It’s Not a Two-way Street

wisdom-is-free

In broken families, parents complain that their children “owe” them and children delude themselves that their parents “need” them. From each perspective, the relationship devolves into extortion. A broken parent shames their child because they want repayment, “after everything [they] did for them.” In stark contrast, St. Paul shames his children, not to extract worldly honor or repayment for himself, but to pressure them to become providers for the sake of others, canceling out a child’s sense of entitlement and self-importance. True parents, St. Paul explains, do not need anything from their children, except that they do the commandments of God. Richard and Fr. Marc review 2 Corinthians 12:14-21.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4472618/marcboulos-20160922063421-9789.mp3

(Episode 140; 2 Corinthians 12:14-21); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Zig Zag” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

Silence is Not Golden

silence-not-golden

What good would it be if a man were to ascend to the highest heaven and return with nothing to say? Would you be impressed by him? Would you brag about him to others? If so, what would you say? If this man has nothing to say about his so called revelation, what is there to brag about? I know how some of you will answer. You will talk about his feelings and the life changing wonder of having such an experience. Unfortunately, your feelings, your experience and 50 cents will not buy me a cup of coffee. Actually, in 2016, your feelings, your experience and $2 will not buy me a cup of coffee. But I digress…

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4416765/marcboulos-20160915060601-3492.mp3

(Episode 139; 2 Corinthians 12:1-13); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Super Cool Dude” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

God is our Father

honor

Submission is my least favorite Biblical topic—especially when it refers to the relationship between husbands and wives. My husband likes to joke that I didn’t read the fine print in the marriage contract. I particularly struggle when I watch him parent our children. I was raised with a tough father and he was raised with no father, so we are a combination of extremes. He tends to lean more strict and I tend to be more free—which, of course, leads to clashes in parenting styles—often in front of our kids. But as I learn more about submission, the more I don’t want to undermine his authority in our family. It’s important to me that our children respect their father and they can’t do that if we are not displaying a united front. But submission doesn’t mean I have to be a good little wife and shut up…does it? Ephesians 5 offers another perspective:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:1-6)

God is our Father…so let us (attempt to) imitate our father, whose unreachable standard exposes the unfaithfulness of our speech. Don’t waste time with silly talk—be grateful for what your Father has provided. Though I consider myself a feminist, the more I study the Bible, the more silly and whiny some feminists seem to me. Instead of being grateful for what we have as modern women—grateful for the sacrifices others have made to get us here—we play the victim. But as I have shared in other posts, we learn from the Bible that there are no victims and such a mentality is dangerous. Yet, white male authority is still demonized…particularly father figures (or priest figures, for that matter). Authority is evil, submission is weakness, and self-reference is the false god of modern day living. The trouble with this anti-authority/anti-submission approach is that it doesn’t work well in marriage—a partnership that requires both authority and submission.

“Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret; but when anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” (Ephesians 5: 7-20)

It is not wise to continue associating with groups that encourage thinking that opposes the Gospel. Sadly, this passage could be interpreted (and often is) as a license to behave self-righteously, as though we are better than people from other groups. But the point is that Paul says to mind how YOU walk “as children” (disciples) of the Bible and don’t waste your time with things that are unfruitful for YOU. Take it as nutrition advice. If something is poisonous for you and it divides you from God’s teaching or undermines the Gospel in any way, call it out in your mind and stay away from it. I personally had to move away from feminist books and articles that encourage division between husbands and wives in the form of the “independent woman” who needs no man. Male authority is not the problem. When it comes to the Bible, gender is irrelevant. If you are following the law, “love your neighbor,” there is no need for a gender conversation or to argue about whose authority to submit to. You are supposed to submit to everyone. The Bible levels the playing field. Why stress yourself out or waste time reading books or Facebook posts that suggest you are beholden to no one, teaching you to leave an “unfruitful” trail of chaos in your wake? No one wants to believe that there is freedom in obedience.

“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Unfortunately, people always seem to stop listening to this passage after the phrase, “Wives, be subject to your husbands.” That’s the only thing anyone hears. No one wants to be subject to authority. In particular, modern women (myself included) do not wish to submit to men, so we ignore the fact that the passage sublimates paternal authority to the text. Once again, gender is not the issue. The central problem is our refusal to submit to each other and our determination to play the victim, not just in marriage, but in all areas of our life.

