ƒ Christianity for Thinking People: September 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hosea and Gomer: Forgiving the Unfaithful

It is interesting to look at Hosea 1 through 3 from a family relationship perspective, rather than as just allegorical of God's relationship with His 'adulterous' people. Specifically, how would (should?) we respond to the loss of trust in family relationships? In any relationships? If children are involved, how are they affected?

I fully expect my wife to extend no forgiveness if I were to be unfaithful to my marriage vows. Whether she would or not is another matter, but rationality would suggest that she withdraw her trust and that would be the end of marriage in any real sense. Any relationship requires fidelity at some level. From my time in Rwanda I recall a pastor who was unfaithful to his wife while serving in another country. When it became known, he apologized, asked for forgiveness, and was moved into administration. He then went on to commit an immense financial fraud, and to continue to be unfaithful to his wife. I made a mental note to myself to not extend any grace whatsoever to a person unfaithful to their marriage vows.

So, I confess that's my zero-forgiveness approach to infidelity. Its a bit like the Old Testament Jewish approach, save for the messiness of that stoning business.

Consider, for a moment, the slightly more flexible Islamic approach.

Imran b. Husain reported that a woman from Juhaina came to Muhammad and she had become pregnant because of adultery. She said: I am pregnant as a result of Zina. Muhammad said: "Go back, and come to me after the birth of the child". After giving birth, the woman came back to Muhammad, saying: "please purify me now". Next, Muhammad said, "Go and suckle your child, and come after the period of suckling is over." She came after the period of weaning and brought a piece of bread with her. She fed the child the piece of bread and said, "Oh Allah's Apostle, the child has been weaned." At that Muhammad pronounced judgment about her and she was stoned to death.

Now, consider the New Testament approach, as reflected in Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery. 'Neither do I condemn you. ... Go and sin no more.' (John 8:11).

It would appear that I have something to learn about the redemptive power of forgiveness, and the hope against evidence that springs from [God's] intense love for those that don't live up to their covenant vows.
© Alister L Hunt PhD

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ahab and Jezebel: Abuse of Authority

I vividly recall Angela and I leaving Rwanda in December 1988. As we filed onto the plane, a soldier lewdly asked whether he could have my woman. I dismissed his comment for the preposterously absurd statement that it was. No-one owns Angela, not even me. However, the fact that he was holding a machine gun made his request for 'my woman' all the more unsettling.

I recalled this experience while reading of Ahab's response to King Ben-Hadad in 1 Kings 20. Ben-Hadad's messengers tell Ahab to send over his wives and children -- and he placates him by sending some of them over. Can you imagine what sort of a family dynamic that would create! Consider what it would be like to realize that you are in the expendable category of family members. And consider what it would have been like to remain in Ahab's household. You would be constantly reviewing where you stood in the household, wondering whether you would be in the next shipment to Ben-Hadad. Would you feel protected? Would you feel that you had a husband or father that depicted God's willingness to sacrifice himself for the salvation of His household?

One thing I learned in Africa is that you never give into a threat from someone in authority, because to to do so is only the beginning of trouble, not the end of it. To give into authority abused is to mark oneself as weak and invite a series of increasingly exacting demands. As husbands, wives, parents, how do we respond when our household is threatened in one way or another by someone abusing authority? Romans 13 tells us to submit to all authority, since it has been established by God. That's one approach -- Ahab's initial response to Ben-Hadad. The other is to do whatever it takes to stand up for right on behalf of our families -- Ahab's second response to Ben-Hadad that enabled God to work a victory on behalf of His people.
© Alister L Hunt PhD