Wednesday, October 24, 2007

chambers of death

"With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life."

Proverbs 7:21-23

I don't want to write on this topic. I've spent most of the week trying to glean something else out of Proverbs 7, and tonight I considered skipping the chapter altogether--but if you're going to write a series on Proverbs, you can't escape this. Solomon devotes entire chapters to it.

The topic is sexual sin, what used to be called fornication. Nowadays that word is out of favour; the only people who use it are the ranting lunatic preachers we see caricatured on TV. I don't like to write about it for several reasons, chief among them being that I can hardly walk out the door without this Sin of our Age bombarding me, and I see no reason to drag readers through the mud again.

And yet we can't ignore it.

We can't ignore what Scripture says about it. Now more than ever we need to listen up. Now more than ever we need to tell the truth about this sin and what it does to people. Now more than ever we need to say with Solomon that "she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death" (Prov. 7:27-28).

Of all the damaging, destructive lies sold to our society, none is so pervasive as the lie that freedom is found through breaking God's sexual laws, that there are no consequences to sin. The incredible thing is that so many people have bought this, when every unwed teenage mother, every child without a father, everyone struggling with an STD, every man staring at the wreckage of his family, wishing somehow he could undo things--everyone who has broken God's law--knows better. We know it hurts. We know it destroys. We know it promises fulfillment and leaves us empty and broken.

Yet we won't admit it.

As believers it's easy to look at society and shake our heads, wagging our fingers and tsk-tsking. But what about us? What are the standards in our own lives, among our congregations, among our groups of friends? Do we display the fear of God in our actions, words, and thoughts? Do we approach relationships in a way that honours others and proclaims the truth of God? Furthermore, when we do speak out against sin--and we should--do we come down from on high, smugly informing sinners that they should have listened, or do we say with Solomon's passion and urgency, "Listen, my son!"

Listen. Hear this. The path you take leads to the chambers of death. If we are dishonest about this, we betray ourselves and others. Compassion, and the Compassionate God, call us to live purely, to speak out, to confront this Destruction and tend the wounds inflicted by it.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the law is light

"My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually on thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.

"For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life."

Proverbs 6:20-23

In Proverbs 6, the son is not merely urged to remember that his father always said "shut the gate" and his mother upheld toothbrushing as law. Rather, it speaks of the commandment by which a father in Israel was to live; the law which gave shape to a mother's life. The law of God was to be passed down from generation to generation, and Solomon urges the son to keep it: to eat, sleep, and breathe it.

Moral law has a bad rap in our culture. Philosophically we don't believe in it, because everything is relative. Practically, many people build whole lifestyles out of fighting against it. But Scripture praises the law of God--not as a way to salvation, but as a light.

God's moral law shows us right from wrong. In doing so it shows us the nature of God. Every time I step out the door I'm confronted with a culture that's rapidly coming apart. In the name of freedom our culture grows more grotesque by the minute. By contrast, scripture takes me back to the mountain air of real freedom: to a world where a promise is a promise, where marriage is sacred, where impurity is condemned, where life is valued.

On a mountain outside Jerusalem, Jesus spoke to the Jewish people, to whom God's moral law had first come, and said, "Ye are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16). As Christians, we have also received the light of God--not only in the law, but more clearly in the person of Jesus Christ.

"For the commandment is a lamp," Solomon writes, "and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life." It's more important than ever that Christians uphold moral law. If we don't, we help plunge the world into greater darkness. Let the world hate us because we are holy, but let us not give them reason to name us hypocrites.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the beauty of fidelity

"Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers with thee.

"Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and as the pleasant roe... and be thou ravished always with her love."

Proverbs 5:15-19

I was listening to my favourite internet radio station, RadioCelt, last night. The playlist was depressing. Every other song dealt with the loss of love. It's struck me lately how many popular songs are like that. One laments, "I'm sorry/It's just too late/It wasn't meant to be like this at all." Great Big Sea, a Canadian East Coast group, says it most hauntingly: "How did we get from saying I love you/To I'll see you 'round some day?"

Genesis 2 gives the origin of woman. Unlike the animals, who were created by a word, and Adam, who was molded by God's hands, she was taken out of Adam's own flesh. The material that made her was warm and alive. She was created for relationship. For this reason "shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

We need each other. Maybe it's the primal nature of this need that makes us so vulnerable in it. Songs and poems, stories and tears testify to the pain involved when a spouse or significant other stops loving and leaves. It rips people apart. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes wrong "love" as "more bitter than death."

On the flip side, fidelity is beautiful. Monogamy is a powerful thing. It means cleaving--clinging, sticking--to one person, no matter the adverse circumstances or changing feelings that come our way. Monogamy says that the relationship between man and woman isn't just about satisfying ourselves. It's about taking two and making them one.

Equally, celibacy in singleness is beautiful. It pays honour to the relationship between man and woman by refusing to play around with it. It puts the fire on a pedestal where it can give light and heat to all, rather than taking it down and tossing it around until it burns the whole world down.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

ponder the path

"Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established."

Proverbs 4:26

Our society was not designed to create philosophers.

To ponder a thing--to think deeply, carefully, logically, with a mind open to new discoveries--is an intrinsically human thing to do. It's just as human to avoid doing it. We can drown out thought with a million different distractions.

The fact is, most of us need to stop and do some serious pondering. It was true in Solomon's time and it's true now. We're all on a path. We may not be sure how we got on it. Maybe we got swept up with our peers, maybe our parents set us here. However we got here, we'd do well to stop and ask where it's taking us.

Every day, we put one foot in front of the other in a definite direction. Where are you going? Is the road you're on a useful one? Is it a path of praise? Are you walking in a way that invests in the future, both temporally and eternally? Ponder the path of thy feet, Solomon urges, and let all thy ways be established.