bible blog 946

This blog provides a mediation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news

Japanese minister says old people a burden on state

Taro As-an ethic of disposability

Taro As-an ethic of disposability

Ephesians 5:1-14

51Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,2and live in love, as Christ loved us* and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Renounce Pagan Ways

3 But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints.4Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.5Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient.7Therefore do not be associated with them.8For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.12For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;13but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,14for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Sleeper, awake!    Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’

you're still having sex

you’re still having sex

This kind of passage is distasteful to a certain kind of post-modern sensibility to which it appears moralistic and self-righteous. Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and darling of the agnostic lovies in the UK, suggested in one of his books that sexual activity was in itself morally neutral and that the UK slang word, “shagging” was a reasonable term to describe it. Lots of people would agree with him. A colleague once said to me, “The trouble with you, Mike, is that you don’t distinguish loving from fucking.” Probably Greek culture in Ephesus would have agreed with his view. The passage above represents not only a Christian reaction to that culture but first and foremost a Jewish reaction. Diaspora Jews were dismayed by the sexual permissiveness of their fellow citizens, who were in turn startled by and sometimes a little envious of, the stricter morality of the Jews with its emphasis on marriage.

Christian morality in sexual matters derives from this Jewish tradition. Here the writer also gives a specifically Christian reason for  turning away from casual sex: believers share the life of Jesus Messiah who has been raised from the dead into the light of God’s presence, therefore they must live “as children of the light” in all goodness and purity. This is not teaching that sex is evil. The Jewish tradition always held that it one of the things God saw as good, designed by God to bind men and women  in faithful partnership. Only in the Greek tradition was there a denial of the goodness of bodily life (and therefore of sexuality) which found its way into Christian morality and damaged it, especially through the cult of virginity.

St. Bernadette. The cult of virginity

St. Bernadette. The cult of virginity

The heart of this teaching is found in the idea that “the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true”: those who live in the sunlight are fruitful; whereas life in the dark is unfruitful. My experience as a pastor over fifty years is that a society where casual sex is the norm is one where people have difficulty in respecting themselves and others; and where the economic ethic of disposability is applied to sexual partners and then to everyone other than myself. Ultimately of course, as I face death, I realise that I am rubbish too and will be swept away. Christian sexual morality is a protest against meaninglessness and death. It says, “Awake sleeper! Rise from the dead/ and Christ will shine upon you.” It promises fruitfulness.

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