Thursday, October 13, 2005

1 Corinthians 14:26-33,37-40

This is longer than usual, but I think it is important. I hope you will take the time to read it in its entirety. Thank you. –Rob Merola+

The astute among us will no doubt recognize this daily reading leaves out some verses. Here they are:

"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. 36Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?" (NIV)

It’s not too hard to see why they left those verses out, is it? But I have to admit: I have a problem with that.

As an admitted maverick/renegade/nonconformist, I struggle with submission to authority. If there is one thing in my life above all others that leads me into sin, this is it.

Tell me to do one thing, I’ll naturally try and find a way to do something else. Set a limit for me, and I’ll try to find a way around or beyond it. Tell me I can’t, and doggone it I probably will.

So I take authority very seriously; for me it is a deeply spiritual issue. I understand that to be under the authority of something—like Holy Scripture—is to surrender oneself to its teachings, whether I like them or not, whether they “fit” my life or not, whether they seem right to me or not.

Now if because I don’t like what a passage teaches; if it doesn’t fit the way I live my life; or even if it doesn’t seem right to me (there are plenty of people who have done terrible things that seemed right to them but which ran contrary to Scripture); I begin to pick and choose what verses are actually Scripture and which verses are not, then Scripture is no longer my authority. I have become the authority over it, picking and choosing as I please, and the sin of my rebellion becomes complete.

Don’t misunderstand me here. I don’t believe in approaching the Bible uncritically. I’m all for asking hard questions about what it means. I love the saying “Jesus died to take away our sins, not our minds.” We do apply our reason to understanding what Scripture says (along with the Spirit’s guidance, tradition, and the larger voice of the Christian community). BUT WE ARE NOT FREE TO DETERMINE WHAT IS SCRIPTURE AND WHAT IS NOT IF WE ARE GOING TO ALLOW THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE TO SHAPE OUR LIFE.

So…what does that have to do with this verse? May I please ask you to follow this link to how the Message translates this chapter? It’s a paraphrase, to be sure, but I think it gets the point across.

Paul is talking to men (the previous verses) and women alike about order in this particular local church that is struggling with specific issues. It is not meant to be binding on the whole church; other Scripture and indeed the practices of Jesus and Paul himself make this clear (for instance, he clearly welcomes, supports, and works with women Deacons—women leading in other local churches).

The principle for everybody—and this is every bit as timely today as it ever was—is that no one has the right to put their own self interest above the good of the community.

Oh the grief the church would be spared if only people held to this principle, and the authority of the Scripture that teaches it.

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