My father was very tough on me as a child. I spent years blaming him as the root of my own problems instead of being grateful that I had a father who actually cared enough about my upbringing to yell at me or spank me if I deserved it. Now, when my husband disciplines our children and I find myself reacting, the question I should be asking is, “Is he disciplining them according to Scripture?” If he is disciplining them in a manner that we have agreed is Scriptural, then there is no reason for me to challenge him—despite my personal feelings that our kids might feel alienated from him when they grow up. The truth is, either way, our kids will clash with him. The Minnesotan in me hates the idea of impending conflict or confrontation. I think it’s in my blood to try and avoid it. But if there is freedom in obedience, I must submit to my husband and trust that my kids will benefit from his disciplinary methods, even if it means their inevitable rebellion. If I have established that his methods are not in accordance with the Bible—meaning they are not in submission to Christ’s commandment to love our children—then it is my duty to challenge my husband—but not in front of the kids. It is imperative that the kids respect their father and that they know their mother respects their father. The same is true in reverse.

A mother’s natural inclination is to try and control everything because she wants to protect her children. But a father should be free to interact with his children as he sees fit. He should not be hampered into “Mommy knows best” for everything.
It is important that a mother not undermine the father’s authority—regardless if he is present or not. Her first loyalty should be to her husband.

Let No One Think Me Foolish

boasting

People embrace social norms in much the same way that fundamentalists embrace religious rules: as a means of self-approval. A person feigns modesty either to win acceptance or to exemplify correctness. That’s why St. Paul’s disciples in 2 Corinthians are so distressed by his boasting. Not only because his behavior is socially unacceptable and grossly immodest, but because in human eyes, his cause for boasting is even more absurd than his arrogance. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4364447/marcboulos-20160908065654-1907.mp3

(Episode 138; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Curse of the Scarab” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

The Great Corinthian Brain Hack

System Failure
How can a teacher reach someone who is set in their ways or engulfed by ideology? What if the way a person looks at the world–their unstated assumption about everything–is backwards? Is it possible to help them reason their way out? Can you talk someone out of their own ego? According to St. Paul, the answer is no–“we are not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (2 Timothy 2:14) So how does Paul reach his disciples in Roman Corinth? Before modern computers, there was another form of dangerous malware. It was a kind of analog software, distributed by God himself, through “the hands of Moses in letters divinely inscribed.” Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 2 Corinthians 11:1-15.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4307048/marcboulos-20160901070708-1708.mp3

(Episode 137; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Severe Tire Damage” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

A Yo Yo for Your Sake

Human Morality

Unfortunately, Christians often co-opt the Bible to justify philosophical axioms, such as, “it is good to be humble,” or, “it is wrong to boast;” “it is good to be nice,” or, “cruelty is evil.” You get the point. We take the Bible, which turns human morality on its head, and we use it to justify the way that we think people should be. But in Paul’s teaching, there is no “way to be.” On the contrary, there is a teaching to follow, and for that teaching, boasting can be as useful as humility and cruelty as helpful as kindness. Everything depends on our premise and the reference for our actions. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 2 Corinthians 10.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4238933/marcboulos-20160825063002-9316.mp3

(Episode 136; 2 Corinthians 10); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Vicious” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

No Thanks to You

selfish
Is it possible to do something good without allowing yourself to take credit? I’m not talking about haughty expressions of socially encouraged self-deprecation. On the contrary, is it possible to do something good while knowing–with absolute certainty–that you are not good and that you do not deserve any credit? What is a selfless act? Some would say it is impossible. Thankfully, with God all things are possible. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 2 Corinthians 9.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4175871/marcboulos-20160818050957-4654.mp3

(Episode 135; 2 Corinthians 9); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Dreamer” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

Love, Bullies and Mean Teachers

bullies

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about turning the other cheek in the grand context of war and peace. However, I still struggle with this idea on a personal level—especially when the news is filled with stories of children mistreated by parents, teachers, and peers. No parent wants their child to suffer abuse, yet, Jesus allowed himself to be abused until death. Does this same rule apply to a child? Should I expect my child to “turn the other cheek” when facing a bully or a cruel teacher? These were questions in need of answers, and so I turned to Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4)

There is no arguing with Paul on this question. Governing authorities exist because God allows them to exist. If we resist, we will face the consequences. There is no nuance—there is simply what is. Do what you are supposed to do and the authorities will not bother you.

But what happens when the authorities are corrupt? What do you do when the people who are there to protect you are mistreating you? No one knew the answer to this better than Christ. As I said before, he allowed himself to be abused, even until death. This is not a popular strategy—nor is it one that I am particularly fond of for my own children.

A parent’s first reaction when their child is being bullied is to assume that he or she is innocent. Our culture shields victims from any kind of shaming. While this can appear to be a good thing, it also ignores the possibility that the victim might have contributed to their own situation. This is a very touchy subject in this country—a person is all or nothing in the United States, innocent or guilty. In contrast with American culture, in the Bible, everyone is unrighteous. Period. Innocence and guilt do not factor in.  Was my child aggravating the bully? Is there something wrong with my own child’s behavior? Bullying experts do not include these questions in their lists of parenting tips. That is why everyone hates lawyers—lawyers have to ask the tough questions necessary to establish the possibility of guilt on both sides. Our culture of presumed innocence places enormous pressure on victims to maintain an ideal imposed on them by society or their parents. Children are never given space to consider how their mistakes may have contributed to their suffering. (It is important here to draw a line between normal adversity and predatory abuse. In this article, I am talking about normal adversity.)

