Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Did God Allow Many Wives in the Old Testament?

Several prominent men in the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham (Genesis 25:1), Jacob (Genesis 30:14-15), David (2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9),  Solomon (1 Kings 11:3), and others all took for themselves many wives. King Solomon,  the man the Bible calls "wiser than all men" (I Kings 4:31), took for himself "700 wives and 300 concubines." His son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines.

Invariably during a Bible study of a book from the Old Testament, someone will ask me a question about polygamy. Any casual reading of  Old Testament Scriptures (Genesis through Malachi) seems to leave the impression that a man taking multiple wives and concubines for himself was not an act God prohibited or censored, and it even seems to be something God allowed.  

What are we to make of these instances of polygamy in the Old Testament? Why did God allow many wives and concubines in the Old Testament? If it was a sin, why didn't God condemn people like Abraham, who had three wives, instead of the Bible calling Abraham "faithful" and "a friend of God" (James 2:23). 

Some Christians pretend that although the men of God in the Old Testament had multiple wives, they only "slept" with one wife. The other wives and concubines, these Christian moralists argue, were more like "housemaids" and "household servants." 

Yet the Bible teaches just the opposite. For example, in Genesis 30:14-16, Rachel and Leah, two of Jacob's wives, got into an argument over who will "sleep with Jacob" that night. Rachel grants Leah the privilege of "sleeping with Jacob" in exchange for Leah giving to Rachel the "mandrakes" that Leah's son Reuben had harvested in the fields. 

Mandrakes (Heb. dudraim ) are mentioned in Genesis 30:14-16 and in Song of Solomon 7:13. The mandrake is a Mediterranean plant from the potato family that grows low like lettuce. Its leaves are dark green, and its flowers are purple. The root is usually forked, and when the mandrake bears fruit when ripe (early in May), the fruit is about the size of a small apple, fragrant, yellow in color and quite flavorful to the palate. Orientals and Arabs call it "the devils apple" because when mandrakes are eaten, they give sexual energy to the person who eats them. A book written in 1881 by Dr. Richardson, called Lectures on Alcohol, reveals that experiments with wine made of the root of mandrake produce a narcotic, causing deep sleep. The ancients used it as an anesthetic. However, a mandrake digested in small quantities acts like opium, exciting the nerves and acts as a sexual stimulant.

Rachel let her rival wife Leah sleep with their mutual husband Jacob "for the mandrakes" that Leah gave her. Try teaching that story to your 4th grade Sunday School class.

Cultural Morality and Modern Christianity

During Old Testament days, the accepted cultural norm for all the nations was "many wives and concubines." Was multiple wives the ideal for a man during Old Testament days? No. 

God revealed the ideal in the Mosaic Law, saying that Israel's king "...must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold for himself" (Deuteronomy 17:17). 

Yet King Solomon "took 700 wives." That didn't prevent the Bible from calling Solomon "the wisest man among all men" (I Kings 4:31) when he was King of Israel. The Bible also tells us  Solomon's attraction to "many wives" contributed to his downfall. 
"For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father" (I Kings 11:4). 
The above verse (I Kings 11:4) is a very interesting verse. Before anyone waxes eloquent on David's qualifications for Kingdom service because "his heart was right with God," and before anyone condemns Solomon and affirms his disqualification from Kingdom service because "his heart was far from God," everyone needs to ponder how to answer a very specific question. Solomon had 700 wives, David had 8 wives. Solomon's heart turned away from the Lord, but David's heart "was wholly true to the Lord his God." So here's the question for your consideration. "At what number of wives - between 8 and 700 - does a man's heart turn away from God?"

You say, "That's a silly question! A man must have just one wife, and only one wife. That's how we know a man's heart is true to God. Any more than one wife, then that man's heart is not right with God."

No. That's not what the Bible says.

David's heart was "true to God" with eight wives.

The culture in David's day deemed 8 wives healthy, but 700 wives excessive.

Here's my point.

Be very, very, very, very, very, careful before you "discount" or "disqualify" someone from service in the Kingdom of Christ because they violate your cultural preferences for external morality.

Those of us Christians who grew up in a "church culture" may be responsible for losing a generation of kids whose lives are being saved by God's grace because we force them to "check off" a morality standard that fits our particular church culture, and we disqualify them if they don't.

