Recently, I heard of a Christian singer who walked out of the Grammy Awards. I said to myself, "Good for her." I had watched part of the show and was unhappy that instead of sticking to music, some of the participants chose to promote evil. This past Sabbath my pastor pointed to what this Christian singer had done and asked, "What would Jesus have done?" I thought, "I need to reconsider my prior attitude." One way I decide what I should do is to ask myself, "Will this promote evil or will this promote the Kingdom of God?" This Christian singer took a stand by saying that she would not be a part of the promotion of evil. On the other hand, Jesus seemed to constantly be hanging around with evil-doers. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what lessons we can learn!
"Jesus and the Social Outcasts"
February 15, 2014
Texts: Matthew 21:28-32; John 8:1-11; Mark 5:1-20; John 4:5-32; Matthew 9:9-13
If you had lived in Ancient Greece, you would have wanted to "mind your Ps and Qs." If you didn't, the locals could quickly label you an outcast. If you behaved in a manner that hurt or offended someone, the community would gather and vote on your fate. If they thought you were guilty, they would write your name on a piece of broken pottery or a stone. These voting ballots were called an ostracon-from which we get the word, "ostracize." Once they were counted, if you had a significant number of votes, you would be considered an outcast. And that meant ten years of exile.1
How do we treat the outcasts of our day? We may not write their names on a piece of broken pottery, but as a church we sometimes do something just as damaging. We do nothing. We ignore them.
Dr. Scott Larson strongly feels that this is a mistake. He's the founder and president of Straight Ahead Ministries-an international ministry for juvenile offenders. He asks this very important question in the online magazine, Relevant: "Does your church have enough outcasts?"2 In his article, Larson challenges churches to go into their local "Samaria." He writes, "While there may be an initial resistance to going into Samaria, if people get beyond that and actually venture out to those in prisons, group homes, AIDs clinics, alzheimer's wards or homeless shelters, fruit is inevitably born. And it also brings enormous energy back into the Church." Larson believes that in order to reach the outcasts, we need to follow Jesus' example. And what did Jesus do? He asked the Samaritan woman for help. He asked her for a drink of water.
Larson says, "I find that you can get troubled kids, prisoners, nearly any Samaritan to your church simply by asking them to help you. Help you with setting up, with the sound, with directing parking or any number of things. Samaritans, like the rest of us, often need to feel they belong before they can believe."
He challenges Christians, "When is the last time you were challenged to reach into Samaria? And where is Samaria?"
Take a look at Jesus' life here on earth. "Samaria" was really every town that Jesus visited. He was constantly loving, showing compassion, and giving worth to the outcasts. They needed what Jesus offered most. Society had shut them out and He was their only hope.
Jesus saved the life of the woman caught in adultery. Then He forgave her and showed her a new way of life. Jesus did not run in fear from the man who was possessed. He freed the man, and then sent him on to be a witness. Jesus went to dinner in a house filled with tax collectors and sinners. His very presence gave them a new sense of worth.
If we want to be like Jesus, then we need to treat the outcasts the way Christ did. We need to go into our Samaria.
Reenactment of the Woman at the Well: youtu.be
JESUS AND THE SOCIAL OUTCASTS
FEBRUARY 15, 2014
Key Thought : From God’s perspective, every human being is of infinite worth. Everyone deserves as much mercy, respect, and kindness as possible.
Have a volunteer read Luke 15:1-7.
Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
What does this passage reveal about Christ’s attitude toward social outcasts?
c. Personal Application : What kind of attitude do we have toward those who don’t fit in the normal social arena? Do we reach out to them? Shun them as beyond help? Tolerate them in church? Just don’t think about it? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your relatives states: “What social standards have changed in your lifetime? Have these standards been a positive or negative impact on society?” How would you respond to your relative?
Have a volunteer read John 8:1-11.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
How does Jesus avoid here both excusing sin and condemning sinners?
Personal Application: What personal attitudes might need to be changed in order for you to become an effective witness to social outcasts? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your friends states, “How does your church treat its members who are caught up in sin? How do they show grace to the sinner while not encouraging the sin?” How would you respond to your friend?
Have a volunteer read Mark 5:15-20.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
Why did the people ask Jesus to leave when He delivered the demoniac from his demons?
Personal Application : How do we treat people with mental illness? Besides praying for them, what else can we do? Share your thoughts.
Case Study : One of your neighbors states, “Does the story of the demoniac show that some mental illness is actually demon possession? How does one discern the difference between true physiological reasons for mental illness and spiritual reasons? Why does the Scriptures say the Lord has not given us the spirit of fear, but of a sound mind?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
Have a volunteer read John 4:15-19.
Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. When the woman asked for the water of life, Jesus showed her her sins, including living with a man while not being married. Why do so many people today think it’s not a sin to live together without being married? Didn’t Jesus show here that not only divorce, but also living together is a sin needing repentance and change?
c. Personal Application: Could we be guilty of being as judgmental and prejudice as the disciples were toward this woman? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.
This post was updated on .
Jesus and the Social Outcasts
Commentary for the February 15, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson
"All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37, NIV
The 2008 Persian-English film, “The Stoning of Soraya M” by Cyrus Nowrasteh has never been released for distribution in the United States as it was deemed too brutal and violent for American audiences. In a parallel to the opening verses of John, chapter eight, in the gospels, Soraya was arrested for adultery by Muslim enforcers and condemned to death by stoning. However, in her case, there was no Jesus to deliver her. Under Sharia Law, her accusers dug a hole and buried her in the ground up to her neck. A crowd then viciously struck her in the head and face with stones until she died.
Lest we arrogantly assert that these are Muslims and those in Christian countries are above endorsing such behavior, we may want to consider a 1964 Twentieth Century-Fox movie, “Zorba the Greek.” This Oscar-winning movie is most often remembered for Anthony Quinn’s dancing and the delightful Greek music. However, there is a much darker theme to the movie. A beautiful widow, played by Irene Papas, has her throat slit under the approving witness of the entire town for daring to become sexually involved with someone other than the young man the townspeople approved of but she had no interest in.
Sexual transgressions are not easily forgiven or forgotten, not even by Christians. Even though when we read the Bible, the scriptures appear schizophrenic about the subject. In the Old Testament we find a death sentence pronounced for those guilty of adultery.[i] Yet we find King David’s adultery with Bathsheba not only an instance where both escaped death, but God even chooses Bathsheba out of all David’s wives to be the chosen woman to carry forward the Davidic line that ultimately produced an incarnate Jesus.
Some might say that David was forgiven because he repented. However, Leviticus makes no allowance for repentance. Even if it did, how many others may have repented over the centuries but still were sentenced to death? King David was the most powerful man in Israel in the days of the United Monarchy. Then as now, apparently, justice for the powerful was not the same as justice for those who were powerless.
Perhaps this is why the Pericopae Adulterae[ii] is such a dramatic illustration of the issues surrounding this whole subject. The victim, obviously powerless, is brought before Jesus by those who had the power to judge and destroy her. Had they succeeded in securing her death, the citizens of the town would have looked on approvingly, just as in “Zorba the Greek.” However, they wanted to “kill” two birds with one stoning, and deeming Jesus to be as powerless in their trap as the woman, they attempted to get Him to also condemn her. Turning the tables on them by pointing out their own sinfulness, He then frees the woman from their devices and refuses to condemn her.
In spite of this interlude, the schizophrenia on the subject continues in the New Testament. This story was included in the gospel attributed to John the Disciple, but in the Revelation which has also been attributed to the same author, we find those guilty of sexual sin are excluded from the heavenly city and destroyed.[iii] How can we reconcile the attitude in Leviticus and Revelation with the account of David and Bathsheba and also the woman taken in adultery in the Gospel of John? Is it even necessary to harmonize them?
When Jesus was approached about the apparent discrepancy between His teaching on adultery and divorce and the much easier grounds for divorce under Moses, He pointed out that the current status of divorce had become what it was solely because of the hardness of their hearts.[iv] In that regard, little has changed over the centuries. When it comes to sexual sin, hearts can be extremely hard. Maybe that is the real issue that ties these different outcomes together.
It is perhaps a curse of our day that there are many in our populations who are classified as “sexual offenders.” A visit to the website of most county sheriff’s offices will reveal hundreds of such offenders categorized by level of offense and often showing their locations by neighborhood throughout the local community. While not forced to wear Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter “A,” these individuals are nonetheless easily identified and at times made targets of condemnation by those in the community whose sins are not so publicly displayed. They may never escape the humiliation any more than the criminal condemned to the stocks in the public square in ages past could escape the abuse heaped upon them by the “righteous.”
Should Christians be any different than others in how we deal with such persons? Is sexual sin the “unpardonable” sin? Perhaps an anecdotal, yet true, tale will help to illustrate the problems Christians face in this area of dealing with sexual social outcasts.
