CONCERNING FLESHLY AND SPIRITUAL WHORING . . . Being on the “correct” side of things! Part II

For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.” (Reference: Revelation 18:3-5 )

Did you read the first verse of this passage carefully beloved? The writer of Revelation says that all nations have became “Babylon” – or at least the overall trend of the nation. Barnes reminded me that this is a symbolic adultery meaning that the nations have been wooed away from spiritual purity, and have indulged and become dependent on luxuries and indulgences – both in terms of commerce and lifestyles.

What is concerning to be beloved is that word “all.” We have read enough warnings, admonitions, and exhortations to know to flee such things. But the word “all” is damning, because it means no city or nation, no people or generation are exempt. Barnes says of the warning “. . . so that you will not receive any of her plagues . . .” that “The judgment of God that was to come upon the guilty city would make no discrimination among those who were found there; and if they would escape these woes they must make their escape from her.”

Historic Anabaptist Walter of Stoelwijk also gives warning concerning this passage. He says, “Woe unto such perverse men, who depart from righteousness, from light to darkness, from life to death, and go from Jesus Christ to antichrist, seeking consolation from Satan, and not in God.”

But where can we go? How do we escape the symbolism that a nation has embraced? How do we live in purity and holiness in “Babylon”? If you thought I had a good and thought out answer, I am sorry to disappoint. I fear, beloved, the best way to do this is to live carefully day by day. Each choice we make has the potential of taking us one step closer to “Babylon.” Or, it can keep us ever removed from the adulteries and lifestyle. Our spiritual and faith practices keep us away from those “excessive luxuries” and from the “plagues” that our nations suffer from. I do not mean to imply though that we are in imminent peril. But neither should we become complacent about our daily lives. We know how we should live – let us do so!

May the God who calls the Lord’s people out of Babylon walk with you each day showing you the save places to journey. Selah!

CONCERNING FLESHLY AND SPIRITUAL WHORING . . . Being on the “correct” side of things!

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” (Reference: Revelation 17:3-6 )

It is not a surprise that the historic Anabaptists cast the part the whore of Babylon as the persecuting church. In the writer of Revelation’s day Babylon was the enemy and the symbol of tyranny, war and persecution – not to mention all things evil and unholy.

Consider for a moment, however, that state church that persecuted the historic Anabaptists was once itself persecuted by the Jewish religious leader who were persecuted in their time by the Babylonians and all the other nations that surrounded the Israelite nations. And, you may ask, does the now established Anabaptist/Mennonite church persecute anyone?

If you believe that the manner of persecution remains constant from era to era, no they do not. But if you believe that persecution evolves from era to era and changes its form from generation to generation, yes they do.

We, meaning humanity, does not like change. We like things to remain consistent following in a pattern of tradition that we find comfortable. When someone, or someones, or something threatens change we react. And if we still hold the advantage of those who are forcing the change, people (meaning again humanity as a whole) can sink to pretty low and ugly means in order to stop the change and force the changing influence to recant from its new beliefs.

We would like to believe that we allow change – judge it on its own merits and encourage new thinking. And for some people, at some times, in some places – that might be true. But, it might not.

Persecution evolves from violence, physical force, and destroying sanctions to lessor forms and deterrents. But if we are very honest, it goes under the same name. In its gentler form we might call it “discipline.” And if I was to set aside my pessimism and cynicism, I would say that modern Anabaptist/Mennonites now practice discipline when they encounter unhealthy, unwise, and non-scriptural based change. But make no mistake – it is the same resistance to change that prompted persecution earlier in human history.

But we (all of humanity) dislike to see ourselves in the role of persecutor. Not that we want to be persecuted mind you. No one does. But being in the role of the victim allows you to say such things as “From the beginning of the world, there has never been such tyrannical opposition to the truth of Christ among any nation, Jewish or heathen, nor such outrageous and unsated shedding of innocent blood” and “God deems it just to bring suffering on those who make the faithful suffer, for they deserve it.” Oh beloved, how we love to be on the side that claims to cloaks itself in correct doctrine and proper belief! And how blast those who we judge to be in the wrong!

I pray beloved, that you may be humble in your belief. That you not judge others but leave it to our Lord God to decide who is “Babylon.” I pray that God has placed in your heart and in your circle of faith beliefs that are true and grounded in God and Christ. Flee from abominations and all things unholy. But flee also from attitudes and actions that cause others pain and violence. May the blessing of God’s shalom be yours. Selah!

CONCERNING FLESHLY AND SPIRITUAL WHORING . . . If the label fits . . .

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (Reference: Revelation 2:20-23 )

Historic Anabaptist Valerius Schoolmaster has some interesting thoughts, inspired in part by this passage. He says, “in short, every sin is left uncommitted more on account of constraint, shame, and fear of men, than from voluntary goodness for the Lord’s sake.” He puts forth the theory that the poor do not get drunk because of lack of money. And the rich have to much honor and sense of place to do wrong. Furthermore, he says, crime deterrents work to stop people from committing crime. Would that our modern society had such built in constraints.

