Friday, March 14, 2014

Prostitutes, Adulterers, and Other Women in Jesus' Family Tree

The first thing written in the New Testament in Matthew chapter one is the lineage of Jesus. Normally those long lists of "so-and-so beget so-and-so" are the most boring parts of the bible; however, the one in Matthew has always interested me. 
The business of lineage and family trees for Jews back then was a big deal. Everyone had to be able to trace back their family line and prove that they were descended from Abraham; not to mention they had to trace their lineage to know which of the twelve tribes they belonged to. Women were typically never mentioned in a family tree because, well, they were women. And sometimes men had children by so many different wives it made no sense to keep up with all the women in a lineage. 

The interesting thing about Jesus' family tree listed in Matthew is that Matthew mentions five women in the lineage of Christ. He didn't have to list any to get his point across, but he listed 5. Here's a short bio on each of them:

1. Tamar
Tamar was the wife of one of Judah's sons. You've heard of Joseph and his coat of many colors? Judah was his brother...and we know what a happy nice little family that was (insert eye roll here) so you can guess at the kind of men Judah and his sons were. Tamara's husband died so she married his brother, that brother also died, so Judah sent Tamar back to her family - a disgrace in those days. According to Jewish law, after her husband and his brother died, it was his job as the father in law to marry her himself in order to father her child for the sake of his son. This sounds gross to us but it was common back then. This kept the woman from being disgraced and it allowed the dead man a chance to carry on his family name. Judah refused to do his duty. So Tamar had to disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce her father in law in order to gain back her honor. Which makes no sense to us but having a son made all the difference back then. So the first woman mentioned in Jesus' family tree had to manipulate her father in law in order to keep him from breaking the law by not giving her a son. 

2. Rahab
Almost everyone has heard the story of Rahab. She wasn't even a Jew. She was a foreigner, and if that wasn't bad enough, she was also a prostitute. And yet she had faith in this God she had heard of, the God of the Israelites. So she protected their spies and they saved her life. She married a Jew and they had a son named Boaz, which leads me to...

3. Ruth
Ruth was also a foreigner, a Moabite. She married into a Jewish family who came to live in her country. When her father in law, husband, and brother in law died she decided to accompany her mother in law back to Israel. Boaz (remember him?) extended his kindness to her by letting her pick up extra grain from his fields in order to feed herself and her mother in law. She took a bold step one evening laying at Boaz's feet asking him to be the guardian redeemer of her family - which was kind of like a marriage proposal at the time. Boaz and Ruth became the grandparents of King David himself. 

4. Bathsheba
Bathsheba is unique because she isn't mentioned by name in this lineage. She is referred to as "Solomon's mother, who had been Urriah's wife." She slept with King David even though she was married to Urriah. She got pregnant, and in a effort to cover up what he had done, David sent Urriah to the front lines of battle to be killed. 

And of course...
5. Mary
Mary, the 15 year old girl who was told by an angel that she would give birth to the Messiah - the one the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. 

The women listed here include a manipulator, a prostitute, a foreigner, an adulteress, and a young girl. Each of them played a pivotal role in God's ultimate plan to send us a Savior. The first four died without even knowing how important they were to God's plan. What an incredible example of how God uses our weaknesses to show his strength! No matter who we've been or what we've done, God can still use us. It's such an incredible example of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I hope this encourages you today. In your weaknesses and in your screw ups, through Christ you are still strong. 

Prostitutes, Adulterers, and Other Women in Jesus' Family Tree

The first thing written in the New Testament in Matthew chapter one is the lineage of Jesus. Normally those long lists of "so-and-so beget so-and-so" are the most boring parts of the bible; however, the one in Matthew has always interested me. 
The business of lineage and family trees for Jews back then was a big deal. Everyone had to be able to trace back their family line and prove that they were descended from Abraham; not to mention they had to trace their lineage to know which of the twelve tribes they belonged to. Women were typically never mentioned in a family tree because, well, they were women. And sometimes men had children by so many different wives it made no sense to keep up with all the women in a lineage. 