For example, we often won't even talk to a couple about becoming "church greeters " if they are "living together." We dare not invite a young man to lead a small group who drinks alcohol. We roll our eyes or resist the appointment of a young woman with tattoos to help take the offering. We turn up our noses and turn away our faces from a divorced man or woman when they lead in worship or teach a Sunday School class. It seems we have a cultural morality standard that disqualifies people from Kingdom service if they don't meet it.

God doesn't do what we do.

God deems His people righteous because they  have "kissed the Son (Psalm 2:12)." The righteousness that counts in the courtroom of heaven is a righteousness that is not the peoples' own righteousness, but a righteousness that "comes from God and is found by faith in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:7-11).

People will ask me what I think about the leaders of Israel in the Old Testament having "many wives and concubines." They are bothered by it, so they say,  "Pastor Wade, why  does God seem to allow men with moral issues to lead His people?"

Here's how I answer:  "Every time I read of 'many wives and concubines' I just realize that God measures qualification for service in His Kingdom by 'the heart.' Every one of us must be very cautious that we don't exclusively set the standard for Kingdom service by an external moral code. Sure, Solomon's wives caused him problems. He had 700 wives. But David, "whose heart was true to God," had just eight wives. In our day, people like David (people who've been divorced and remarried) are often not allowed to lead God's people. Why? Because we are more interested in people checking off that they look good externally (or at least, 'like us') than we are examining the condition of their heart (e.g. "Do they live selflessly, loving others, relate to one another in kindness, and are not easily provoked?)."

So in my way of thinking....

Divorced people, remarried people, people in blended families, couples living together, and people from non-traditional family situations who express their love for Jesus Christ should be accepted as people of God capable of serving His Kingdom because their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrated by their loving, selfless hearts.

Where does one draw the line?

Good question. And a question with answers that may vary from time-period to time-period, from culture to culture, from church to church.

It's about the heart.

And we'd all be better off if we stopped judging each other by the externals.


Instugator said...

Pastor Wade,

Thanks for the blog post - I did not know the Deuteronomy reference regarding plural marriage.

I would like to suggest an edit.

You should probably change the sentence "Yet the Bible teaches just the opposite. For example, in Genesis 30:14-16, Rachel and Leah, two of Abraham's wives..."


"Yet the Bible teaches just the opposite. For example, in Genesis 30:14-16, Rachel and Leah, two of Jacob's wives..."

Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

at what point does it become a matter of pastoral concern?

Wade Burleson said...

Stew - thank you!



Good question. In my experience, pastoral concern is important, but that concern is to love, encourage, and accept.

Donald Johnson said...

I think David had more than 5 wives. See 2 Sam 3 (6 wives listed) and 1 Chr 3 (6 wives listed).

Christiane said...

An interesting topic.
I have gleaned some info from this site, and paraphrased it somewhat:

There were cases of polygamy among rabbis, and there is a reported case of one rabbi marrying 300 women, but he was of the priestly caste and could receive donations during a time of famine, so it was done as a work of mercy to see that these women were fed (so the legend goes).

And there are other descriptions of multiple wives in the OT. But actually in Jewish thinking, the ideal was always that a husband and a wife were two halfs of a whole and that seems to have been the 'norm' in most of Jewish history.

ON THE OTHER HAND, we can see in Genesis that both man and woman are 'made in the image of God' so they who are His creatures are of a Creator Who is One and in the marital union, they reflect 'the UNITY of the two' who both bear the image of the same Creator.
This 'image of God' raises both men and women and the whole humankind to a dignity as 'persons' specially created in His image. For this reason alone, the dignity of human persons, when respected, is also a way to honor their Creator. So in Genesis, it is not without note that the unity of the two becoming one in marriage is very much a reflection of the Unity of the One Creator God whose image they bear.

Victorious said...

In our day, people like David would never be allowed to lead God's people.

God doesn't work in a vacuum but rather through existing people, their culture, etc. "Our day" is infinitely different than that of previous thousands of years. God's work is progressive in His approach toward redeeming mankind through the incarnate Jesus.

Early in scripture,(Gen. 2:24) we see that God's design for marriage is for the "man to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife." That principle is confirmed three other times in the NT (twice by Jesus Himself); Matt. 19:5-6, Mark 10; 7-8, and Eph. 5:31. While most Christians interpret that verse as "both shall leave their parents...." but that is not what it says. The man was to leave his parents to cleave to his wife...no mention of the wife leaving her parents. Her parents are her natural protectors and had this principle been followed/obeyed rather than the woman being removed from her tribe, the abuse, multiplying, and divorce of women would have been greatly diminished.

