That Dress

that dress

Does this dress make me look color blind?

By now, you’ve likely seen the infamous white and gold picture of the blue and black dress and read some of the discussions.

On the one hand, it’s nothing unusual.  We’ve all seen pictures that were either over-exposed or under-exposed to take on colors that don’t match the original.  And it is certainly not newsworthy to realize that we don’t all see things exactly the same.  A sports coat that looks navy blue to me is likely to look royal blue to my wife…or a pair of socks that looks black in the bedroom is navy blue in full sunlight.

What makes this picture so unique is the drastic contrast.  Two people look at the exact same picture in the exact same lighting, and one sees a blue dress with black trim while the other sees a white dress with gold trim.  Yes, there are others who see something in between…such as a light blue dress with olive trim.  Those in-betweens are understandable by all…and expected.  We’ve learned to accept some minor variance of perception.  The startling reality is in realizing that color perception can vary so greatly as the difference between white and dark blue…or between gold and black.  That’s a major difference in perception!

Just as startling is the realization that nothing changes the personal color perception.  We have all been informed that the actual dress is dark blue with black trim.  I have no problem accepting this as fact…but it does absolutely nothing to change the equally factual truth that the picture I see is white with gold trim.  And no amount of anyone telling me the color of the real dress does anything to change what I see when I look at the picture.

This is the challenge we continually face as a bloggers.  Our goal, in every blog post, is to share a snippet of our perception with others…to enable the reader to catch a glimpse of life as we see it.

Many times, a reader is able to readily identify with a post, which is very rewarding.  It’s good to know others share perceptions similar to ours and to know we were able to verbally capture an emotion or experience.

Other times, a reader will have their perception of a topic altered by what we shared.  These moments are extraordinarily rewarding…to know God used our words to change someone else’s perception.

Most often, though, readers having a perception different from mine leave my post with their perception unchanged.  They see blue and black where I see white and gold, and nothing has changed that for either of us.

In the case of the dress picture, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s an interesting realization, but the fact that we see the colors in the picture differently doesn’t impact how any of us live our lives or how we interact with others.

In regard to some of the topics discussed on this blog, it matters greatly.  I am often discussing biblical truth rather than color perception.  And the topics I discuss are the sort that can make the difference between a person continuing to live in bondage or escape to liberty…the difference between seeing oneself as an object of God’s love or an object of His wrath…the difference between treating a fellow believer with compassion and mercy or treating them with rigid legalistic indifference.

I frequently intentionally write about topics on which I am well aware my perception is substantially different from that of many popular learned scholars.  And my goal is not to simply throw out an opinion, but to alter a reader’s perception…to help them see that the picture they’ve always viewed as one color is actually a different color…that the scripture passage they’ve always seen as saying one thing actually says something quite different.

And to top it all off, I write with the constant awareness that my perception is also flawed and incomplete…that I often have as much to learn from readers as they from me.

It’s a monumental task…an impossible task…a God-sized task.  It is a task that can only be accomplished through the power of The Holy Spirit.

It sure is fun to see Him at work!  :-)

Condemned or Redeemed?

This past week, I was reminded anew how arrogantly self-righteous and legalistic church leaders can be in dealing with situations of abuse.

Persistent Widow, at A Cry for Justice, has been posting her story of escape from abuse and her church’s incredibly harsh and obtuse response.  Her story is truly heart-breaking.  Even more telling are the many comments by other abuse targets relating similar experiences at other churches.

A substantial number of church leaders operate under an unbiblical false belief that divorce for abuse is sin…and although divorce counts as sin somehow it doesn’t count for dissolving the marital union…that even after divorce the abuse target is somehow still joined in unholy matrimony to the abuser and still accountable to the marriage vows.

Some, such as John Piper and Voddie Baucham, hold what they proudly term a ‘permanence view’ of marriage, by which they mean marriage is permanent no matter what. By their judgment, no matter how egregiously a spouse may unrepentantly violate the sacred covenant vows the innocent partner is condemned to continue living in covenant relationship with their evil abuser.  If they should escape the marriage through divorce, they cannot be forgiven and accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven unless they first confess the sin of divorce and return to intimate relationship with their abuser.  By the pronouncement of these men and others with similar views, covenant is permanent, and there is no escape from a covenant with evil.

More commonly, others allow that divorce is ‘permitted’ for specific narrowly defined situations such as adultery or desertion, but is ‘forbidden’ for any other situation, such as abuse.

Frankly, these rigid legalistic approaches to scriptural interpretation have much more in common with Pharisaical theology than with the grace and truth presented by Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Deliverer.

In Matthew 7, Jesus begins a discourse in which He openly condemns false judges, making it clear that we will be judged by the same standard we use in judging other’s situations.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

Jesus goes on to specifically warn against false teachers, saying we will know them by their fruits. They are not known by their brilliantly delivered arguments or oratorical skills, but rather by their fruits.  Do they demonstrate compassion, justice and mercy in how they advise others, or do they (like the Pharisees) hold people to unbearably difficult standards with no regard to their wellbeing?