The interesting thing about Jesus' family tree listed in Matthew is that Matthew mentions five women in the lineage of Christ. He didn't have to list any to get his point across, but he listed 5. Here's a short bio on each of them:

1. Tamar
Tamar was the wife of one of Judah's sons. You've heard of Joseph and his coat of many colors? Judah was his brother...and we know what a happy nice little family that was (insert eye roll here) so you can guess at the kind of men Judah and his sons were. Tamara's husband died so she married his brother, that brother also died, so Judah sent Tamar back to her family - a disgrace in those days. According to Jewish law, after her husband and his brother died, it was his job as the father in law to marry her himself in order to father her child for the sake of his son. This sounds gross to us but it was common back then. This kept the woman from being disgraced and it allowed the dead man a chance to carry on his family name. Judah refused to do his duty. So Tamar had to disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce her father in law in order to gain back her honor. Which makes no sense to us but having a son made all the difference back then. So the first woman mentioned in Jesus' family tree had to manipulate her father in law in order to keep him from breaking the law by not giving her a son. 

2. Rahab
Almost everyone has heard the story of Rahab. She wasn't even a Jew. She was a foreigner, and if that wasn't bad enough, she was also a prostitute. And yet she had faith in this God she had heard of, the God of the Israelites. So she protected their spies and they saved her life. She married a Jew and they had a son named Boaz, which leads me to...

3. Ruth
Ruth was also a foreigner, a Moabite. She married into a Jewish family who came to live in her country. When her father in law, husband, and brother in law died she decided to accompany her mother in law back to Israel. Boaz (remember him?) extended his kindness to her by letting her pick up extra grain from his fields in order to feed herself and her mother in law. She took a bold step one evening laying at Boaz's feet asking him to be the guardian redeemer of her family - which was kind of like a marriage proposal at the time. Boaz and Ruth became the grandparents of King David himself. 

4. Bathsheba
Bathsheba is unique because she isn't mentioned by name in this lineage. She is referred to as "Solomon's mother, who had been Urriah's wife." She slept with King David even though she was married to Urriah. She got pregnant, and in a effort to cover up what he had done, David sent Urriah to the front lines of battle to be killed. 

And of course...
5. Mary
Mary, the 15 year old girl who was told by an angel that she would give birth to the Messiah - the one the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. 

The women listed here include a manipulator, a prostitute, a foreigner, an adulteress, and a young girl. Each of them played a pivotal role in God's ultimate plan to send us a Savior. The first four died without even knowing how important they were to God's plan. What an incredible example of how God uses our weaknesses to show his strength! No matter who we've been or what we've done, God can still use us. It's such an incredible example of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, my power made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I hope this encourages you today. In your weaknesses and in your screw ups, through Christ you are still strong. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hypocritical Christianity

So many people in this world have such a negative view of Christianity.  The sad thing is that the world has every right to view us negatively.  The last thing Jesus said while he was on earth was the command, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in my name."  Those of us who call ourselves Christians know that the greatest calling in our lives is to bring as many people to Christ as we can.  This isn't an easy thing to do . . . especially today.

Some of us (me included) are afraid.  We are afraid of rejection, of losing friendships, of scaring people away.  I'd say our biggest fear is the fear of being viewed as a fanatic.  It's crazy really. . .we are supposed to be fanatics.  My younger brother can walk up to anyone any day of the week and just start talking about Jesus.  It's so easy for him.  He has no problem with it at all.  The thought of walking up to a random person, or even a person I know, and just starting a conversation about Jesus, who he is, and what he's done for me terrifies me.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  So we convince ourselves that we will show Christ to others through our lives.  We tell ourselves we will do our best to act Christlike, and that will be witness enough.  Here's the problem with that:

We screw up.  A lot.  

And, bear with me, I know that's obvious.  Like, duh, of course we're not perfect.  Only Jesus was perfect.  They tell us that in Sunday school all the time.  But our biggest problem is that we act like we are perfect.  And it's so frustrating because we've deluded ourselves into thinking that because we are Christians; because we are doing things "right" and everyone else is so "wrong," we think this gives us the right to place ourselves on a pedestal.  I know you're reading this thinking Oh my gosh, I know people who do this all the time!  Here's what I want you to understand:

YOU are doing this.  This isn't someone else's problem, this is your problem and my problem.  Everyone of us can think of several people right off the bat who we know are self righteous with a "holier-than-thou" attitude.  But I want us to find this attitude in ourselves and squash it.  Nothing hinders Christianity more than a judgemental Christian.  There is not a single Christian in the world who is not guilty of this.  So quit thinking about that self-righteous person you know and look in the mirror.  

We have to start being honest with ourselves, and with everyone else.  We go to church and we pretend like we have it all together.  We put on a front.  What we don't realize is that non-Christians see right through our "perfect" masks.  They see how we are no better than them, and yet we are sitting in our churches on our pews with our noses in the air pretending to be more than what they are.  We forget why we need Christ in the first place!  Why did we become Christians?  Why did we bring ourselves to the foot of the cross and beg Christ to come into our lives?  Because we needed Christ to atone for us and all the messed up $H*T that we've done and continue to do! And if that's not why you are a Christian then I strongly urge you to reconsider whether or not you are a Christian at all.

