St. Andrew's
United Church of Christ

1320 Spruce Street, Reading, PA  19602-2161
"More than a Century of Service to the City"

Message From the Pastor

"The Bible Is Quite Clear on This . . ."

"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteous-ness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work." – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

At their annual gathering a few weeks ago the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution to prohibit any congregation from calling a female pastor because they understand scripture to teach that no woman can be placed in a position of authority over a male. In a similar vein, a local church pastor whose congregation is in the process of withdrawing from the United Methodist Church told a reporter that "the Bible is quite clear on what marriage is," and that is why they cannot remain in fellowship with those United Methodists who have accepted same-gender marriage and who have departed from traditional Biblical standards of morality.

Well, scripture can seem quite clear about a lot of things. The Apostle Paul has written, "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am." (1 Corinthians 7:8) And Jesus said, "But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32) The lesson here is that it is probably better that Christians not marry, but that if they do, the marriage bond persists until the death of one of the partners. I have not undertaken a scientific study of the matter, but based anecdotally on my observation over the last several decades, it does seem to me that most Christian believers don't really pay close heed to either of these scriptural injunctions.

Truth be told, all of us pick and choose what individual Biblical teachings we are going to observe, which we will
modify, and which we choose blithely to ignore altogether. And there is nothing particularly wrong with that. Jesus
himself, interpreting scripture in those passages from the Sermon on the Mount introduced by "you have heard that
it was said," sometimes affirms rabbinic applications of the law, sometimes loosens the requirements, and other times¯
as in the teaching on marriage cited above¯is even more strict than the tradition of the ancestors.

How we make our way through this earthly life, picking and choosing what scriptural warrant to live by and what to honor without observing scrupulously is the real issue. The selfsame Apostle Paul has written both ". . .women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak," (1 Corinthians 14:34a) and "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28). One of these seems to reflect a fit of pique at the contentious quarrelling among Paul's problematic congregants, while the other expresses the highest ideal of our Christian faith. Every passage of scripture has to be considered in light of all the others to sift out those which are to be our guideposts in life, and which are only reflective of a particular circumstance.

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