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16)

Finally, Jesus sums up the discourse with a dire warning that many who claim to know Christ will be turned away on that great and final day.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

In light of Christ’s words in this passage, I have a question for those who actively counsel victims of abuse to remain married to their abuser, telling them covenant is an indissoluble union no matter how egregiously the sacred vows have been violated.

What will be your plea or defense on that final day?

When Satan, the accuser, makes his case that you belong to him…that you are a subject of the kingdom of darkness…heir of Adam’s sin covenant which you have confirmed with your own sinful actions and attitudes…when Satan says that covenant is an indissoluble union using your own words and teachings as evidence…how will you plead?

I know my Redeemer! I know the covenants He has redeemed me from, causing them to be dissolved on my behalf.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

But you who claim there is no such thing as dissolution of covenant…that there is no escape from a relationship with evil…how will you plead? How will you escape the judgment?

Therefore thus says the Lord God,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

“I will make justice the measuring line
And righteousness the level;
Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies
And the waters will overflow the secret place.

“Your covenant with death will be canceled,
And your pact with Sheol will not stand;
When the overwhelming scourge passes through,
Then you become its trampling place. (Isaiah 28:16-18)

When you are judged by your own standard that covenant is indissoluble and a pact with evil can never be escaped…how will you escape the judgment? When the kingdom of darkness is cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels, how will you escape sharing their fate, with your own testimony declaring your allegiance to that dark kingdom to be indissoluble?

If covenant is indissoluble, there can be no redemption.  Without redemption, there is no escape from judgment.

How will you escape judgment?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Wellspring, Redeemed Life ]

 

Faith – Love – Joy

Heading out on the trail

Heading out on the trail

This past weekend was such a precious time with family! In reflecting on the sweet memories, three themes stand out…faith, love, and joy.

Usually, when our family does a weekend getaway, it’s planned weeks or months in advance. This time was different.  We realized our 13-year-old had a four-day weekend off from school, and just decided to spend a couple of days camping and trail riding in the Ouachita Mountains.

Totally spontaneous…an activity we’ve never done before…just pick a camp that sounds good and go!

It turned out to be such an amazing weekend!

Gorgeous panoramic views!

Gorgeous panoramic views!

First, the weather was perfect…lows around 28 F at night and highs around 65 F in the day with clear skies. That’s almost unheard of in February!

Then the camp we chose (Idle Nook Horse Camp) turned out to be wonderful…nice folks, great facilities. And…it just so happened we were the only campers that weekend…we had the whole camp to ourselves!

Neither we nor our horses had any experience riding steep rocky trails, but we all adapted. And we had so much fun!  Lots of adventure…lots of laughter…lots of joy…lots of love!

A very steep rocky grade...scary!

A very steep rocky grade…scary!

We had a minor setback, Saturday morning, with the discovery that one horse had lost a shoe on the previous evening’s ride. We were fortunate to find a farrier willing to meet us on short notice to replace the shoe, and were still able to ride that afternoon.

Reflecting over the weekend, I keep thinking of the interaction of faith, love and joy. Spontaneously choosing a camping trip in February…to a camp we’d never visited…for an activity we’d never done…that takes a bit of faith.  Faith in each other to have fun through obstacles…faith in our ability to overcome obstacles and find joy in each other’s company…faith in God to protect us and bless our adventure.

Winding through the woods

Winding through the woods

Crossing those fast-flowing mountain streams and traversing steep meandering paths required our horses to have a bit of faith in us as riders. And riding up and down steep rocky slopes required us to have a bit of faith in our horses.

That sort of faith comes through relationship…is an expression of love…and yields deep joy.

 

A mother-son Valentines kiss!  :-)

A mother-son Valentines kiss! :-)

Your thoughts?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Wellspring, Redeemed Life ]

 

Divorce & Remarriage

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not send his wife away. (1 Corinthians 7:10-11)

Too often, this passage is wrongly used as a rigid doctrinal proof-text that divorce is never an option for a Christian and that all divorced Christians must remain single for the rest of their lives. Reading the paragraph in isolation of the surrounding passage, one could get that impression.  Read in context, however, we see that is not at all Paul’s intent.

In this passage Paul is addressing specific questions asked by the church at Corinth. He is not addressing generalized mandates to apply to all relational situations, but rather pastoral input in regard to specific questions about specific situations.

We are not privy to the questions in the preceding letter from the Corinthian church. However, from Paul’s responses we can glean a general idea what the questions were about.  Apparently, they included questions about whether a single Christian should remain unmarried, whether a Christian married to an unbeliever should divorce to marry a Christian, and whether a married Christian should live a celibate life apart from their spouse.

