lapped up by our emotionally inundated society, that it is better to follow your heart rather than your head.  Just look at the sappy sentiments that permeate greeting cards which are being given all over our country on this Valentine’s Day.  In her book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert chronicles how she traveled the world after divorcing her husband, looking for insight into life, which she gains from a medicine man in Bali.  Apparently, even a Divinely witnessed moral commitment made in marriage is no match for the whims of a human heart.  And, indeed, it shouldn’t be according to Gilbert.  To follow a moral commitment made in marriage rather than your heart would be no less than, well, immoral!

Certainly, the human heart is important.  The wise man of Proverbs reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  But at the same time the human heart is capable of great good, it is also prone to deep evil.  Jesus warns, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).  The heart, then, cannot and should not be the summit and sum of human decisions and desires.  This is why Jesus, in our text for this past weekend, says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  In His words, Jesus is quoting the Shema, a Hebrew word meaning, “Hear,” based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5:  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  Faithful Jews still recite the Shema two times a day and it is traditional for them to recite this as their last words before they die.

What is so striking about Jesus’ recitation of the Shema in Mark 12 is His addition to it.  The original Shema reads:  “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  But Jesus adds another way in which we can love the Lord, our God.  Not just with our hearts and souls and strength, but also with our minds:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  It is not just the heart that loves God and follows Him, it is also the mind.  The mind is important to Jesus!

The apostle Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).  In order to follow God, we need not just properly disposed hearts, but miraculously transformed minds.  Minds which love to ponder the things of God.  Minds which diligently studies the Scriptures.  Minds which use their intellectual capabilities to study God’s world and marvel at its grandeur and intricacies.

Do you love the Lord, your God, with all your mind?  Are you learning new things about God and His Word?  If you’re not, you’re missing out on a fantastic part of your life in Christ.  So join a Bible study, listen to good teaching, and ponder anew what the Almighty can do.  For our God always gives us something new – and exciting – to think about.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

February 14, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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