Several years ago, our church was approached by our local conference administrators regarding Adam.[v] Adam had been serving a sentence in a Washington State Prison for a sexual offense. While in prison, he had been a student enrolled in Bible studies presented to the prison population by our denomination.[vi] As a result of those studies, he chose to accept Jesus and be baptized. The denomination will only baptize individuals into church membership, so naturally Adam was baptized into the fellowship of the church which infers all the rights and privileges of membership. Eventually, he became eligible for parole and was given a release date. He would continue to be a registered sex offender for the remainder of his life, and his whereabouts would continually be monitored, but other than that, he would be free to resume as much of a normal life as possible. What would you do if Adam showed up at your church?
Actually, Adam wanted to be completely open and honest about his past as he felt that being a Christian meant nothing less, so he contacted the conference office for help in integrating into church fellowship. The conference then contacted the various churches in the area to see what could be done to provide fellowship for this individual. The response of the churches was a resounding “No” to any possibility of joining in fellowship with any congregation.
“Would any church be willing to provide space in a non-church setting and provide someone to nurture and help this person and others in similar circumstances like his to grow in their walk with Jesus?” the conference then asked.
Again the answer was, “No.”
During this time, I brought up the subject of sexual offenders and the unpardonable sin in our weekly Sabbath Bible study class. One young mother attending became very irate and felt that any consideration given to sexual offenders would be a threat to her children. I can understand that concern, but I asked what are we to do with a repentant sexual offender who has been baptized? She replied that is not her worry. She never returned to our Bible study after that. However, her case illustrates the very real feeling of many on this subject.
In an effort to deal with these concerns, the conference developed a policy for dealing with sexual offenders in a manner to protect children and keep a close watch on the individuals at all times. That policy was circulated to the churches to either approve or disapprove as they chose. I attended one meeting of the church membership to discuss the policy. When it became clear that they were not going to approve the protections in the policy, I asked why they did not want these protections in place? In response they said they felt it would encourage sexual offenders to attend their church and would increase rather than mitigate the danger.
I pointed out that failure to adopt the policy would mean there would then be no means to identify such persons or monitor their activities. In fact, anyone from the community could attend church without any concern for whether they were sexual offenders or not, even though, per the County Sheriff’s website, there were several such individuals living in the neighborhoods adjacent to the church property. That statement was only met by bellicose posturing that “If I catch any of them I will quickly boot them out the door!” Following a chorus of amens, the policy was voted on and rejected.
Having attended this church for several decades, I knew the membership was no more saintly than any other church I had belonged to. Yet, here they were ready to cast the first stone at the unpardonable sinner. Here, two thousand years later, we still struggle with what to do with the outcast who comes to Jesus. Perhaps we should not expect too much. After all, those who failed to put the adulterous woman to death managed to accomplish it anyway in the person of her Protector. In the end, fellowship with Him is the only fellowship that really matters. He will drive no one away.
[i] Leviticus 20:10
[ii] John 8:1-11
[iii] Revelation 21:8 & Revelation 22:15
[iv] Matthew 19:3-10
[v] “Adam” is a pseudonym to maintain confidentiality
[vi] The Seventh-day Adventist Church
They Called Her a Whore. Jesus Called Her a “Woman” avatar
Posted on February 9, 2014 by William Earnhardt
He had told her he loved her. Said she was beautiful. Promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the friends of him who had dragged her into bed, and he who had praised and flattered her just stood and watched her being dragged away.
Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before a popular religious icon. Eyes closed not wanting to be confronted by this religious leader, and not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head. She waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?
Barely peeking through one eye she sees the popular religious icon doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.
The new popular religious icon didn’t address her as “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who had spoken with angels and given birth to the Son of God.
“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV
She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of a Man of righteousness. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! Whoever this man was, she knew He was a savior to her. But He was more than a savior. He was the Savior!
He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)
She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)
What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.
The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality. He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.
Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. The popular religious icon named Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.
He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.
“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV
His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s not what Jesus said.
Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.
“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.
The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.
They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.
A man promised her she would be special and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus gave her dignity back and then made her special.
Would Jesus associate with homosexuals? Is there a way we can know?
We know that Jesus associated with the outcasts of his day. Luke 15:1-2 is very clear that he not only associated with tax collectors and sinners, he ate with them. He went to their parties (Matt 11: 19) to such an extent he was called a glutton and winebibber.
Not only that, but at one of the parties he accepted and defended the adoration of a woman known to be a “sinner,” and we can probably guess what that meant. (Luke 7:36-50)
Samaritans were regarded as having a corrupt religion and questionable ethnic background. Jews hated them and would not talk to them unless absolutely necessary. They took pains to detour around Samaritans settlements when they traveled. But Jesus purposely traveled to a Samaritan city to spend considerable time talking to a woman. And that was while the woman was still in a life of sin. (John 4:5-32)
Religious people condemned Jesus because He associated “with sinners” who were an “abomination to the Lord.” And that probably damaged His credibility with the Pharisees and Scribes.