Nowadays the poor find ways to drunkenness and vices of sin. The rich have no shame or sense of place, but assume and depend on their financial resources and place in society to get them out of trouble or not be held accountable. And crime deterrents do not seem to work.

Schoolmasters makes another observation that does seem to find echo and confirmation in our current society. He says, “And though men are so devoid of shame and given up to evil that they openly keep brothels, and live far more detestably than beasts; they are nevertheless called Christians, and claim to be children and heirs of God by grace.” I found this statement and his previous sort of at odds – but I do not want to make an issue of it.

His final comment to excerpt I think could and should be applied to this current generation; but come to think of it, it might not mean much in current society. He said, “Oh, if men’s sins were written on their foreheads, how constantly would they keep in the house, and conceal themselves in corners, holes and dens, so as not to be seen by men.

I could go on a diatribe about how the social media seems to broadcast the sins of men and women as if each one had their faults listed for all the world to see. And sadly, if there is no shame from that, why would they care if God knew their sins and faults? This is one of the times, beloved, that Christians who strive in all things to live an accountable life seem to be out of step with everyone else. The theme for today forms a very apt title for these reflections. May you beloved seek mercy and forgiveness from our Lord for each of your sins – both those seen easily and those hidden away. Selah!

CONCERNING FLESHLY AND SPIRITUAL WHORING . . . Whether of flesh or religious belief

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” (Reference: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 )

 

Remember yesterday, when I talked about the feeling of repetitiveness of yesterday’s scripture passage and the writings of the historic Anabaptists? Here is the writer of 1 Thessalonians (who biblical scholars tell is ALSO the writer of Ephesians) telling us why these exhortations and admonitions are repeated – God wishes us to be saved! And made holy and righteous. Sanctified!

 

The historic Anabaptists assumed that the “power and principalities” that they considered synonymous with the religious leaders of their time were angered by their desire to follow God in their own way. And wished to dissuade the historic Anabaptists. Hans Bret writes to his mother saying (in part) “I thank, yes, I thank you, my dear mother, that you thus exhort me to steadfastness and boldness, to confess the name of Christ, which I hope to do by the help of the Lord, who alone is my helper and my strength, to resist the principalities and powers of this world, the spirits of the air, as Paul says (Eph. 6:12), yea, these priests of Jezebel, who thirst for the blood of the righteous that walk in the ways of the Lord, who, according to the word of Christ, seek to walk the narrow way, and to forsake their own life, as also, sin, unrighteousnesses and carnal lusts, and seek to please the Lord in righteousness, according to the will of God, in holiness. 1 Thess. 4:3. These are rejected, despised, and persecuted, yea, imprisoned; their end is to be killed, because they seek to walk the way in such a manner, that they may please the Lord. Hence Esdras says: “The way is narrow, and cannot be walked without danger.” 2 Esd. 7:8. This we may well consider.”

 

It is interesting to read these historic Anabaptist writings from the perspective of time and an understanding of human nature. Many times those in authority will feel frightened and threatened when a groups changes the way things have been. We can see this in most every uprising against the established institution, whether religious in nature or not. People do not like change, and will go to most any length to keep change from happening.

 

Now, to the historic Anabaptists, following the doctrines and practices of the established state church at the time was tantamount to “whoring” because it was so strongly against the biblical principles that they had come to believe in. And for the established state church at the time, forsaking that faith was tantamount to “whoring”. We modern Anabaptist/Mennonites, and the larger Christian faith, read these words literally. But for the believers on both sides of the issue, it was more than just “flesh” sins. You may think this is an extreme interpretation of some of the historic Anabaptist writings. But let me remind you, the historic Anabaptists were not rebelling against a church that was established on carnal and immoral doctrines. This is a difference of faith practices and not lifestyle practices.

 

Read scripture for the value and guidance it gives. Read the writings of the historic Anabaptists to learn how they appropriated and used scripture. But do not, beloved, picture in your mind men and women who were divided an the lack of value of a carnal lifestyle. Rest not your judgment of what is right or wrong solely on human advice – not even mine! God wishes you to be holy – follow the Lord who wishes only the best for you. Selah!

 

 

Concerning Fleshly and Spiritual Whoring . . . Don’t!

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. “ (Reference: Ephesians 5:3-5 )

Perhaps I have been reading the writings of too many historic Anabaptists, but the writer of Ephesians sounds a lot like some of the historic Anabaptists I have been reading over the past months. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing – just repetitive.

And that is not to mean that sexual immorality or impurity or greed are acceptable. Nor that obscenity is permissible. Nor even that foolish talk or coarse joking can make up the bulk of our conversation. It’s just that we all know – already know – that sort of thing is not to be part of the Christian life . . . don’t we?

Beloved, not everyone in the global community seeks an inheritance in the Kingdom that God and Christ have established. Not all of humanity can expect to or seeks to be granted that inheritance. And for those from whom they would decline or choose not to believe, they can and will go about their own way. But you, beloved, and I do seek that inheritance and wish to be given entry to that Kingdom. If that is the case, we need to heed the words of wisdom and admonition. And if they need to be repeated, so be it!

May you beloved make wise choices, and advise and encourage wise choices in others. Selah!