Tuesday, 2 March 2010

spot, rot and mildew – the message (3)

I’m ploughing my way through Leviticus at the moment, though not on the Sabbath (see Exodus 34:21), and have reached the chapters about skin diseases, mould on clothing and mildew in houses (Leviticus 13-14). I have to admit it’s been tough going and I find myself continually asking what has this got to do with the mission and ministry of the Church today. Of course leprosy still exists; however, as Christians we follow The Lord who reached out to touch and heal rather than one who drove out the ‘unclean’ (Lev 13:1-46). Likewise, there are plenty of houses that suffer from mould and rot but again our approach to dealing with these problems is somewhat different from that suggested in the scriptures except as a last resort (Lev 14:33-57).

Leviticus raises the perpetual question for the Christian and the Church; which commands still apply and which can be ignored or set aside? There are some commands that have almost universal acceptance, do no murder for example, though societies seem to find ways around that one when it comes to capital punishment and prosecuting wars. Other laws are ignored or dismissed by most Christians who think nothing of tucking into a prawn sandwich unless like me they are allergic to prawns. Then there are those commands that remain a source of contention. Until relatively recently our society sought to keep one day a week special and banned trading on a Sunday. The law may have changed yet many Christians still feel uncomfortable about Sunday shopping. One of the issues threatening to split the Anglican communion is whether or not the Old Testament commands relating to homosexual acts are culturally relative or permanently valid (Lev 18:22, 20:13).

We are all very good at picking and choosing the commands we feel obligated to obey and those we can dismiss as irrelevant or redundant. But I wonder how many of us can give a considered explanation for our choices? As I was reflecting on this I remembered a scene from The West Wing in which the fictional President Bartlett challenges a radio presenter over her use of Biblical commands.

Now where did I put that stone?

1 comment:

philgroom said...

On the gay question ... maybe I can refer you to my friend Emma's Notes from a Gay Christian Woman...?