There are various kinds of social outcasts in our society too, but I would like to focus on just one group that is often excluded from society in conservative Christian churches, including Seventh-day Adventist churches – gay people, also often called homosexuals. Sermons reference homosexuality as one of the signs of the last days, and pastors seem to use the word “abomination” exclusively in referring to homosexuality. Thus, often the only way we know to deal with gay people is to ignore or condemn them.
It seems to me that the example Jesus showed during his life for those who were outcasts demonstrated compassion and concern while they were yet sinners. He reserved His condemnation for professed religious conservatives whom He denounced as hypocrites! (See for instance Matt. 22:18; Matt. 23:13-30)
So we must wonder, if He were here today, in person, would Jesus associate with homosexuals, visit in their homes and go to their parties? Or would He only associate with “good” church people?
What do you think?
And what about our churches? Do we make gay people feel welcome? Do we treat them as our equals? Can they see the love of God in us? Would we invite a gay couple home for dinner? And I’m not just asking whether or not we would make “redeemed” homosexuals, such as those found on Coming Out Ministries or Beholding His Love Ministries feel welcome. I’m asking whether we would do the same for someone who made us feel uncomfortable, while we’re thinking, “he’s probably gay.” Do we honestly welcome an obvious gay couple to our church?
If we have to answer No to these questions, how can we expect gay people to trust God enough to surrender their sexuality to Him? How can we expect gay people to trust God with obedience when we make Him appear to be unloving and judgmental by the way we act as His representatives? They already know the “abomination” texts in the Bible. What they don’t know for sure is whether or not God really loves them. And that’s why so many just abandon the church and, ultimately, God. Some commit suicide for lack of hope.
We often fear the people who are different. And if we associate the different with an “abomination to the Lord,” we feel righteous about avoiding such people. But is that the way of Christ? I read that …
The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them. (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 415)
If I understand this correctly, the last message – which is the message we are to give – is a a revelation of God’s character of love in our own lives and character. Seems to me that means that we are to act out the love of God in our relationship with those around us. It’s the same old message as found in John 3:16 proclaimed not just in words, but in lives.
But it’s hard to love people who make us uneasy. To banish the unease, it is helpful to purposely get to know gay people close-up. In case you don’t know of gay neighbors to invite into your home, you may visit with six gay people through the magic of a movie. It is called “ Seventh-Gay Adventist,” and some of you may have heard of it.
Now I don’t agree with some of the views expressed in the movie, especially those of the first person featured – a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who left his wife and family to fulfil what he saw as his own needs. In my view, that’s no more honorable than a straight person committing adultery. And I don’t agree with the way he interprets the Bible. But I don’t need to agree with him to empathize with his longing for a relationship with the Lord and the church body. And the movie does get better. It provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of several gay people who also identify as Seventh-day Adventists. We may not agree with them, but I hope we can all learn to understand them a bit better – and learn to allow Christ to use us to love the next gay person (or gay couple) that we meet.
Here’s how you can download this award-winning movie for free – on your computer, your tablet or your phone:
Go to the buy page of the Seventh-Gay Adventist movie site.
When you are there, select the “Regular Version $9.99” (not the Deluxe Version $14.99) and click on it.
You will be taken to a payment page, with the most obvious choice being “Pay $9.99.” But right above that, you will see a link called “Use code.” Choose that link and put in the code “ssnet2014” without quotation marks.
This will be treated as a “purchase,” and you will receive an email that will allow you to stream the film to a computer, mobile device, smartphone, etc. You can also download it and play it at a higher quality. Choose whatever works for you.
And, yes, you may share this code. But there are a limited number of free copies available. So it’s best not to procrastinate.
I believe God wants us to love the outcasts of society before they get their act cleaned up. After all, He’s still working on me. Jesus promised to make his followers “fishers of men” not “cleaners of men.” Our job is to bring them to Him. Christ’s job is to clean them up. And He will surely do it, if we allow ourselves to be channels of His love.
After watching the movie, you may still wonder about all those “abomination” texts. If so, please read, “What Is an Abomination to the Lord.” And if you’re wondering what the sins of Sodom really were, please do read, “Sins of Sodom – What the Bible Really Says.”
And then there’s a story that demonstrates how to love a gay family member or friend. It’s the story of Christopher Yuan and his mother.
I want the madness of this planet to end. I want Jesus to come, but I also know that before He can come, He needs us to demonstrate to the world what He is really like – a wonderfully loving God who wants nothing more than to see us happy, healthy and holy – both here and in the hereafter.
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|