A lot has been said within the last week about the transformation of Bruce Jenner and the situation involving the Duggar family. As for Bruce Jenner, who did a Vanity Fair photo shoot in full…is “drag” still a politically correct term?..well, he is now living as a transgender named Caitlyn, for anyone who has had the luxury of not paying attention. People are saying that what he does with his life is his business, and here is something I am tired of hearing–that we shouldn’t “judge” other people.
In terms of salvation, we shouldn’t, because we can’t. We cannot determine if someone is saved or not. The only person who truly knows one’s heart is God. But if someone is a Christian they have a responsibility to judge sin, especially as it contributes to the decay of society. But we also have to make sure we are not acting hypocritically, and if we are truly concerned about a sinful lifestyle, we have to still show love for the sinner. Whenever we get the idea to discuss a person’s lifestyle, we must first examine our own, and we should never come at someone with a self-righteous attitude. Because we all screw up. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus says the following:
“Do not judge others, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5, NIV).
While I have paid as little attention to the situation as possible, I couldn’t help but wonder why Bruce married several times and fathered children who now get to deal with his transformation. Yes, the children have claimed to be supportive, and maybe they truly are–but I know I would be mortified if one day my big strong, strapping dad came home and told me he wanted to start wearing dresses and high heels and makeup. It’d be like erasing a very important part of my past. I feel sympathetic toward his children, particularly the youngest one who seems to be just screaming for attention and recognition–the Kylie one. I guess it’s a sign of the times or maybe I am old-fashioned, but when a 17-year-old plumps her lips and is seen hanging with a 25-year-old rapper, I wonder where Mommy and Daddy are and what have they taught her. She doesn’t appear to be a completely confident kid.
As for the Duggars, I am truly at a loss on that family. They are a prime example of why Christians ought to stay away from reality television shows. Why? Because the world has this warped way of thinking that when someone becomes a Christian, their life is rosy and perfect and sinless. (And believe me, I am in no way condoning what Josh Duggar did. I was sickened by his actions and the lack of appropriate action by his parents). The world is just waiting to throw stones at Christians and on reality television, one can only “pretend” for so long. I had never watched the show before, but out of curiosity I happened upon some clips and I was amused. Not in a good way. They went out of their way to appear perfect and I think it contributed to this major backlash they are experiencing. I tell people right up front not to put me on a pedestal because I may screw up and let you down. Besides the fact that society picks Christians apart and cannot wait to sneer at us when we do mess up, the truth is that they should have known that eventually this scandal would come to light. And do people these days truly appreciate wholesome reality television, or do they want to see something messy? Messy reality television sells. People want to see females fighting, sex, treachery, sex, fighting, and did I say sex?
But at the end of the day, as awful as what happened was, if Josh repented then he was forgiven by God and his slate has been wiped clean. People are wondering if they will still have a show. I personally think the family should remove themselves from the public eye and just focus on being a family and moving forward, but that’s just me. I’ve seen Christians coming to the Duggars’ defense on other certain boards, but those exchanges have been peppered with attacks against those that do not agree with them so… I’m not so sure that helped the cause. Christians are taking this personally when anyone who claims to be a Christian should already know that the world system is not on our side.
As a side note, I kind of wish all reality shows would disappear for the most part. There are some that are not trashy. I have gotten hooked on “Smile”, for example, a show where people with dental problems get new sets of teeth. I love smiles and had problems with my teeth for awhile after a crooked orthodontist pulled some of my teeth that were perfectly okay just so I would have to continue coming back to get them fixed, so I suppose it was only natural that I would love the show. I’m thinking more along the lines of The Not So Real Housewives, Basketball Girlfriends, War and Hip-Hop, Marriage at First Sight, Keeping up with Kim Kardashian and Co., crap like that that contributes nothing to decent society.
On to the important stuff.
The last thing I discussed was the 10 Commandments in Chapter 20 of Exodus, so now we are at Chapter 21. An interesting set of instructions occurs at this point, when God discusses Hebrew slaves.
For the record, slaves are discussed in many parts of the Bible. An argument that is presented by unbelievers is that God condoned slavery. Unless I am misunderstanding something, just because God discusses something or sets forth regulations on a topic does not mean he condones it. He talked about adultery and murder as well–does that mean he condones either of those? No. I tend to believe that God, knowing the capacity of humans and exactly how depraved we can be, put forth rules for something that was obviously already happening (or else he wouldn’t have had to acknowledge it, correct?). Think about it–if we lived in the paradise that God had fashioned for us before the original sin, there would have been no need for slaves, because man would a) not have a sin nature, and b) no work would need to be done in order for there to be a need for slaves (remember prior to his sin, Adam was lovingly provided for. He did not have to work for his sustenance).
Jesus also reminded us in the New Testament that the poor would always be among us. In this situation, it was possible for one to become a slave in several different ways. Recall that Israel left Egypt as a very wealthy nation. However, there is no discussion as to whether or not all assets were given to each family or tribe equally. So perhaps somehow there ended up being a type of “income inequality” akin to what we see today (well, not quite like we have today). Maybe some people were poor stewards of what they had and became slaves due to poverty or owing someone a debt they could not pay back. Finally, slavery was also used for purposes of meting out punishment.
God wanted for slaves to be treated fairly. What image comes to your mind when you think of slavery?
Or how about something like this?
