Tag Archives: Adultery

God’s People, part 224: Adulterer

Read John 7:53; 8:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons;”  (Luke 8:1-2, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Jesus_Woman-AdultererPart 224: Adulterer. We all are familiar with the account of the adulterer in John 8. This scene has been played out in virtually every movie ever made on Jesus’ life, teachings, death and resurrection. Most likely, it is remembered in the following way:

A crowd of people come storming into the village square, stones in hand as they chase down a woman who is in a ragged undergarment. Her makeup is smeared across her face, and her dark, exotic eyeliner, eye shadow, and mascara are streaking down her face with streams of tears. Jesus sees the angry crowd and also notices one of the religious leaders approaching him.

“Teacher,” the man called out snidely in order to trap Jesus, “this woman was caught in adultery. The law of Moses says we must stone her to death. What do you say?”

Jesus bends down quietly and draws in the sand a fish symbol. Though Jesus doesn’t answer the man, he calls out again and demands an answer. “All right,” Jesus responded, “But let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.

Each person knowing that they aren’t without sin, they begin to drop their stones on the ground and leave dejected. Jesus approaches the woman and asks, “Woman, who here condemns you.

“No one, master,” she replied. Then Jesus said to her, “Then, neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.

Of course, this memory of the Scripture is mostly right, though some of the details are off. First, the crowd was not necessarily holding stones; rather, the account tells us that they brought the woman before Jesus in order to trap him. When Jesus said his famous line, “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone”, there is no mention that the people dropped their stones, but that they just left.

Also, we don’t know what Jesus actually wrote in the sand. Films often have Jesus draw a fish, which was the ancient symbol for Christ followers; however, there is no actual evidence that Jesus drew that symbol, let alone anything else. Most importantly, this woman often gets conflated with Mary Magdalene. In fact, this identity has become so strongly linked to the adulterous woman, that even when we read the text, in which the woman is given no name, we see Mary Magdalene as that woman.

The truth is, Mary was never linked to being an adulterer, nor does the Bible say that Mary Magdalene was ever a prostitute. In fact, the only mention of Mary in her life prior to following Jesus, was that she had been possessed by seven demons and that Jesus had performed an exorcism on her, casting them out. Thus, this woman caught in adultery was NOT Mary Magdalene, but an unnamed, anonymous woman.

Many Christians will read into this lots of different things, none worse than the idea that this passage promotes the common, hideous, phrase of “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” People will use this woman as an example that, while Jesus forgives, he does so on the condition that you go and “sin no more.” There is some truth to that; however, it is a half truth at best and it is often used to justify one’s own judgmentalism.

Yes, Jesus forgives us and, it is true, that Jesus does ask us to go and sin no more. With that said, the forgiveness is not conditioned on anything. It is give to those who believe in Christ and call on his name for forgiveness. Honestly, Christ’s forgiveness is given to all humanity; however, if they do not see their need for forgiveness and do not accept Christ and the forgiveness he offers, they can never receive it. That is not because Christ doesn’t want them to, but because they are unwilling to.

The woman was not told to go and sin no more and, upon accepting that condition was forgiven. It was quite the opposite of that. Jesus forgave her and then gave her the opportunity to go and sin no more. No doubt, she probably did sin again at some point. She’s a human being; however, due to her acceptance of Jesus in that moment, she had been freed from living in her sins. As a result, any time she slipped into sin, she could remember the forgiveness given her, repent, and change course toward righteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That is the same for all of us. None of us are in a place to “hate the sin, but love the sinner”, for we are all sinners who sin. That doesn’t mean we should like our sins. No, far from it. We should not like our sins, but instead of being the judge of sin in others, we should be turning to God to help us remove our own sins. Instead of judging sins in others, we should support people who are sinning and extend the kind of graceful guidance that Christ would want us to extend. It is then, that we move from judgment to graceful accountability. “Love the sinner and journey with them as we all move away from our sins toward Christ.” Let us make that our motto.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 7:5

PRAYER
Lord, help me to focus on my own sins, rather than being so quick to see, and judge, the sin in others. I look to you for my salvation and I point others to you out of love. Amen.

