Jesus and Sexuality, part VII

"There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways."
from one of the earliest Christian discipleship guides called the Didache.

The Didache was a document that was developed for Christian communities in the late first century, probably between 70 and 90AD.  It is remarkable because it focuses on Christian practice (often called praxis) over doctrine.  Yet it gives us specific insight of the ethos of these early Christian communities.  The initial statement of the Didache (see above) identifies the ethics of followers of Jesus to be that of contrast.  The ethical standards and concerns were to be uniquely different than that of the culture in which they find themselves placed.

This was not a uniquely Christian heritage, but these early Christians were extending the Judaic understanding that the people of God were to be a "Holy" people.  That is, that God is calling a people to be distinct and devoted to him. Everything about them was to be a visible testimony to an invisible God. 

The people of Israel were rescued from over 400 years of slavery in Egypt through an amazing intervention of God.  (You can read about that in the book of Exodus).  The purpose of the liberation was not simply freedom, but so that God could develop a "Holy Nation".  Part of that status carried with it an ethical responsibility:


'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:4-6)

The conditions of the covenant between God and the Israelites is contained in what is called the Mosaic law.  The conditions of the covenant were given to Moses who shared them with the people. These conditions are set forth in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
 
It is within the the Mosaic Law, that the Bible has some of its most pointed commands and commentary regarding sexuality, mostly in the form of prohibitions.  Within the Mosaic Law are commandments regarding everything including foods to be eaten, clothes to be worn, care for the land, worship rituals, and issues of sexuality.
 
As comprehensive as it is, the purpose of the Mosiac Law was to be an expression of Holiness (sacred otherness) of God.  Jesus would sum up the purpose of the entire Mosaic law like this:
 

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:36-40)

Interestingly, the purpose of the Mosaic Law was to demonstrate an ethic of love.  Its morality was designed to promote love and wellness.  Now, the intent and its implementation are two different things as we will see.

It is essential that we discuss the purpose and the background of the Mosaic Law before we actually discuss the contents.  Content without context creates confusion and distortion.

In the next blog, we will look at some of the specific commandments of the Mosaic Law in regards to sexuality, specifically same sex relationships with the hope of illuminating the love ethic of a "Holy People".

God bless,

Pastor M Traylor