Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Guilty Pleasures... Sin, but sin boldly

Guilty pleasures - those things that you enjoy... and probably shouldn't. You know, like bubblegum pop music, romance novels, etc. Well I have one these days: Big Love, the HBO television show about a polygamous Mormon family. It really is little more than a soap opera with a twist - the main characters reflect a culture very foreign from mine.

There are some serious "buts" here though. The show raises theological questions. Polygamy is a biblical practice that Bill and his wives practice because it is biblical. You can't question that it is there and was practiced by all of the patriarchs of the Hebrew scriptures. The question becomes, how do you apply scripture today? There is an issue that I think is bigger and more interesting, how do you know when God speaks to you? There is a lot of discussion of "revelation" and listening for God's voice regarding both the little and big things of life. One week, one of the characters spoke of a woman who listened to God to tell her even what clothes to wear. That was discounted as extreme but there is a real expectation of God being there everyday and of the possibility of hearing God's expectations. How do we know when it is God and not our culture, our desires, or our fears that are pushing us?

Most Christians I know would say that a key test is that the "revelation" cannot contradict the Bible. Seems like a reasonable criteria... but there is lots that doesn't contradict the Bible that most of them would be wary of including polygamy. And there are issues that societal changes have brought to us that are not addressed in any way. Is using a fuel air bomb moral? What about business practices that caus the extinction of a species? I would even say that the modern practice of homosexuality is not directly addressed in scripture. So how do we know it is God speaking when scriptures are not clear?

My gut tells me that WWJD is a good start, but obviously over simplified because we see Jesus through the lens of our culture and our theology. After a long discussion on an airplane with a young orthodox presbyterian woman about homosexuality, she remarked to me "we don't worship the same Jesus." She was right.

So how do you know when it is God speaking and not something else... or do you know?

My favorite quote from Martin Luther goes something like this, "Sin, but sin boldly... and accept forgiveness all the more boldly." I think he meant that we make our best choices, our best interpretations, our most faithful attempts at following Jesus knowing full welll that sometimes we will blow it. We cannot allow that knowledge to stop us from acting. When we discover that we were wrong, we ask forgiveness, accept it, and head off in a better direction.

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