Also early in Genesis we see the practice of multiple wives with Lamech. (Gen. 4:19)

Jacob leaves his father and mother to the home of Laban to seek a wife and because of the tradition of the marriage of the eldest daughter first, is tricked into a marriage to Leah and eventually marries Rachel as well. He dwells with their father until Laban begins to treat him poorly and God directs him to return to the land of his relatives. But Laban makes Jacob swear he will not abuse his daughters. The protective covering of the brides family is manifest here. (Gen. 2:24)

In Deut., we see God's mercy and protection for the wives who were being discarded for any reason by commanding they be given a Writ of Divorce so they could survive and remarry without being accused of adultery. Later we see the Pharisees trying to defend the practice of polygamy and divorce but Jesus reminds them that the Writ of Divorce was allowed because of the hardness of their heart toward their wives. (Deut. 24)

In the time of Judges, we see the practice of taking women from their families as spoils of war. Sisera's mother is awaiting her son's return from battle and says, "...'Are they not finding, are they not dividing the spoil? A maiden, two maidens for every warrior..." (Judges 5:30)

When the Israelites insisted on having a king like the neighboring nations, God warned them through Samuel that the king "..." will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers.." among other negative consequences. (1 Sam. 8:13)

So we see a history of the mistreatment of women as the result of ignoring God's design for the "man to leave his father and mother to cleave to his wife" where she would benefit from the those who were her natural protectors in her community/tribe.

God, Himself, follows that design for marriage when He leaves His home to cleave to His bride where she resides...

My conclusion based on history is that God does not "allow" multiple wives, but consistently, compassionately comes behind man to correct their hard hearts.

That's how I see it...

Mary Ann

Tom said...

I was asked the question in a third world country about what a pastor should do because a newly converted family had joined his church. A man and his two wives had come to the Lord. The second wife was suggested by the first wife because she was not able to give her husband children and a cousin was available and willing to enter into becoming the second wife in the relationship.

Having more than one wife was not illegal in this third world country. What should the pastor do to uphold the principle of a marriage should be between one man and one wife.

In my response, I asked the pastor which wife should suffer, because if the man divorced one of his wives, then who would support her and where would she live? I pointed to the obvious examples in scripture, knowing that the men with many wives often had very dysfunctional families and lives.

However, in this situation, the husband loved his wives and took great care with meeting the needs of both.

My advice was to allow the husband, the two wives and the children to come to his church and to love them all.

My advise was asked a number of years ago now, and I have not had a report back as to what has occurred since.

At present in that country, a married pastor has been caught out because he had a relationship with another woman in the churches care. The other pastors in that country will probably shun this pastor and it may be many year before the other pastors accept him back into their ranks.

It comes back to what is a loving response within the circumstances that we uncover within peoples relationships with each other. Each circumstance will not have the same text book solution or handling instruction that can be easily followed.

Often patience and a measured response is all that we can try.

Within western societies, how many "wives/husbands" do people "rack up" as they move through their life experiences and regret.


Victorious said...

P.S. to my comment above...

Regarding David's multiplying wives and concubines...God's provision (so to speak) for the many taken as spoils of war was David's wealth and ability to provide for them. His taking so many women was a fulfillment of God's words that that would be the result of the Israelites taking a king. He was punished for only one of those wives as that one was born out of lust, deceit, and murder of Uriah.

God understood that the spoils of war was the reason for David's many wives and concubines but didn't allow him to build the temple because of those wars.

1Ch 28:3  But God said to me, 'You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood.'

thatmom said...

I am left pretty confused by this post. As I would see Scripture, I see a big difference between someone living in a sexual relationship without being married and having a tattoo. What does this mean "people from non-traditional family situations"?
Polygamists? Homosexuals relationships?

Anonymous said...

We would all learn a lot more about polygamy by reading the following and its references: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-beast/201210/the-three-reasons-polygamy

Anonymous said...

Not with you one this one, Pastor Wade, probably because of what I experienced in the past. You know the oilfield, here today and there tomorrow. At one point our church choice was ELCA or RCC. We worshipped with the ELCA. The reasoning you give in this post led eventually to the celebrating of homosexual unions, and of ordaining practicing homosexuals.

