Genesis 22: 1-19

The story of Abraham and Isaac is generally told as Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac in submission to God’s direction. The lesson to us is most generally explained as the need for us to submit to God’s will with devotion and a willingness to give up what is most precious to us.

In Genesis 22: 12 the angel of the Lord said “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for know I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

This is the key lesson of God’s demand. Abraham had to be WILLING to sacrifice his son but God did not allow him to actually harm Isaac. Just so in our lives God will ask us to be willing to give up that which we most love, but will not ask us to harm our loved ones or anyone else.

He accepts our willingness but not the harm to another person.

This then is part of God’s test for us, are we willing to do anything God asks of us?

Are we able to recognize that God will not ask us to harm others with our actions?

If what we think God is asking us to do will harm another we must reexamine out thinking to be sure this direction is from God. As Christians, we know that God wants us to “Love one another” (John 13: 34) and if we love, we should not harm.

I try to use that as my test in what I say and do. Will my words or actions harm someone else. If the answer is yes than I can be pretty sure that the idea didn’t come from God and needs more prayer before I actually say or do whatever I’m thinking about.

Christians and gay marriage

Far too many Christians view gay marriage through the lens of Leviticus 20:13  -“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

I prefer to focus on John 13:31 where Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you. That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Please keep in mind that Jesus was talking to both his disciples and many people who were not yet believers, people who adhered to the old law. The new commandment was directed at both believers and non-believers to love both believers and non-believers!

In Matthew 9:11 the Pharisees asked; “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” To which Jesus replied; “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” And he continued; “I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinner to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12)

The lesson for us as Christians is not to hate but rather to love and accept with open arms anyone who thirsts for God’s word and help anyone who tries to find a way closer to God. I submit to you that any couple, gay or strait, that wants to be married, particularly married in a church, is searching for God, else why bother making such a formal connection?

Even in the case of civil ceremonies, gay marriage does not weaken the institution of marriage any more than someone else’s divorce weakens your marriage. Remember in the real world our choices are not between marriage and no sin but rather between the same actions outside of a committed relationship and marriage.

In John 8, we find the story of a woman found in adultery and about to be stoned in accordance with the law. Jesus stopped the execution of the sentence and instead demanded that “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7)

Yes, in John 8:12, Jesus ends with the admonishment: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” directing the woman to stop the adulterous behavior. Nowhere do we read that this particular woman did stop her behavior! We only know that she was protected from stoning and told to “go sin no more.”

So what does all this have to do with the latest Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage?

I just finished reading an article about a flower shop owner being taken to court for refusing service to a gay couple who wanted to buy the flowers for their same sex marriage. Somehow the owner believes that since the Bible defines marriage as “between a man and a woman” this give them the responsibility to not sell flowers to that couple. The article reports that the flower shop owner ”agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids”.

First I believe that allowing is far different from supporting. The flower shop owner in the article does have the absolute right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, but should they, by denying service, insult the customer? Just because I have the right to do something doesn’t always make it the right thing to do.

Everyone is free to interpret the Bible as they choose, for myself I’ll try and not be part of the crowd with a stone in my hand; but rather to follow Jesus’ new commandment to “love one another” in the spirit of Saint Francis’ prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

John 20:19-22

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”)

21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

My morning bible reading this morning was John 20 and in reading this I had an “Ah Ha” moment. This is a personal instruction from Jesus to me, not just a story about Jesus instructing Peter. Jesus is teaching me that I should not care about or pay attention to what others are given or called to do, but to focus on gratitude for what I am given and what I am called to do.

Every lesson in the bible is a personal instruction to me (and you, of course) in what God expects us to be and to do and in many cases how to conduct ourselves.

In my present situation it seems that bad deeds are being rewarded and improper behavior is successful. This was exactly the passage I needed to read right now, I needed to be reminded that I should not pay attention to what gifts God gives to others even when it seems that evil (in my opinion) is being rewarded with God’s favor. I need to let go of comparing what I have been given with what others have.

God has blessed me in so many ways, with family that is not only supporting me emotionally through this crisis and providing me with a place to live, but also with love and caring – not to mention time with two of my grandchildren who just don’t care about anything beyond Grandpa is here with us.

God has fixed my transportation problems. Yes, I now have car payments, but they are within my budget and I am secure that God will show me how to handle that comfortably too.

God has introduced me to several very nice ladies and seems to be putting others into my life so that I will have options and the chance to learn how to have a relationship with women after being with just one for nearly 20 years. With a wife, I got used to sharing everything openly, while with dates that is exactly the wrong thing to do and it takes practice to change my behavior. God is putting these people in my live so that I can get that practice.

While it seems to me that everything is taking far longer than I would like, and I get frustrated by that, in truth it is all happening at the speed God has approved. The old story that “God isn’t finished with me yet” may be true in more than one way. Not only is God still refining me, I may have to wait for God to finish with the other person he has planned for me to meet!

That is true not just for a companion. God is still refining the work he wants me to do and all the other things he has for me including a place to live and the income to support it.

That certainty doesn’t seem to make the wait any easier, in fact in some ways it may even make it harder, but wait I must and I can either wait calmly or be agitated but either way, wait I will. Trusting in God to provide on his schedule and to give me enough of his peace that I don’t go charging off and make things worse while I should be quietly waiting.

Exodus 23:20

Exodus 223:20 – Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.  (KJV)

In creating a formal morning prayer for myself, I ask God to do several things that I think I want and several things I need and I end that request with the phrase “that you have already prepared for me”, in the certain expectation that if those are the right things for me they are waiting for me and if I am asking for the wrong things, God will put me where he has already created a place for me.

My prayer for the people in my life includes the phrase “Deliver all the people in my life to the places you have prepared for them.”

I learned this concept so long ago that I really didn’t remember where it was in the bible from. Once I found the quote, I read chapter 23 from beginning to end to understand the context and to see if I was using that quote correctly. The passage is part of God’s admonition to follow His laws and His promise that if I obey his laws, that He has sent an angel to guide us to our proper place. The place he already has waiting for us.

This seems to imply that if we don’t follow God’s law we will not be guided to the place he has for us; works not faith. And, at least in one aspect, it does demand “works” from us. If we don’t try and live by God’s law and willfully disregard his direction, we turn away from the path that angel is leading us on and we never arrive at the place God has prepared for us.

This happens in exactly the same way that we must follow the directions to make an earthly trip. We cannot drive north, east or west and expect to arrive at a destination that is to the south. The bible contains directions and if we expect to arrive at our destination we have to follow them. But we are only human and cannot follow God’s direction with anything approaching perfection!

God knows we are only human and He has promised to send an angel to lead us so that we don’t have to rely on our fallible human wisdom to guide us along the path we are supposed to follow to our proper destination – the one God has already set out for us.

He just have to listen with a willing heart, willing to put aside how own limited human understanding and follow that angel to the place God has already waiting for us.