Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God's Department

I happen to think that a great many things are God’s department.  I believe that nothing happens without Him ordaining it.  This isn't to say that I don’t believe in personal responsibility, especially in obeying God.  It’s an interesting thing about obedience, though: you can’t obey an order that isn't given, even if you feel urgently like the Master needs to get you moving.  A servant is still (or busy at the last assigned tasks) until another order comes.  This shows trust that the Master can make better decisions than the servant regarding how he should be serving.  It is a submissive dependence on the Master.  The Bible talks again and again about waiting on God.  I believe it is essential to faith and humility. 

So many people encourage Christians to see a good direction and go for it.  One that I encounter a lot is marriage.  People think that a servant of God, if he or she desires marriage and a family, should not be sitting around waiting for God to bring them a spouse.  These people may be right, but only if God has told the Christian to be doing something – directly or indirectly acquiring a spouse.  If He has not moved in that direction in their lives yet, then they are not going to be obeying God – or finding the spouse He desires them to be united with – if they make efforts on their own. 

Over the years waiting on God to direct me (and sometimes taking steps that He tells me to take – sometimes taking steps He doesn’t tell me to, and repenting), there have been several verses that have encouraged me to be patient, that God is in control and that His plan for marriages is good. 

Proverbs 19:14, "House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD."

Proverbs 18:22, "Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD."

Matthew 19:4-6, "And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge."

Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

Psalms 37:3-5, "Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."

It is popular among conservative Christians to assert that the headship of a man and the exclusion of women from authority over men applies to initiating romantic relationships.  This seems consistent with the patriarchal values taught in the Bible, though it is not specifically prescribed.  One verse that encourage me, as a woman, to let men take the lead, especially in this area, is Proverbs 30:18-19, "There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid."

For a while I was strongly influenced by movements which taught that guarding one’s emotional heart from attachment, interest, or affection should be a single woman’s main goal.  I no longer believe this.  There are verses that speak of guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:23), but I believe that those verses refer to temptation, not to caring for others.  We should all be careful that our loves are guided by the description in 1 Corinthians 13, that our love for one another is not selfish or lustful, but patient and kind and humble and selfless and hopeful.  Another verse I have been known to use to argue for “guarding my heart” is from Song of Solomon, the refrain, "I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake [my] love, till he please."  That is the KJV; in other versions it is translated in a way that sounds more like a warning against falling in love before it is time.  I am not convinced of that translation, or of its application. 

Generally, I am opposed to flirting.  If it is sexually enticing (and not between a husband and wife), I think that it is wrong.  Other reasons why I don’t like flirting are that it makes one the aggressive center of attention.  It is not modest for a woman to demand that a man pay attention to her silliness.  Finally, I think that flirting often replaces more direct forms of communication and commitment that are too much neglected – leading to misunderstanding and discord.  However, I don’t think it is always wrong.  I believe that if a woman is so scared to show her interest in a man whom she favors that she doesn’t respond to him when he teases or jokes or compliments or questions or even just sits down next to her, she is being dishonest, and setting herself up to be passed over.  A man may deem that she would reject him if he pursued her.  Women ought to affirm our brothers in Christ, whether we are going to marry them or not.  This deceptive reserve cheats them of this natural edification.  If a woman really loves a man, she will want what is best for him, even at the risk that she will grow fonder of him.  She should trust God to guide her heart and hopes.  This trust is, of course, not done apart from investing heavily in her relationship with God. 

Examples in the Bible are diverse: Eve was formed directly from Adam’s side while he slept.  Isaac received his wife because his father sent a faith-full servant to his relatives to find one, and she agreed.  Jacob fell in love with Rachel and acquired her sister also because of his deceptive brother-in-law.  Widow Ruth’s mother-in-law noted Boaz’s kindness, and his position to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth, and sent Ruth after Boaz in a very discreet yet appealing way.  Then Ruth had to sit and wait for the man to accomplish all the particulars.  David and Michal fell in love, but that didn’t turn out so well; she rescued David and lied for him and then her dad the king gave her to be someone else’s wife.  He also married Abigail after her first, wicked husband died.  And we know he married Bathsheba because the death penalty for his adultery with her was not enforced against them.  Not the recommended way of entering into marriage.  Esther became Ahasuerus’ wife because he made a decree to bring beautiful women into his harem.  God told Hosea to choose a wife of harlotry, thus his marriage to Gomer. 

Then we have Paul’s confusing instructions in 1 Corinthians 7.  And we can look at the love stories between YHWH and Israel, and between Jesus and the Church.  This last is no small thing and has encouraged me to wait well, and to take this time of deferred hope as a time to learn more about the Church that is awaiting her Bridegroom’s return from his Father’s house. 

My point is that there are a multitude of very different stories, wound about with love and sacrifice betwixt sin and sorrow.  Fathers act, men act, women act, mothers-in-law act.  The moral of the story is to desire good things, wait on God to direct you, and walk confidently by faith.

Romans 14:23, "...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

To God be all glory.

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