God’s People, part 193: Antipas

Read Matthew 14:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“John also publicly criticized Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for many other wrongs he had done.”  (Luke 3:19, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

AntipasPart 192: Antipas. While we have already discussed John the Baptist in part 147, as well as his execution under the order of Herod Antipas, it is important for us to look at Herod Antipas. Who was he, aside from him being one of the sons of King Herod the Great? What made him tick? Why would he choose to execute John the Baptist and what made him arrest the Baptist to begin with?

Herod Antipas, unlike his father, was not a king despite people mistakenly referring to him that way. There can be little doubt that he aspired to become king like his father once was; however, that Roman emperor would never have entertained that. Instead of being a monarch, he was given by Rome the title of tetrarch, meaning ruler of a quarter because they had divided up Herod’s kingdom into 4 quarters and placed each of Herod’s sons as a ruler of those regions. Herod was ruler over Galilee and Perea.

The other tetrarchs were Antipas’ brothers Herod Archelaus, Philip the Tetrarch, and his sister Salome I. Eventually, Archelaus was deposed and Rome turned his provinces (which included Jerusalem) into the Roman Province of Judaea. Their father originally planned for Herod II to his successor; however, to make a long story short, following Herod’s death the Roman government did chose to divide the kingdom into a tetrarchy and did not choose Herod II. He actually became a private citizen in Rome along with his wife, who was his half-niece, Herodias.

It is here where we find out why Antipas was so opposed to the Baptist. As it turned out, Antipas ended up taking Herodias for his own wife, despite her marriage to Herod II. This, in the eyes of any devout Jew would have been considered adultery. It was immoral to take someone else’s wife as his own wife; therefore, according to the Gospel accounts, John the Baptist had been calling Antipas and Herodias our for their wickedness.

This, of course, led to John’s eventual arrest and execution. According to the Gospels, Antipas respected John and saw him as a great prophet; however, Herodias was deeply offended by John’s very public denouncement of their marriage. Let’s be honest, I am sure Antipas was none-to-pleased by it either. As such, he had John arrested and thrown into Machaerus Fortress in Perea, which is now modern day Jordan.

Eventually, at the urging of his wife and step-daughter Salome, Antipas had the Baptist executed and his head delivered to Salome on a silver platter. One can imagine the horror of that scene; however, it also goes to show the level of depravity in the Herodian family. These were a people who saw themselves as being above the law, including God’s Law, and thus they did as they pleased with little concern toward the loss of human life.

The challenge for us is to reflect on Herod Antipas and the Herodian family. How do we fit in with them. Are we like them in any way? Before you answer “no” to that question, let’s broaden the horizon a bit. Do you you see yourself as being right with God, all the while finding fault in others? Do you even consider what God thinks of how you live your life or whether or not you should behave or think the way you do? It is easy for any one of us to put ourselves above God’s Law, all the while holding the law above other’s heads. Let us be a people who seek to do what is right, who love mercy and humble ourselves before God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“After whose birth Herodias took upon her to confound the laws of our country, and divorced herself from her husband, while he was alive, and was married to Herod [Antipas], her husband’s brother by the father’s side.” – Flavius Jospehus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 1.

PRAYER
Lord, I humble myself before you. Show me the ways in which I err and help guide me back onto the straight and narrow path you’ve set before me. Amen.

God’s People, part 52: A King’s Sin

Read 2 Samuel 11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.” (2 Samuel 12:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Study_of_King_David,_by_Julia_Margaret_CameronPart 52: A King’s Sin. David and Bathsheba, it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? David and Bathsheba, the names of two people who were involved in the affair of all time. When we think of historical affairs, we think of Antony and Cleopatra and we think of David and Bathsheba. My guess is, if I were to be honest, most of us (especially Christians) think of David and Bathsheba over Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra.

But it is really a mistake to think of David and Bathsheba as a mere love affair. Marc Antony and Cleopatra had a famous love affair, even as Antony was married to Octavian’s (aka Caesar Augustus) sister. That affair centered on both love and politics; however, David and Bathsheba centered on power, and the Bible is not even clear on the details of the relationship between the two.

