Thursday, March 16, 2006
Walking in comfort
As I think about it, this story can be used as an illustration for the Christian's relationship to God's Law. As Paul tells us, God's Law is good and right. Out of gratitude to Christ, I strive to obey God's moral Law (as summarized in the Ten Commandments), but so often I find that doing so starts to become a burden rather than a delight. Whenever this happens, I eventually realize that I've gotten back into the old rut of striving to please God through my good works or trying to fulfill the Law mainly in my own strength. Once I come back to relying on God's strength and wisdom to obey His Law and put aside any notion of making myself more just in His sight by doing so (how could I possibly add to the perfect justification I have in Christ!), obeying Him is again the pleasure and delight that it ought to be. Much like my shoes can be instruments of torture if too tightly laced or of pleasure if more loosely laced, I find that to walk rightly in God's Law requires that I maintain the proper attitude of thanksgiving and reliance on His sustaining grace. The Law is good, just as a pair of shoes is good, but it must be used rightly if it is to be for my good.
If I were to choose two words to describe the proper attitude for obeying God's moral Law, it would be "relaxed diligence." Just as I need to take care to not pull the laces of my shoes too tightly, I also need to take care that I not rely too much on my human resources to obey God. If I will do so, I will be able to continue to walk the Christian walk in spiritual comfort.
Back in the closet
To put it frankly, our "liberated" American society has failed to remember that sex of all kinds belongs in the closet. This is not to say that we ought to revert to some kind of prudery that teaches that all sex is shameful. Indeed, intimate relations between a husband and his wife are in no way shameful. Given that the relationship of husband and wife is a picture of the relationship of Christ and His Church, there is surely no shame in any legitimate intimacy that is shared between husband and wife. However, we ought to remember that what is intimate ought to be kept private, not out of any sense of shame, but rather to preserve the privacy that ought to attend acts of true intimacy. Thus, even good and right sexual relations ought to be kept out of public sight. They belong in the closet.
So, if good and proper intimate relations ought to be kept private, how much more should wicked and perverse intimate relations be kept out of the public eye! Although such reprehensible sexual practices have been performed by wicked men and women ever since the Fall, a sense of shame or societal reprehension has kept them "in the closet" for much of history. In our day, however, the door to the closet has been flung open wide in the name of "liberation." This was bad enough when it was the "straight" fornication of the early Sexual Revolution that was thrust in our faces, but lately we have endured the spectacle of having homosexual fornication paraded in public. To all this we are supposed to give not only tolerance (live and let live), but more so our approval lest we be labeled "homophobic." Instead of sexual immorality being kept in private on account of shame, it is now considered to be shameful to keep it private. Now it is considered a virtue to come out of the closet, and a vice to remain there.
My friend, it is no vice to keep what ought to be private a private thing. I pray that God will hasten the day when our society comes to its senses and returns sexual intimacy to the closet where it belongs.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Celibacy is for the celibate
As I've written recently, there's too much "Hollywood thinking" going on in the heads and hearts of Christian singles. Far too often, we meet members of the opposite sex and evaluate them on whether or not we find them attractive instead of on whether they may be suitable. We put the cart before the horse, thinking that romance ought to come before marriage, failing to understand that romance is a mutual duty shared by the husband and wife once they enter into the wedded state. Over the years since I began my long-overdue search for a wife, I've been saddened to see how many single gals are just as confused on this point as I once was. So many Christian guys and gals think of the pursuit of a godly spouse as a romantic game rather than as a God-ordained responsibility.
Although not all members of the opposite sex are suitable marriage partners, and compatibility on certain matters--especially spiritual matters--is important, there's plenty of matters that singles often think of as being important that, to be perfectly honest, don't matter worth a hill of beans. Many of these "essentials" are little more than matters of personal taste. Frankly, I'm ashamed by some of the silly little excuses I've used to reject perfectly fine women, and I'm sure some single women have likewise rejected decent guys for equally silly reasons. If this is the case with you or me, we ought to quit blaming God for not giving us a mate; instead, we ought to look in the mirror and take a good look at the real reason for our so-called disappointments.
To my fellow Christian singles, both guys and gals, I urge you to quit majoring on the minors, and to prayerfully search the Scriptures to find out what you ought to be looking for as you busy yourself in the search for a spouse. Unless you are truly called to lifelong singleness, your business and mine is to marry, so we need to put aside any worldly thinking that might be hindering us from this vital task.
To my married friends, I urge you to pray for your single brothers and sisters and to do whatever is within your power to assist and encourage their pursuit for suitable spouses. We need your prayers, help, and encouragement.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
The power of multiplication
Therefore, I (Yours in (In)Scrutability) would like to assist the experts and pundits who have been at a loss to understand the substantial growth in religious observance in our postmodern age. At a point in history when the intelligentsia have expected that religion would continue to wither towards death, the opposite seems to be occurring. Especially in the Islamic world, religious people are becoming more numerous and more militant.
So what's a postmodern thinker to make of all this? It seems like a very complex question, but as a matter of a fact it's quite easy to understand. The problem, you see, is one of arithmetic, or more specifically one of multiplication: some people multiply more effectively than others.
On one hand, consider the cultural movers and shakers of Western society: scientists, feminists, homosexual activists, media moguls and their minions, etc.. This is a bunch of really smart people, perhaps, but the fact is that they just don't multiply well at all. In the case of homosexuals, they don't multiply at all so long as they stick to partners of their preferred sex, but in other cases, the intellectual/political/artistic life is the very center of their existence, so the idea of having and raising children isn't very attractive to them. Many in fact choose to remain childless throughout life, whereas others restrict themselves to one or maybe two children. Birth control helps to keep this camp's multiplication in check, and abortion reduces their birth rate still further. Whatever the reason, this group of folks--the people who have been steering Western culture for many years--just aren't multiplying a whole lot.