We need to start being honest about who we are and what we struggle with.  I know I can be the most self-righteous person in the world.  It's a miracle I had any friends in high school at all.  I was so judgemental of everyone around me.  I thought I was better because I didn't do the "sinful" things that they did.  I still fight that urge every day.  The urge to judge someone.  The truth is, we do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  "Well at least I'm not as screwed up as they are."  What is wrong with us?  The "screwed up" people are exactly the kind of people we need to be reaching out to.  We need to be Christ for those people.  They don't need judgement, they need love.

Is the "Christian" shop owner who insists that he has a right to refuse business to a homosexual doing any good?  What is that person accomplishing for the Kingdom of God?  Who is that person reaching for Christ?  No one.  In fact, that person is pushing people away from Christ; not just the homosexual who he wants to turn away, but also everyone else in the world who sees what's going on and rolls their eyes at the hatred involved. Jesus NEVER did that!  He never turned people away!  He never told someone they weren't good enough and he never preached hatred.  He preached loved and compassion.  The people he spent time with on this earth were all the people that every "religious" person thought wasn't worth their time.  He ate dinner with the tax collectors, the adulterers, and the prostitutes.  He conversed with the liars, the slanderers, the drunkards, and the mentally insane.  Why?  Because he knew that these people were simply the outward reflection of the crap that lives in every single person's heart.  He knew that we all needed his sacrifice and his love.  Without him, we are nothing.  Instead of talking behind backs and turning up our noses, why can't we just open our arms and love?  That's how we win people to Christ.  We show them how flawed we are and we tell them how much we need Jesus and how lost we are without him.  We tell people who we really are.  

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We shouldn't be hiding our struggles, our weaknesses, or our sins.  We should be proclaiming them, because Christ grows stronger through our weakness.  We should be saying "Look at me!  Look at the crap I've done and the horrible person I've been!  I am the worst of the worst and yet Jesus died for me anyway.  He loves me anyway.  If he did all that for me, think how much more he can do for you." That should be our attitude.  
I am messed up.  I've lied and cheated.  I've pushed friends away because of my judgemental and hypocritical attitude.  I struggle with gossip and the desire to judge people behind their backs.  I've made horrible decisions.  I've been the drunk idiot before.  I've gone out of my way to make a roommate's life miserable.  I know what I am.  I am a mess.  But I have emerged from some dark places and I've never felt grace more than when I am at my worst.  I struggle every day with something new.  I am so far from perfect it's ridiculous. And if you have ever once felt like I have judged you, or if you think I believe I'm better than you please please forgive me.  Sometimes I act that way because I know how screwed up I can be, and it makes me feel better to think that maybe you're more screwed up than I am.  But you're not.  We're all equally screwed up and thank God for it because if we weren't we wouldn't realize how much we need Him.

I want to learn to love like Jesus does.  I refuse to be a judgemental Christian.  I don't want to push people away because I make them feel like a bad person.  I know I will fail.  And I challenge every other Christian out there to realize that we are all the worst of the worst.  There is no one who needs Christ's love and grace more than you, or me.  The sooner we realize that, the sooner we will see a change in the world.

Hypocritical Christianity

So many people in this world have such a negative view of Christianity.  The sad thing is that the world has every right to view us negatively.  The last thing Jesus said while he was on earth was the command, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in my name."  Those of us who call ourselves Christians know that the greatest calling in our lives is to bring as many people to Christ as we can.  This isn't an easy thing to do . . . especially today.

Some of us (me included) are afraid.  We are afraid of rejection, of losing friendships, of scaring people away.  I'd say our biggest fear is the fear of being viewed as a fanatic.  It's crazy really. . .we are supposed to be fanatics.  My younger brother can walk up to anyone any day of the week and just start talking about Jesus.  It's so easy for him.  He has no problem with it at all.  The thought of walking up to a random person, or even a person I know, and just starting a conversation about Jesus, who he is, and what he's done for me terrifies me.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  So we convince ourselves that we will show Christ to others through our lives.  We tell ourselves we will do our best to act Christlike, and that will be witness enough.  Here's the problem with that:

We screw up.  A lot.  