Normal adversity consists of things like a teacher who is tough or critical or a fight on the playground. This is just life…sometimes your child will run into situations that are difficult that will inevitably bruise their ego. Not everyone is going to think our children are all sunshine and rainbows and this is a hard pill for parents to swallow. Criticism and adversity can help children grow to be better students and people. If a kid gets into an argument on the playground, or gets ridiculed and teased, it’s good for them to know that the world does not revolve around them. While as parents we have a tendency to tell our kids they are the center of the universe, it is on the playground where they learn that this is not true—sometimes they have to turn the other cheek and put others first. That is if they—and the parents—accept it.

It is tempting to point to examples of predatory abuse as a reason to shelter our children from normal, healthy conflict. As humans, we are constantly searching for the exceptions… circumstances that are unforgivable and relieve us from all culpability. For example, when I was eighteen, I was in an abusive marriage. For many years after the divorce, I assumed it was my right to treat the men in my life like crap because I had spent so much time on the receiving end of abuse. This is not what the Gospel tells us to do. I cannot control the behavior of others, but I can control my response to it. We are not judged for being abused—we are judged for our response to it. While this doesn’t mean we allow the abuser to escape the consequences for his/her actions, it does mean that we must forgive and move on. We are not eternally excused for our behavior because something bad happened to us…and this is what our children need to learn.

“Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (13:5-10)

A key theme here is respect. Respect for authority, respect for the position. I have said this before—in the military, I served under plenty of people I didn’t like. But there was always the expectation that one would respect the rank and give that person their due, even if they were a straight up jackass. I did just that—until one day a supervisor of mine went too far and I had had enough. Then I asked for a change in leadership for myself. The supervisor was reprimanded and I was put under someone else.

Turning the other cheek is not up for debate. The law is “love your neighbor.” If the person in authority is not following this law, you should not be “standing up for yourself” when you report them; you should be appealing to God’s teaching for mercy. In this situation, it is important that you do not become self-righteous about it, or oppose them just because they make you uncomfortable, or because you have a point to prove. After all, I was not much better than the supervisor who abused his power. I was doing plenty of things that I should not have been doing and I had put myself in a position to be mistreated. I felt good because I stood up for myself, which is what the world says I should do. But this was self-righteous. I thought this made me better than him. In other words, while I was right to oppose his behavior, I was wrong to stand up for myself.

The rule “love your neighbor” is the only thing worth standing up for. It covers all of the basics of the Ten Commandments and more. Don’t infringe on other people—govern yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, unless they are causing harm to the community. So when my child faces a bully at school, they do need to stand up…not for themselves, but for the teaching. Not to make people agree with the teaching, but to make sure that whatever they do serves the teaching. When a victim is asked to stand in harm’s way because other people might get hurt by a bully, this is correct. It may mean that they suffer more harm, but they are doing it out of love and for the sake of others. If you are standing up for the teaching, you are defending something more important than your ego.

Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (1:11-14)

Snap out of it, Paul tells us. The day of judgment is coming, so let us follow the law and behave ourselves accordingly. Let’s not argue or bully each other or stand up for others to give ourselves a sense of inflated importance. Follow the law and submit to its teaching.

The Bus Keeps Moving

flyer_2009bustrip

People tend to overestimate their own importance while ignoring–or at least underestimating–the value of others. This problem is keenly felt in the church at Roman Corinth, where Paul uses the success of others to realign the self-view of his disciples. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 2 Corinthians 8:16-24.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4119722/marcboulos-20160810172052-5917.mp3

(Episode 134; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Peaceful Desolation” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

True Equality is Not Fair

popsicles

On some level, people recognize the importance of being fair. We know that our laws should treat people equally and we understand that no one should take more than their “fair share” from anyone else. From the moment we step on the playground as kids until the day we calculate our retirement pay, we live and operate in a world that frames equality in terms of reciprocity. But what if equality could not be achieved by fairness? Worse, what if true equality meant cheating everyone? Would we still demand equality? Fortunately, it’s not what we demand, but what St. Paul commands, that truly counts. Richard and Fr. Marc discuss 2 Corinthians 8:1-15.

Listen: http://tracking.feedpress.it/link/10240/4059934/marcboulos-20160804055328-4759.mp3

(Episode 133; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15); Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Secret of Tikki Island” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/)

1 2 3 23