Will Smith got all worked up about a joke told by Chris Rock. Mrs. Smith’s alopecia is off-limits, it turns out, so Will got jiggy with cuffing Mr. Rock really hard for all the world to see. An open marriage, meanwhile, is apparently nothing to blush at, as Hollywood sees it.
In other news, it turns out marriage equality is actually of a piece with absolutely deconstructing gender and sexuality as nothing more than social norms. But if you hold fast to the conviction that God instituted marriage for certain fixed and general purposes which we should honor and cherish, you are either phobic or a hateful bigot. Either way, you are considered the embodiment of deviance, dear Christian, whereas both the abolishment of gender and the multiplication thereof into oblivion are deemed normal and necessary and nothing whatsoever untoward.
At the same time, all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable – that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. But the story of Ehud and Eglon will never be adapted for Veggie Tales and flannelgraph, except perhaps by satirists. And perhaps that is something of a pity. Maybe that is unfortunately of a piece with the rest of what we are observing in our cultural rot and disintegration.
The Apostle Paul, for instance, writes to the same disciple Timothy he gave qualifications for overseers and deacons to telling the younger man to have a little wine for the sake of his digestion. But even one drink in the evening is used in many American churches to say a man is unfit to be an elder, overseer, or pastor, or even pursue a woman’s hand in marriage in the most extreme case I’ve heard of. This is not only confused, it reveals a kind of arbitrary and nonsensical approach to Biblical interpretation and the exercise of authority which is not inspiring of either confidence or affection.
Now what if I told you all these assorted circumstances have something very important in common? What if I told you all of these situations, and many more besides, are examples of us being wise in our own eyes?
Let it suffice to say that being wise in our own eyes is a dangerous thing, whatever form it takes – whether excessively severe with regards to disciplining the body, or else rabidly licentious. Good things and blessings do not come from supposing we know better than God. Good things and blessings do not result from being wise in our own eyes.
But what does Paul say? He admonishes us to study diligently so we can rightly handle the truth and not be embarrassed. That means more than sloganeering and mantras comprised of Bible verses taken wholly out of context, sometimes very deliberately I’m convinced. In fact, often these two things are exact opposites.
Spamming the one combo you know over and over is not much better than button-mashing. Just so happening to sometimes land a blow against your adversary and win the occasional match does not mean you are being your best selves, brothers and sisters, nor that you are winning overall.
This is not to say we are forbidden from having opinions or focusing in on certain aspects one at a time, or taking care to develop an appreciation for the whole counsel before said appreciation is mature and fully-formed. But it is to say that we are called to not miss forests for trees, and we are expressly warned against straining out gnats while swallowing camels.
A properly reverential treatment of truth, goodness, and beauty does not use the Lord’s name in vain as if He were a sanctifying abra kadabra enchantment to all our agendas. Reverence for God will, however, see us approach what is true, good, and beautiful with a candid and humble appreciation for the fact that God has given us very great blessings in life which are not to be squandered – either by over-emphasis of some truths or else the exclusion of others.
Two things not only can be but must be at the same time: first, that all things are permissible; and second, that not all things are beneficial.
When Paul writes that he refuses to make himself a slave to anything, this is because he is resolutely committed to being a slave to Christ. And the counterintuitive feature of Paul’s preferred slavery is that it is a mutually exclusive state of being to every other kind of slavery, so he jealously guards his service to Christ against all comers.
Yet as soon as we say that, we have to qualify the remark by reminding that slavery to Christ requires a commitment to good stewardship of every good gift which the Lord has given us, offering ourselves as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God as our spiritual act of worship. We do not forgo all eating for the sake of avoiding the temptation to gluttony, for instance, except for brief periods of intensive prayer and meditation we Christians refer to as ‘fasting.’
A man defending his wife’s honor is a good thing, then. But that same man being by his own public admission a slave to his own passions and hers is not. And between the two, the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s marriage would have been much better served by protection along other lines than the recent incident at the Oscars concerning Chris Rock.
Just so, being either a male or female chauvinist is not a good thing. But believing that God knew better than we ever could what He was doing when He created us as male and female image-bearers – this is very good.
And just so, it is possible to both have a glass of wine for the sake of our digestion and also not be addicted to much wine – all at the same time. Not only is it possible, I dare say the wedding at Cana and Psalm 104:14-15 strongly recommend the practice.
Finally, all Scripture being breathed out by God means we are not sanitizing His Word when we leave out “the naughty bits” in the text before we present them to our children. And perhaps we would do well to consider how even the objectionable and hard to understand details in the Bible are there to equip and complete the man of God for a kind of service to God which has staying power and is going places – for His glory and our benefit.
Rather than being wise in our own eyes, the best wisdom is found in what the world considers the foolishness of God. It is far wiser than all the wisdom of this world.
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