And, bear with me, I know that's obvious.  Like, duh, of course we're not perfect.  Only Jesus was perfect.  They tell us that in Sunday school all the time.  But our biggest problem is that we act like we are perfect.  And it's so frustrating because we've deluded ourselves into thinking that because we are Christians; because we are doing things "right" and everyone else is so "wrong," we think this gives us the right to place ourselves on a pedestal.  I know you're reading this thinking Oh my gosh, I know people who do this all the time!  Here's what I want you to understand:

YOU are doing this.  This isn't someone else's problem, this is your problem and my problem.  Everyone of us can think of several people right off the bat who we know are self righteous with a "holier-than-thou" attitude.  But I want us to find this attitude in ourselves and squash it.  Nothing hinders Christianity more than a judgemental Christian.  There is not a single Christian in the world who is not guilty of this.  So quit thinking about that self-righteous person you know and look in the mirror.  

We have to start being honest with ourselves, and with everyone else.  We go to church and we pretend like we have it all together.  We put on a front.  What we don't realize is that non-Christians see right through our "perfect" masks.  They see how we are no better than them, and yet we are sitting in our churches on our pews with our noses in the air pretending to be more than what they are.  We forget why we need Christ in the first place!  Why did we become Christians?  Why did we bring ourselves to the foot of the cross and beg Christ to come into our lives?  Because we needed Christ to atone for us and all the messed up $H*T that we've done and continue to do! And if that's not why you are a Christian then I strongly urge you to reconsider whether or not you are a Christian at all.

We need to start being honest about who we are and what we struggle with.  I know I can be the most self-righteous person in the world.  It's a miracle I had any friends in high school at all.  I was so judgemental of everyone around me.  I thought I was better because I didn't do the "sinful" things that they did.  I still fight that urge every day.  The urge to judge someone.  The truth is, we do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  "Well at least I'm not as screwed up as they are."  What is wrong with us?  The "screwed up" people are exactly the kind of people we need to be reaching out to.  We need to be Christ for those people.  They don't need judgement, they need love.

Is the "Christian" shop owner who insists that he has a right to refuse business to a homosexual doing any good?  What is that person accomplishing for the Kingdom of God?  Who is that person reaching for Christ?  No one.  In fact, that person is pushing people away from Christ; not just the homosexual who he wants to turn away, but also everyone else in the world who sees what's going on and rolls their eyes at the hatred involved. Jesus NEVER did that!  He never turned people away!  He never told someone they weren't good enough and he never preached hatred.  He preached loved and compassion.  The people he spent time with on this earth were all the people that every "religious" person thought wasn't worth their time.  He ate dinner with the tax collectors, the adulterers, and the prostitutes.  He conversed with the liars, the slanderers, the drunkards, and the mentally insane.  Why?  Because he knew that these people were simply the outward reflection of the crap that lives in every single person's heart.  He knew that we all needed his sacrifice and his love.  Without him, we are nothing.  Instead of talking behind backs and turning up our noses, why can't we just open our arms and love?  That's how we win people to Christ.  We show them how flawed we are and we tell them how much we need Jesus and how lost we are without him.  We tell people who we really are.  

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We shouldn't be hiding our struggles, our weaknesses, or our sins.  We should be proclaiming them, because Christ grows stronger through our weakness.  We should be saying "Look at me!  Look at the crap I've done and the horrible person I've been!  I am the worst of the worst and yet Jesus died for me anyway.  He loves me anyway.  If he did all that for me, think how much more he can do for you." That should be our attitude.  
I am messed up.  I've lied and cheated.  I've pushed friends away because of my judgemental and hypocritical attitude.  I struggle with gossip and the desire to judge people behind their backs.  I've made horrible decisions.  I've been the drunk idiot before.  I've gone out of my way to make a roommate's life miserable.  I know what I am.  I am a mess.  But I have emerged from some dark places and I've never felt grace more than when I am at my worst.  I struggle every day with something new.  I am so far from perfect it's ridiculous. And if you have ever once felt like I have judged you, or if you think I believe I'm better than you please please forgive me.  Sometimes I act that way because I know how screwed up I can be, and it makes me feel better to think that maybe you're more screwed up than I am.  But you're not.  We're all equally screwed up and thank God for it because if we weren't we wouldn't realize how much we need Him.

I want to learn to love like Jesus does.  I refuse to be a judgemental Christian.  I don't want to push people away because I make them feel like a bad person.  I know I will fail.  And I challenge every other Christian out there to realize that we are all the worst of the worst.  There is no one who needs Christ's love and grace more than you, or me.  The sooner we realize that, the sooner we will see a change in the world.