Polyester Sins and Catfish Condemnation

shrimp_catfish-Last week’s Supreme Court decision about marriage generated two widely-diverse reactions. One camp viewed it as a triumph and a positive step forward while the other saw yet another sign of rapid moral decline. Some supporters of the SCOTUS decision chose to spike the ball by needling those most disappointed by the ruling: Bible-believing Christians. These jabs take many forms ranging from “rubbing-your-nose-in-it” pictures posted on social media to outright hatred. A Christian who is following Jesus’ example and His apostles’ commands will rise above these insults and not return in kind. There is always hope for a change of heart and an opportunity for civil debate (which is in short supply these days). Most disappointing to me was an attempt by some scripturally-ignorant armchair theologians to lecture Christians about what the Bible really says.

I won’t bore readers with yet another explanation of how Jesus DID in fact have much to say about homosexuality by condemning it along with every other kind of sexual immorality (e.g. adultery, premarital heterosexual sex, bestiality)  Instead, I want to address a gross misunderstanding about the critically-important difference between the Old Testament and New Testament. Leviticus 18:22 is the go-to verse against homosexuality “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (NKJV). Gay rights advocates point out (and rightly so) that Christians who use that verse to condemn homosexuality must also condemn other things forbidden in the book of Leviticus. By their logic, a Bible-believing Christian cannot eat bacon (Lev. 11:7), eat shrimp or catfish (Lev. 11:10), wear blended fabrics (Lev. 19:19), be tattooed (Lev. 19:28) or trim their beards (Lev. 19:27). Christians correctly respond by saying those things were only commanded under the Old Testament and here is when the cries of “hypocrite!” begin to fly. Allow me to explain why this is not hypocrisy nor is it simply a convenient bit of theology which allows Christians to ignore scripture they don’t like.

The Old Testament, simply put, is the portion of the Bible written before Jesus Christ came.  It contains the covenants (agreements) God made with certain groups of people. The first covenant was made with a man named Noah and spread to all humankind after the Flood (Genesis 9). Incidentally, this is when the rainbow was created as a sign of God’s covenant promise not to destroy the earth with water again. A second covenant was made with Abram (later named Abraham) and his descendants in Genesis 15. A third covenant was made with the nation of Israel through Moses after the escape from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 19:5). The book of Leviticus is contained within this third covenant also known as the Law of Moses. Without getting into deep theology, many of the admittedly strange-sounding laws given to the Jews were to discourage practices of the heathen nations they would be living amongst in the Promised Land of Canaan. These pagans practiced self-mutilation and marking (tattoos) in worship of false gods. They trimmed their beards in certain ways to show their proud and public devotion to those false gods. We now know many of the dietary commands had health benefits, but they were also given to avoid any “mixing” of clean with unclean—a blurring of lines, if you will. This is a vitally-important spiritual lesson. That is the concept behind the prohibition of mixed fabrics. God wanted clear lines drawn between His chosen people and the heathen nations around them.tencommandments

Jesus Christ came to fulfill (Matthew 5:17) the promise of a Savior/Messiah given in those old covenants. The ultimate problem of sin would be solved once and for all by God Himself taking on flesh and offering a perfect sacrifice. The New Covenant was not simply the latest version, but rather the completion of a set of successive stages culminating with the cross. The church was built upon the foundation of that sacrifice.  The Old Covenant died with Jesus on the cross and the New Covenant was instituted by His blood (Hebrews 9:16-25; Acts 20:28; Colossians 2:14).

The apostle Paul taught that the statutes of the Old Testament were no longer binding on Christians under the New Testament (Colossians 2:16-17). The apostle Peter was shown by God that the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament were no longer required (Acts 10:9-15). It is for this reason that Christians can correctly say they are not bound by commandments in the Old Testament which are not repeated in the New Testament. Christians are no longer required to leave the corners of their fields uncut at harvest or travel to Jerusalem three times a year as the Jews under the Old Testament were. However, Christians ARE required to obey all the commands under the New Testament of which there is much in common with the Old (love your neighbor, worship no other gods, etc.). The similarity is no surprise since the same God wrote both and still approves of the same principles. The Old Testament was sort of the beta version of God’s ultimate covenant under Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:10-11; Galatians 3:24-29). Its imperfection and temporary nature was no reflection on God but rather on OUR imperfection and weakness. Our inability to keep the previous covenant required a new and better covenant which is outlined in great depth and beauty in the book of Hebrews.

No logical gay rights activist would say a person who uses a laptop today must use Windows 95 or be a labeled a hypocrite. It is similarly foolish to criticize a New Testament Christian for not adhering to the Old Testament laws. Please do not misunderstand me. The Old Testament was divinely given by God and was necessary to be pleasing to Him. But it was a Law given to a specific people (Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 5:1-3; Jeremiah 31-31-32) for a limited time (Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 8:7,13). It was never intended to last forever. The “good news” of the gospel is that the New Testament is for everyone in all places for all time. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29 NASB). May the Lord shine upon you.

Posted on July 9, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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