When we moved to one town there was a young woman on the praise team. (SBC church.) Very gifted lady. She asked if she and "john" could sing a duet one Sunday as a special. The pastor said sure, she and her husband could do that song. To which she quickly replied, "john and I are not married. His first marriage was terrible and he won't do that ever again." Pastor D quickly changed the subject. I noticed she disappeared from the praise team and he from ushering. A few weeks later in SS she shared tearfully that the pastor had scheduled a home visit and met with them. They explained their thoughts and the pastor told them only God could judge their salvation status, but the church had the responsibility to not seem to be endorsing sinful behavior, and fornication is sin. They thought about it, moved apart briefly, the man decided he had never been saved, he surrendered to Christ, they got married, and back in service. But during the interim period there were those appalled that "young people don't mind cohabitation, it is just cultural, etc."

There was not a dry eye in the house when they gave their testimony that cohabiting is not common law marriage (legal in our state) and that they had been living in sin. They thanked Pastor D publicly and there was not a dry eye to be found around me when they sang that special!

My Mennonite friends have ministered in cultures where it is acceptable to use children sexually and marriages that are incestuous are common.

Right and wrong are not cultural nor up for debate.

I agree with Pastor D: we don't judge someone's salvation status, but the church has the responsibility not to choose leaders of any sort that are deliberately choosing to engage in activity that the Bible teaches is sin. God can and does overrule the church, but that is NOT the same as the church tossing out the rule book.

The argument that we will lose a generation if we don't bend on sexual sins is a non starter. We'll lose them just as fast if we don't tell them the truth.


Victorious said...

I have to wholeheartedly agree with Wade when he said this:

And a question with answers that may vary from time-period to time-period, from culture to culture, from church to church.

...especially the time period and the culture aspect. OT men and women didn't drive downtown to the County Courthouse to apply for a marriage license. They didn't find someone to "officiate" the ceremony and have two witnesses sign the certificate. Nor did they repeat solemn vows to one another providing no one present objected to the marriage.

They simply "took" one-another as their chosen partner and invited friends and family to a feast in celebration depending on the culture.

I'm sure some have read the very funny "16 Ways to Find a Wife" according to the Bible, but I post it here in case some haven't.

1) Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 21:11-13)

2) “Lay hold on” a virgin who is not betrothed to another man, and "know" her, but afterwards pay her father a sum of money. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 22:28-29)

3) Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

4) Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock.--Moses (Ex. 2:16-21)

5) Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal.--Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)

6) Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.--Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)

7) Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you a rib.--Adam (Gen. 2:19-24)

8) Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife.--Jacob (Gen. 29:15-30)

9) Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife.--David (1 Sam. 18:27)

10) Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone.--Cain (Gen. 4:16-17)

11) Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest.--Xerxes or Ahasuerus (Esther 2:3-4)

12) When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.”--Samson (Judges 14:1-3)

13) Kill any husband and take HIS wife. (Prepare to lose four sons though.)--David (2 Sam. 11)

14) Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!)--Onan and Boaz (Deut. or Lev., example in Ruth)

15) Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity.--Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)

16) A wife?--Paul (1st Corinthians, chapter 7)

RB Kuter said...

"Divorced people, remarried people, people in blended families, couples living together, and people from non-traditional family situations who express their love for Jesus Christ should be accepted as people of God capable of serving His Kingdom because their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrated by their loving, selfless hearts"

Sounds like an oversimplification to me but very sweet. However, the church is responsible for maintaining the integrity of its leadership, teachers of The Word, and those seen as being people of influence. Do we want those who are living together out of wedlock teaching young adult couples/teens on Biblical standards of morality and marriage? I don't think so. Do we want alcoholics in church positions of leadership and influence? Do we want couples who have been married numerous times and whose marriages have failed to be the leaders in sessions on how to have a sound, Godly marriage? The fact is, people, strive to validate their sinful lifestyles. They tend to try to minimize or legitimize their poor decisions, especially when they are currently living in sin.

Of course we welcome sinners into our church. After all, we are meant to be the hospital for the sin-sick, lost, suffering victims of sin. But hopefully, this is not to suggest that they be allowed to serve in positions that define the identity of our church.

I believe that people today are hungry to see churches that visually stand for its principles and live according to those tough standards of lifestyle, and of course, love, that are portrayed in Scripture. They are sick and tired of hypocritical "Christians" whose lifestyles are no different than those living without Christ.