The Corinthian Christians were, apparently, quite sincere in these questions. As zealous new converts living in a pagan culture, they took seriously Christ’s admonitions to count all other relationships as of no value in comparison with our relationship with Christ…and were determined to demonstrate their commitment to Christ.

In the first seven verses of the chapter, Paul focuses on physical marital intimacy, encouraging married couples to “stop depriving one another” (verse 5).  Paul then shifts his focus from intimacy within a marriage to legal marital status.  In verses 8-9 (see previous post) Paul tells the divorced and widowed that it is best if they remain unmarried, but that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

In verses 12-16, Paul turns his attention to those who are married to unbelievers, explaining that their spouse’s lack of faith is not reason to divorce, and that they should live together in peace and harmony, if possible.  However, realizing that may not be possible, he instructs in verse 15, “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.”

Verses 10-11 transition from the need for Christian couples to live together in marital intimacy to the question of what a Christian married to an unbeliever is to do. In these two verses, Paul addresses separation and divorce specific to both situations…continuous separation from a spouse and divorce for the purpose of marrying another.

In looking at verses 10-11, we must first recognize that this is not a rigid edict for all divorced Christians to remain unmarried for the rest of their lives.  This is clear from the preceding verses 8-9, in which Paul specifically told the divorced and widowed that “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

What is Paul’s intent, then, in verses 10-11?

First, notice the legal marital status. In the first half of the sentence, the woman is very clearly married.

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband…

As Paul exhorts her to be reconciled, if possible, she is still married though separated. We know this, because Paul refers to her husband.  Married women have husbands.  Unmarried women do not have husbands.

…but if she does leave…be reconciled to her husband…

For comparison, refer to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where the former husband is referred to as former husbandnot as husband.

So, Paul is exhorting a married woman who is separated from her husband to, if feasible, be reconciled to her husband.

Yet, even as Paul exhorts the separated wife to reconcile with her husband, he also recognizes that reconciliation may not be feasible, in which case he advises divorce.

…(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband)…

Unmarried means un-married…for a married woman to become unmarried, she must first divorce. So we see that Paul is clearly giving instruction against continuous marital separation.

Interestingly, many Christian counselors give advice in direct opposition to Paul’s instruction. Some advise abused women to separate from their abusive husband while prohibiting divorce.  Others advise that even after a divorce, she should still try to reconcile.  In contrast, Paul instructed married women to reconcile if feasible, and if not feasible to divorce.  He is quite clear that she is not to remain married and separated…a stressful state of limbo that is emotionally unhealthy for both parties, as well as any children involved.

Now, what about the phrase remain unmarried?  Too often, remain is read as eternally remain…and rigidly interpreted to mean a Christian who has divorced must remain unmarried for the rest of their life…that they can never marry someone else.

This erroneous interpretation completely ignores the whole purpose of divorce. Divorce is granted for the purpose of legally dissolving the marriage relationship leaving neither party in obligation to the other (reference Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  Where there is no covenant there is no concern of violation of covenant obligation.  Someone who is unmarried has no spouse to remain faithful to, and therefore is free to marry.  We can see this clearly illustrated in this same passage, where Paul clearly states that those who are unmarried (divorced) or released from a wife (divorced) are free to marry.

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (verses 8-9)

…Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you have not sinned… (verses 27-28)

So, we know Paul did not intend this as a life-long edict to never marry again. However, recognizing that one of the apparent questions being addressed had to do with divorcing an unbelieving spouse to marry a Christian, the meaning becomes clear.  Paul is saying that they must not divorce for the explicit purpose of marrying someone else.  He also references this as being in keeping with the words of Christ.

But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord…

To me, this is a clear reference to Christ’s words in Matthew 19:9 (and other similar passages).

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

In referencing Christ’s words in this manner, Paul also gives us the benefit of further commentary on Jesus’ meaning. I have posted elsewhere on the Matthew 19 passage.  However, Paul’s reference within this passage aids in understanding that Jesus also was speaking against divorcing for the explicit purpose of marrying someone else, not a life-long edict against ever marrying again.  Only someone who is in a marriage covenant can violate their marriage covenant.  Where there is no marriage (divorced) there can be no violation of marriage commitments.

Paul did not directly address abuse in this passage. However, in how he has applied godly principles to pastoral counseling we can see he clearly leaves open a godly avenue of escape from an abusive marriage.  He clearly advises divorce for marriages where peaceful reconciliation is not feasible.  He clearly advises against extended separation without divorce.  He clearly allows that marriage at some time after divorce is not sin and is preferable to undue temptation.

If you are in an abusive marriage, you have Paul’s blessing to leave and seek divorce. If at some point down the road you feel led to marry someone else, you have Paul’s blessing in that marriage as well.

Your thoughts?

 

[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Wellspring, Redeemed Life ]

 

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