While we will later look at Bathsheba’s character, right now we are still focusing on King David. When examining their relationship, one must ask the following questions: Who was Bathsheba? What was her socio-economic status? Did she desire David’s sexual passes, or did those come unwanted and unsolicited? While, each of these questions leads to an interesting character study of one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible, ultimately the answers are irrelevant to the truth that needs to be expressed. Never has there been a more relevant time to express this stark truth to this messed up world.

All that matters in the story of David and Bathsheba is this: David’s actions amount to no less than rape. You may find yourself questioning this conclusion; however, I want you to pause and think about it. David was Bathsheba’s king, and she was his subject. Regardless of whether the relationship was consensual or not, David’s seducing Bathsheba is a gross abuse of his power as king and ruler of God’s people.

Think of it this way. Imagine if David were a teacher and Bathsheba was his 16-year-old student? Even if the sex they had was consensual, it would still be considered rape. This would be so if David were her professor and she were 22, or if David were her boss and she was his 40-year-old employee. The fact of the matter is that David abused his power to have his way with a married woman.

He objectified Bathsheba for his own lustful pleasure. On top of that, he tried to conceal her pregnancy from her husband and, when he couldn’t, he had Uriah murdered. Yes, Bathsheba did end up becoming David’s wife, but what choice did she have in all of that? What David did here was nothing short of depraved, and he knew it. That is why, when Nathan calls David out on behalf of God, David is humbled and forced to admit and repent of his egregious sin.

Of course, there was no amount of repenting that was going to take away the consequences of David’s actions. Eventually, the sin would lead to the death of Bathsheba and David’s first child, the death of his oldest child who rebelled against him, and ultimately the dividing of Israel into two different kingdoms at war with each other. There was nothing that David could do to reverse the ripple effect of his actions. Yet, he did repent and take ownership for what he did and, as such, David’s line did continued on.

Eventually, though many who succeeded him as king brought even more sin and destruction to their people, one of David’s descendants would not only be the MESSIAH, but would be IMMANUEL (God with us) and would be the HOPE and SALVATION of the world. Let David be a reminder to you that we, as humans, have the propensity to do some pretty egregious and sinful things; however, we also have the ability to choose humility and goodness by the power of God through Jesus Christ. All we need to do is humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus’ Lordship over our lives. That may not erase the consequences of all that we have done; however, it will put an end to the hell that consumes us when we live in sin.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Jesus Christ, Luke 5:32

PRAYER (taken from Psalm 51)
Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, O Lord, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

The Sermon, part 8: Second Antithesis

Read Matthew 5:27-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“You must not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14 NLT)

  Here, once again, Jesus starts off by affirming the law, “You have heard that it was said, Don’t commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14 NLT). Before we go any further than the law itself, it is vital that people understand what is meant by adultery. Typically, adultery is defined in modern culture as being any extramarital, sexual realtionship. In other words, if someone is married and has sex with someone other than his or her spouse, that person is committing adultery. Thus, this Biblical law is often interpreted as meaning, “you must not have extramarital sex.”

While that understanding is not entirely incorrect, it is also lacking in what is fully meant by the term “adultery”. What’s more, without the fullest understanding of the term adultery, one misses the significance of Jesus’ antithesis to this Biblical law. I have heard some Christians, most famously Kirk Cameron, use Jesus’ antithesis to show that ALL humans are adulterers; however, that is not what Jesus is doing at all and such an understanding betrays a MISUNDERSTANDING of context and Biblical Law.

In the Torah, and in the ancient Jewish context, adultery (μοιχεύω, see Matthew 5:27) should not be confused with fornication ( πορνεία, see ). The latter is reference to any and all illicit sex outside of the marital covenant. Fornication is most definitely considered to be immoral, and those who commit adultery are fornicating (by definition); however, not all fornicators are committing adultery. Fornication does not equal adultery.