Well, that is not what God wants for his children. He gave us all that thing called free will, so it was inevitable that some people would misuse their slaves, abuse or even kill them. God does not condone this. He says that Hebrew slaves should be in servitude for six years and allowed to go free with the debt wiped clean upon the seventh year. If the man comes alone as a slave he leaves alone; if he brings a wife with him, when he leaves, she leaves. If during his period of servitude the master gives the man a wife, and she has children, when the man’s period of servitude is over and he is free to go, the wife and kids are to stay with the master. Admittedly, I do not understand this, but perhaps it is for the purpose of making sure the woman and children are continually provided for. Just maybe, once the man got on his feet, he could return for his family. Or perhaps this refers to a male slave that marries a female slave who, when his six years is over, has not completed her six years of servitude. I don’t know and I will have to research further possible explanations. In any case, if the man decides not to leave his wife and children, he can become a bond slave to his master forever, and the deal will be sealed by the bond slave having his ear pierced to show his servant status. (The Bible says the bond slave is to have his ear pierced with an awl, which is a long pointed spike. Shoemakers used them to make the holes for laces, for example). He and his family would enjoy the benefits of support by a wealthier family.
God then discusses what should happen if a man sells his daughter as a servant. Why else would a man sell his daughter other than poverty? I think it is safe to say that this occurred in situations where a man was unable to provide for his daughter. Perhaps this was a move to secure a good future for her. There was a strong possibility that a female slave would eventually marry into the host family (the master, a son, etc.) and then be afforded all the rights and privileges of every other family member. If the master decides not to marry her into the family, she is free to go with no restrictions. If the master receives her and also takes on another wife, he must not neglect the first wife’s needs in terms of food, clothing and marital rights, or she can claim her freedom.
Nowhere in any of those Scriptures (Exodus 21:2-11) did God give slavery his stamp of approval. He knows everything that people are going to do and tries to give guidelines. Masters are expected to treat their slaves like family.
From there, the discussion moves to personal injury. Again, simply because God mentions violence does not mean he condones it, right? Okay. Here goes. Unless it was done unintentionally, anyone who strikes someone with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it was an accident, the assailant can flee to a designated “safe house”, if you will (I should probably say city of refuge, because we know God established some of those in the Promised Land. Maybe there were tents of refuge as the Israelites wandered through the wilderness? I don’t know). Anyone who committed a deliberate act of what what would probably be considered first-degree murder in today’s society is also to be put to death.
The following instances are also worthy of death (imagine if we operated like this today in society–if we acted swiftly whenever one of these offenses was committed):
Attacking one’s father or mother.
Kidnapping someone, whether the person is still in the kidnapper’s possession or has been sold.
Cursing your father or mother (is it obvious that God feels a certain type of way about parents?).
Several circumstances involving quarrels are discussed. In one instance, if two people are quarreling and one hits another with a stone or a fist, resulting in injury to the degree that the victim is confined to bed, the assailant will not be held liable as long as the victim can get up and walk around outside with a staff. However, the assailant is still required to pay the injured person for any loss of time (I suspect in terms of paying for whatever time the victim is unable to work and sustain himself or his family) and see to it that the victim is completely healed.
Next up, God says that if a person beat their male or female slave with a rod and the slave died, the assailant is to be punished (no specifics as to what the punishment is are given here). If the slave recovers after a couple of days, no punishment is necessary. What does this passage tell me? It kind of sounds like Israelites are expected to hold other Israelites accountable for bad behavior. I highly doubt that a master who beat his slave, especially if it resulted in death, told on himself, and surely God isn’t saying that the master is expected to mete out his own punishment. Kind of sound like what I said earlier about Christians appropriately judging the behavior of others if necessary? In this case, it was the judges that Moses had appointed that decided the punishments, but still these rules convey a sense of community standards that all were expected to uphold and enforce.
In the next Scriptures we see that “eye for an eye” passage that people love, even if they do so out of context. This begins with a discussion of what is to happen if two people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman who in turn goes into premature labor. If there is no serious injury, the woman’s husband can demand compensation and the offender must pay it (with the approval of the court). Now here it comes: “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exo. 21:23-25). In the execution of justice, some people were put to death, yes. This was not an excuse for people to go out and seek personal revenge. Only the judges were supposed to give death sentences. Violence between people was not acceptable. In my humble opinion, given the context of these Scriptures, the eye for an eye thing is in terms of justice, not for the Israelites to use whenever someone wronged them. Nor are we as Christians today supposed to avenge ourselves. As tempting as it is sometimes, I get it.
Furthermore, an owner who hits a slave in the eye and destroys it, or one who knocks out a slave’s tooth must let them go free in order to compensate them for their injury.
Chapter 21 ends with guidance involving incidents with animals. If a bull gored someone to death, the bull itself is to be stoned to death, and the meat cannot be eaten. Initially, the owner is not held responsible. However, if the bull has had repeated incidents of goring people and the owner is aware and has not made sure the animal was properly penned, the owner will also be put to death. If the injured party (or I’m assuming family of the deceased if the gored person dies) agrees to compensation instead, the owner can make the payment to redeem his life. This also applies if a bull gores someone’s son or daughter. If a bull gores a slave, the owner has to pay thirty shekels to the slave’s master and the bull is to be stoned to death.
If someone in the camp dug or opened a pit and failed to cover it properly and an ox or donkey fell into it, the digger was responsible for compensating the owner of the dead animal.
If someone’s bull injured another Israelite’s bull, resulting in its death, the two parties were to sell the live one and divide the money and the dead animal equally. However, if the killer bull had repeated incidents of goring and the owner failed to keep it properly penned up, the owner was required to pay, animal for animal, and take the dead animal.
Again I have gotten more long-winded than I expected. When the initial idea to blog as I read the Bible popped into my head I intended on keeping my posts brief and to the point. But that is not how I am when I read the Bible so…
More to come!