I don't want to distort the intent of the blog message, but at the same time think that this aspect of insisting that our leaders, and yes, our members, to be disciplined and sincere in practicing their faith is essential today more than it has ever been.

Victorious said...

RRR, you make some good points but imo the most obvious evidence one has of the transforming power of Jesus Christ in one's life, is their personal testimony. There is a time factor involved when one first comes to the Lord until one matures in the Lord. That process is the conviction of the Holy Spirit that eventually transforms their life and continues the journey of becoming Christlike.

Of course, we wouldn't take a drug addict off the street and put him/her into a teaching ministry immediately. Nor would be invite a man who is still grieving the loss of his wife through a divorce and ask him to teach a course on marriage. That goes without saying.

But when one of those sinners "graduates" from the milk of the Word and begins to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, surely there is a place of ministering to others in the body for that person. Ministering one-to-another is what the body of Christ is all about after all. There are many areas of ministry that need not be "leadership" in nature; i.e. administration, transporting those who need a ride, arranging special events, serving as greeters, encouraging others who feel discouraged, sharing a scripture they've recently been blessed by, singing in the choir, etc.

The beauty of the body of Christ is diversity and that includes different levels of maturity, and a variety of gifts and talents.

Anonymous said...

Nice dodge. When does it become unacceptable?

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Cleveland said...

"Divorced people, remarried people, people in blended families, couples living together, and people from non-traditional family situations who express their love for Jesus Christ should be accepted as people of God capable of serving His Kingdom because their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrated by their loving, selfless hearts"

How does this statement fare when laid alongside 1 Corinthians Chapter 5?

RB Kuter said...

Victorious, your points are well taken. I do not propose that we not accept those whose lives have been redeemed and portray genuine redemption. I mean, look at my life! What a sinner!

My point is to caution us regarding the maintenance of the integrity of the church by carefully and patiently vetting all those who impact the church's identity. This, by the way, would not simply be to accept their statement of testimony but to allow time for their life to demonstrate it.

Wade Burleson said...

Bob Cleveland,

"A man is sleeping with his father's wife" seems to be a case of incest in I Corinthians 5. That, even in Paul's day, was deemed "out of bounds" by the Romans. Further, there is a "boasting" in the sin, with no voicing of sorrow over the sin, so the statement I made about divorced folks, blended families, non-traditional family situations squares with I Corinthians 5 in that:

1. The things I mentioned are culturally accepted norms (not ideal, but norms), and
2. When a person comes to know Jesus, there's no boasting about not that which is not ideal.

That's how I see it.

I'm advocating for love and acceptance of the sinner, while at the same time advocating for the ideal.

Wade Burleson said...


You wrote, "Of course, we wouldn't take a drug addict off the street and put him/her into a teaching ministry immediately. Nor would be invite a man who is still grieving the loss of his wife through a divorce and ask him to teach a course on marriage. That goes without saying.

But when one of those sinners "graduates" from the milk of the Word and begins to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, surely there is a place of ministering to others in the body for that person."

You should have written my article. I could not have said it better.


Unknown said...

2 Peter 3:9 NIV
"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Jerry Schultz said...

Abraham had one wife and lacking faith, not trusting God to fulfill his promise to make his seed like the stars in the sky, Sarah gave him her handmaid Hagar as a concubine to bear him a child, and he, also lacking faith, went along with it. Ultimately Hagar and Ishmael were sent away. Ultimately, Abraham was required to show enough faith to be willing to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God could raise him from the dead to fulfill the promise. The whole situation is clearly shown to be displeasing to God. Only after Sarah died, did he marry Keturah, his 2nd wife. In no way does the life of Abraham indicate that God condoned polygamy.

Jacob ended up with 2 wives because of his Uncle Laban's sinful treachery and deceit. Those 2 wives became rivals who competed against each other by giving their handmaids to him as concubines to bear him children. Both Jacob and Abraham lived before the Law was given. Leviticus 18:18 shows how God viewed the situation: "You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister's lifetime." God specifically and directly forbids this behavior.

Once the Law was given, I cannot think of a single man of faith in God who receives God's approval, who is referred to as having multiple wives, except for Kings, who you have shown were clearly forbidden from doing so.

God did not Condone David's behavior, he Forgave it. David committed many sins as King, but ultimately, he repented and turned to God. His faith, not his actions, is what put him back into a right relationship with God--though not without sacrifice, it was the Old Covenant, after all.