In ancient Jewish Law, adultery was the act of a man having sex with a woman married to another man. To do so was to strip the married man of his exclusive sexual right to his wife, as well as it was to deny him of the assurance that his children were his own. Thus, if a man (married or not) had sex with a woman married to another man), that act was considered to be adultery and both the man and the woman involved would be guilty of being adulterers. It was a crime punishable by death. Again, adultery hinges on the married woman. Thus, a married man having sex with an unmarried woman WOULD NOT be guilty of adultery. Conversely, and unmarried woman having sex with another man (married or not), WOULD NOT be guilty of committing adultery. They would considered immoral (which carried its own social consequences), but they would not be considered adulterers and necessarily subject to the penalty of death.

This law, obviously, comes out of a patriarchal society where a man has “rights” over a woman, but the woman does not have rights over the man. So a married man who has sex with another person is not guilty of committing adulter, whereas, a married woman fornicating with another person is. This may not sound like a just law to our twenty-first century ears; however, it is important to understand that law (without our own biased judgment upon it) in order to understand what Jesus does next.

Following affirming the law as it stands in the Torah, Jesus presents it’s antithesis (or it’s direct opposite). “But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NLT). Notice what Jesus does here? He takes a patriarchal law and flips it on its proverbial head. Instead of it being focused on the woman (as the physical law is), Jesus focuses on the man who will face an eschatological (end time) judgment by God.

Again, Jesus affirms the Torah in that a woman or a man found to be adulterers will be subject to judgment (as a matter of fact in that ancient world); however, Jesus flips his command on men (as women were often considered to be the offenders in the ancient world). This is a remarkable and scandalous thing Jesus does here and, in doing so, he is letting men know that if they look at a married woman lustfully, they are guilty of committing adultery in their hearts (even though the woman is guilty of absolutely nothing).

To conclude, this antithesis should once again remind us that God is looking at our hearts. Are our hearts filled with love, or are we predators in our hearts? While humans can judge upon appearances, upon evidence, and upon circumstances, only God knows the hearts. It is the heart that God judges and none of us can hide our hearts from God. This dire reminder is not meant to scare us, but to humble us. This should give us a new understanding of Jesus’ words, which are to come a bit later in this sermon (Matthew 7:1-2). Let us avoid taking the judgment throne, which is God’s alone; rather, let us reconcile our own hearts with God so that we may be filled with mercy and righteousness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Love is not predatory.” – The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Volume VIII, pg. 190).

PRAYER

Lord, remove judgment from my heart and fill it with contrition and love. Love is not predatory in judgment or in any other manner. Steer me from being predatory as well. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Fornication

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” (Colossians 3:5 NRSV)

realistic-fiery-letters-and--numbers--fiery-font-letter-f--burning-aphabets--az--pictures-wallpapers-74110In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

THE WORKS OF THE FLESH: Fornication. Oh boy, nothing like starting off the list of sinful works than with the biggie of fornication! Hey Paul, why don’t you just cut to the chase! We all know, or should know, what fornication is. It is the act of having a sexual relationship with someone outside of a marital covenant. Fornication is an umbrella word that houses more specific words underneath it; words such as adultery and promiscuity. For Paul, the idea of having sex in any context outside of the marital covenant was against his Jewish sensibilities; however, it was not necessarily outside the sensibilities of his Gentile audience. Paul was adamant that sex was meant to be shared between a LOVING and MARRIED couple.

In light of past history, as well as a more scientific understanding of human sexuality, fornication has become a loaded word for us in the twenty-first century. Since the time of Paul, we have 2,000 years of history that we need to be aware of. While we certainly want to honor and respect Paul’s warning against fornication, we also don’t want to fall into the trap of becoming like one of the Puritanical finger pointers of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” What’s more, while sexual immorality (aka promiscuity and adultery) is certainly what Paul is referring to, we all have participated in a fornication of a different kind at one point or another. And that is what I would like to focus on.

