Out of context

29 Jun

Hello friends,

One of the frustrations in my life is people who take bible verses out of context to bash people.  This is an age old practice and even the writers of the bible used ‘proof texting’, as it is sometimes called, to prove a point or bash a type of people.

So, let’s do something radical like actually looking at who Paul was writing to before we make conclusion about what he meant by the following passage.

First, Paul is speaking about a group of people that he knows personally.  They are people who, being aware that there is a Divine Presence in our world, choose to worship a humanly created object.  It could something that look like a person, or a bird or an animal, but it wasn’t the eternal divine.  So, Paul is angry that they are belittling the worship of God and claiming to be more intelligent in the process.

These were the upper class of Rome.  They believed in what we would call idols, and they just call gods.  They thought that worship worked by worshiping different gods for different aspects of life; harvest, child-birth, war, prosperity, health, etc.  Also, since they were upper class Romans they had the freedom and financial security to live ‘into their vices.’  It is well know that the Romans during this period engaged in a sexual freedom that we take for granted.  Woman slept with people who were not their husband, which Paul saw as “exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural”.  And men took young men who were usually slave and had sex with them and “committed shameless acts with men.”

Take a minute to read Paul’s rant for yourself.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

To be clear, the relationships that between mutually consenting adults that exist in our culture, were nothing that Paul could have ever imagined.  Just as Paul could have never imagine the church that has become institutionalized, or woman becoming ordained (or ordination for that matter.)  So, Paul is ranting against a people who no long exists.

I think the only thing we can extrapolate about this section of the letter to the church in Rome is that in our culture we still set up false idols what we worship instead of the Eternal Divine.

Image result for Worship false idols mad magazine

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