Jesus clearly delivers God's point of view as marriage being one man and one woman: From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his WIFE and the TWO will become ONE flesh." -Mark 10:6-8

Now here's the kicker: In the New Testament church, having multiple wives IS a disqualification from being a Pastor: "An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of ONE wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable and able to teach." -1 Timothy 3:2   

Tom said...

It seems that there will always be many opinions on the question of acceptability.

A man who has long hair and a beard is judged differently from someone who is clean shaven and with short hair. In fact clean shaven and short hair is openly used to choose who is the better person to have a "relationship" with. The moral integrity of the respective person is often ignored.

We are also told that a newly wedded man should not go out to fight because of the potential strife that could arise from leaving his wife so soon.

Jacob became dysfunctional when Rachel, his favourite wife died in child birth and he did not take care of all of his other wives in their grief and this lead to problems.

When Sarah offered Haggai to Abraham, it led to a dysfunctional problem within the relationship.

Discernment is required to identify a dysfunctional trait within a person that would possibly disqualify that person from a particular leadership role.

From memory, Jesus taught that we should not judge another person, from a God like perspective, less we to are Judged in the same manner.

If we desire God's Grace, then we too should demonstrate God's Grace to others by how we treat them and accept them when we interact with other people.


Rex Ray said...


I was beginning to wonder if you were going to reply to anyone.

I want to discuss the couple living together outside of marriage.

You said “they should be accepted as people of God because their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrated by their loving, selfless hearts.”

HUH? “Loving” and “selfless” is an oxymoron just like:

“Early in the morning late at night, two dead boys began to fight. They drew their swords and faced each other; turned around and shot each other. A deaf policeman heard the noise; came and killed the two dead boys.”

Many years ago, a gay couple asked our pastor if they would be welcomed in joining our church. He said no. What would you have said?

Victorious said...


In all fairness, the circumstances surrounding the customs at the time of both Abraham and Sarah as well as Jacob and Laban are understood when we see them in light of the time and culture.

Abraham lived under the laws prevalent in the Near Ancient East. The most popular and well known was the Code of Hammurabi which allowed for a barren woman to take a slave who would be used as a surrogate to provide her with a child. That law permitted the wife to send that slave away in the event she became disrespectful toward her mistress. Sarah was well within her right under the laws of the land in sending Hagar away as scripture tells of her mocking her mistress. Abraham didn't want to send Hagar away, but God told him obey Sarah's wishes. God then had mercy on Hagar and Ismael in the wilderness and provided for their well being.

Jacob was indeed tricked by Laban (sometimes what goes around, comes around, huh?) but Laban was truthful in that the custom of the oldest being married first was a custom of some in the ancient Near East region. My research has confirmed that this tradition is still observed in some countries where there is still a social stigmatism attached to a woman whose younger sisters all marry before she does. As far as Rachel and Leah being rivals in the childbearing area, that was of great importance at that time....to build the family, tribe, nation, etc. The book of Ruth credits these women with the growth of the house of Israel.

May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, both of whom built the house of Israel...Ruth 4:11

Yes, God "specifically and directly forbids this behavior" in Lev. 18:18 for the sons of Aaron. He also specifically said "You shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it." Evidently a necessary admonition for the sake of decency because of the long, flowing garments worn by the priests.

All this is to say that we really need to understand scripture in the light of the time and culture and realize that some laws and regulations were meant for those living in an agricultural, tribal community for whom God was separating from the practices of the pagan nations surrounding them some of which they had perhaps acquired from their time in Egypt.

I did find it interesting that you mentioned Mark 10:6-8 and wonder what you think about the "man" leaving his parents but no such requirement made for the wife to leave her parents. This verse seems to be applicable to both OT and NT since it is quoted 4 times altogether in scripture including twice by Jesus.

Wade Burleson said...

Rex Ray,

We have couples attending our church living in immorality, and we have singles attending our church living in immorality. In time, the Holy Spirit changes them. We have men and women attending our church who are hateful and judgmental, and so too, in time the Spirit changes their hearts. To answer your question about "joining" our church, no, a man married to a man or a woman married to a woman is free to attend our church, but we would be kind, loving and considerate to them as we explained why. Likewise, a hard-nosed bitter, angry person would not be allowed to be in leadership or become a member either.

Wade Burleson said...