According to Christian theology, we Christians are in union (aka marriage) with Christ our Lord. What this means is that we are joined in a spiritually intimate relationship with Christ and, as it is within a marital covenant, we are called to remain faithful to Christ just as he is faithful to us. Faithfulness means that we will give of ourselves wholly to Christ just as spouses give of themselves to each other…meaning that we will live and breathe the risen Christ in all we do and/or say. We will feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, take care of the “least of these,” avoid judgment, seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. When we fail to do these things, and are pulled away by the attitudes and behaviors of this world, we are d in a spiritual sense.

Just as God has been faithful to us, so to we are being called to remain faithful to God. Straying from our purpose of serving others to self-centered living is but one of the ways we end up fornicating in a world set on fornication. The word fornicate, I am sure, makes most of us squirm around uncomfortably…and it should. Let us strive to remain faithful to God and what God is calling us to do. Let us strive to model our lives after that of Jesus’ life. Let us all model a life of bold compassion, love, peacemaking, service, respect, stewardship, radical hospitality, and self-sacrifice. Then we will be sure to steer clear of the pitfall of spiritual fornication.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself.” – Jane Addams

PRAYER
Lord, purify and sanctify me. Keep me from straying from your all-encompassing love. Amen.

Stoned

Read John 8:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NLT)

Glass HouseOne of the most powerful testimonies to the kind of compassionate, merciful, forgiving nature that Jesus embodied, is the story of the adulterous woman who was brought to him as way of his opponents to test both his understanding of Scripture as well as his commitment to the Torah. Under normal circumstances, according to the Law of Moses, the law demanded only one thing: the woman must be stoned. Yet, with that said, these were not normal circumstance and the religious leaders were, indeed, setting a trap for Jesus.

First, it is important to note that while the Law of Moses demanded that adultery be stamped out (via stoning) of Israel, it seems that by the time of the prophets, there may have been a more merciful way of handling adultery: divorce. There adulterer was divorced, and shamed  before the whole community, as a way of both punishing and correcting the sin. This precedence is alluded to in Hosea 2, Isaiah 50, and Jeremiah 3…though the prophets themselves are referring to the adultery of Israel against God. Second, the Law found in both Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22-24 requires that there be two witnesses that can testify against the adulterers, and that both adulterers (as it takes two to tango) be stoned if convicted of the crime.

The religious leaders believe that they have this Jesus, this simpleton from Nazareth, in a proverbial pickle. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus answers to them, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” Well, who is without sin? Not one person could rightfully throw the stone at this woman after that. But not just because we are all, theologically speaking, sinners. The people trying to trap Jesus were found to be committing the sin by their not following the Law in a just manner. First off, if there were any witnesses to her act of adultery, they did not bring these witnesses to Jesus. For all Jesus knows, this woman could be falsely accused. Second, they did not bring the person she committed adultery with. If she had committed adultery, the Law is quite clear that both her and her illicit partner need to be stoned. Where was he? These religious leaders were sinning by the very act of handling the trial the way they did, and Jesus knew it…as did they!

What’s most important is that in the face of the rigidity of the law, Jesus opts for grace, for humility, for compassion and for mercy. How often do we, like the religious leaders, uphold the law in a way that favors us over others? But, by the very act of doing so, we bring the law down upon our own heads. While it is easy for us to stand above others we think are wrong, we are wrong by standing above others as their judge, jury and executioner. Christ has called us to live by the heart of law, which is living in right relationship with God and with each other. While adultery does not live into the heart of the law because it breaks the covenantal bond within the marital relationship, neither does holding others to a standard that we ourselves cannot, and do not, live by.

Here is what Jesus is telling us. If we are to receive love, let us love. If we are to receive forgiveness, let us forgive. If we are to receive mercy, let us be merciful. If we are to receive compassion, let us be compassionate. If we are to receive respect, let us be respectufl. If we are to receive justice, let us live justly. For to live by the law is to die by the law. If we want to receive the law and all of the consequences of not following it, then we are on the right path when we judge others, for we will be judged according to the same standard with which we judge. Let us ever be mindful of that as we continue to live out our lives in the name of our righteous, holy and just God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.” – Unknown

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be loving, merciful, graceful, compassionate, just and certainly humble. Amen.