For that matter, there's a lot of other Westerners who aren't multiplying very well, either. These are the little fish who are so wrapped up in personal fulfillment and happiness that having children is just a bother, so very often they don't bother. There's just too much to be enjoyed in the areas of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll to sacrifice the vast quantity of time and expense that's required to raise children. Although many of the couples in this group do have one or two kids, that's not enough to keep their numbers multiplying, either, so this group is continuing to shrink in proportion, power, and numbers.
On the other hand, there are other people who are doing a fine job of multiplication. For whatever reason--perhaps tradition, or perhaps deep-seated religious conviction--these folks are continuing to raise large numbers of children. We see such people in places such as India and Africa, albeit to a declining degree, but we see it most noticably amongst Muslims, conservative Christians, and members of other religious groups which adhere to some kind of "be fruitful and multiply." Instead of caring exclusively for their own personal felt needs, these people have a sense that to practice self-denial on behalf of their children is an inherently worthy way of life.
Thus, even while the experts, Hollywood pundits, and Emergent Church "prophets" continue to rattle on about self-esteem and personal fulfillment, their days are numbered. Before too much longer, their breed will die out due to insufficient reproduction, to be superseded by the offspring of others who have seen fit to care enough about future generations to raise them in growing quantities. If the offspring of these conservative religious folks follow in their parents'
footsteps, the power of multiplication will only continue to grow, until the voice of postmodern hedonism and liberalism will be little but a pipsqueak, victims of the success of their self-centered philosophy of life. Yes, the day is coming soon when the sheer force of demographics will bring about a return to old values and traditions that were so recently said to be "dead" by these experts who were too busy to get around to ensuring their legacy by having a quiverful of their own. Much like the Shakers and similiar groups who died out largely due to lack of spiritual and natural offspring, the day is at hand when our world will see a return to beliefs and habits that were thought outmoded if not dead.
So, my Christian friend, let us be diligent to obey the Lord's commandment to "be fruitful and multiply." As we raise large numbers of sons and daughters, taking care to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we will be helping to set the stage for what might be a great revival of religion within the next generation or two. Let us be diligent, because the offspring of false religions will also grow in number. Simple multiplication demonstrates that our present liberal, hedonistic, and self-centered culture cannot endure much longer. Let us continue to pass the Gospel on to our sons and daughters that they might be prepared for the potentially huge demographic shift that may well already be in the making!
Monday, March 06, 2006
Better loving through chemistry(?)
"But waitaminnit, Dave! Sally and I have been happily married for twenty years. I remember feeling that she was the right woman for me the very first time I met her. Our personalities just clicked, and the rest is history."
Thanks for bringing that up, Harry. :-) I'm so glad that your marriage has turned out so well and that "chemistry" seemed to help you and Sally, but yet I think there's reason to doubt that it's anything but plain ordinary Scriptural self-sacrificing, self-denying love that's brought you through those twenty years happily together. Perhaps you learned how to serve one another from the beginning, or perhaps it was in the aftermath of your first big fight, but if you'll honestly consider what's sustained your marriage, I'm sure you'll realize that there's been a lot more to it than that feeling that attracted you to Sally. Oh, I don't doubt that that feeling has grown over the years, but I would submit that good feelings of affectionate regard are the common and ordinary fruit of right behavior. In other words, your feelings grow out of your actions rather than your actions out of your feelings.
Personally, I most certainly desire that should I marry, my wife and I would share a great deal of mutual affection for each other, but yet I'd hate to base the security and stability of our relationship primarily upon such affection seeing as how it is so easily strained by the trials and tribulations of this life. Therefore, as I consider the single gals whom I have occasion to meet, I try to place relatively little store on how she makes me feel and concentrate instead on whether she might be a suitable partner for me, confident that if I make God's priorities mine, He will graciously grant us the affectionate feelings we both desire. Thus, The (In)Scrutable One is no enemy to chemistry, but in fact upholds it in its proper place and priority.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Laying aside Hollywood dreams
During my journey, I've also seen a few Christian singles manage to get un-single-fied and take on a spouse. You know what I've noticed about them? There's no lack of mutual affection between them, but that's not the main thing: without exception, they demonstrate a willingness to serve one another and work alongside one another. Instead of each party living to have his or her emotional needs met, they are striving to meet the true needs of the other party. To be sure there is romance that comes out of this, but it is so evident that the romance grows out of the serving rather than the serving being fueled by the romance. Perhaps this is the crucial reason why these folks managed to get married whereas so many singles haven't: they've come to understand that love is built upon duty rather than emotion.
My single brother or sister, please pay heed to this. Any thought you may have of building a God-honoring marriage on the foundation of emotional bliss is based on Hollywood or Harlequin fantasy instead of Scripture. If you want to continue looking for a knight in shining armor or a damsel in distress in your daydreams, go ahead, but don't confuse such fantasies with reality. Put aside your worldly notions about chemistry, spark, etc., and search the Scriptures to see what they teach about the roles of husband/father and wife/mother. Next, apply those teaching to yourself insofar as the role(s) to which you aspire, and prayerfully search for a person who embodies the qualities that would suit him/her for the role(s) he/she would fill. Looks and personality matter, I suppose, but spiritual like-mindedness and submissiveness matter so much more!
Although I often enjoy watching old Hollywood romances and comedies, I've learned to file their often-hackneyed plotlines under "worldly fantasy." I am determined to build a marriage on Scripture instead of Hollywood. How about you, Christian single? How about you?