Good comments.

This post is simply designed to cause each of us to pause and consider that when Christ changes a person, He changes them from the inside/out, and to be careful before excluding people from fellowship who come from a different background than you.

Thanks for the conversation.

God saves sinners who are sick. The healthy need no Physician.

We somehow think sinners clean up over night, but it requires the Spirit a lifetime to remove what needs removing.

I'm advocating patience.

RB Kuter said...

12:18 AM! I'm guessing that's Central Time. My goodness, Brother Wade. Hope you slept in this morning!

I thought your original post did well at articulating what you summarized here but it is helpful to have this additional clarification. Great post and beneficial to me as it helps me to reflect on where I came and how patient God is with me. (If I was God, I would have "trashed" me a long time ago!) I'll strive to remember that with those I encounter.

Gordon said...

Could you please tell us how you would deal with an application from Free Mason who wanted to join the church? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Rex Ray said...


I’m glad you said “no” to the request of any ‘gay couple’ joining your church.

It seems our country is being ‘bombarded’ to accept homosexuals as normal. Some very funny TV programs have a gay couple. (To ‘sell sin’ make it funny.)

When my father was in the army, any known homosexual was discharged.


In December of 2010, the House and Senate voted in favor to repeal the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." President Obama then signed it into law December 22, 2010…homosexuals would no longer fear discharge from the military by admitting to their sexual preference. Homosexuals have the freedom to serve in the armed forces openly.”

“He turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and blotted them off the face of the earth, making them an example for all the ungodly in the future to look back upon and fear.” (2 Peter 2:6 Living)

Rex Ray said...


Written ‘rules’ and unwritten ‘rules’ of churches’ probably are very different. I dare say the church I’m in now and was in 70 years ago had rules from time to time that might make some laugh.

I remember the deacons decided that they would not smoke. That was hard on the ones that had to quit, but they did it. Then the church voted that all would not smoke. When that was successful someone said, “What about Mrs. Xxx, she dips snuff.

She said she started when she was nine years old and was not going to quit.

They told her she was a bad example for her young kids Sunday school class, and would not let her teach anymore. She and her relatives (one was the choir director) left the church.

Another time a man returned home after being away a long time and could not find his plow. A neighbor had taken his worn-out plow, fixed it and had used it. The neighbor would not return the plow until he was paid for fixing it.

The disagreement lingered on and since they were in the same church the church took sides. Finally the neighbor returned the plow and apologized in front of the church.

Someone told the plow owner he should apologize also. When he refused the guy said, “I’m throwing you out of the church” and started dragging him toward the door. Some others grabbed the ‘puller’ and took him outside.

I don’t know if the service was dismissed in prayer or not.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for your replies to the comments.

I am always conscious in dealing with situations, which many would consider questionable,that if God had looked at me the way many look at those they consider to be "sinners" not worthy of attending the congregation of believers I would not have had these more than sixty years as a follower of Christ and pastor for half that time.

Those words of Martin Luther,"simul justus et peccator" simultaneously, both sinner and saint, apply to every one who names the name of Christ whether they like it or not.No! I'm not a Lutheran!

I have seen too many, who were shunned by the religious sheriffs of churches, attend another congregation and become followers of Christ, who served the Body of Christ, some as preachers of the Gospel.

Like the self-confident Corinthian Christians in Paul's day, so many of us have confidence in our performance of religion rather than in the finished work of Christ, and like those Jews we need to be reminded,"...let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

Anonymous said...

Did I miss something? There is a huge difference between attending a church and serving or representing it. No one is shunned by not being asked to teach SS, or sing on a praise team, or preach, or greet, etc. That isn't shunning. It IS making sure those representing the church actually represent it clearly. For that matter, many who are not living in, to use a Wesleyan term that covers all sorts of things, willful deliberate sin also do not serve in those roles.

Someone--was it you Pastor Wade or someone else--referred to the bitter not serving in those capacities. Totally agree!!! Of course, I've also seen anyone not on board with gay marriage and cohabiting hetero couples ACCUSED of bitterness. We finally left that ELCA church I mentioned when the pastor began referring to all those opposing gay marriage and gay ordination, those opposed to having a council member living in open and flagrant adultery (married to one lady, living with another), as suffering from mental illness. All the conservatives were said to be suffering from a lack of neuroplasticity, making them unable to change. Wearing the little feet pro life pin could get you labelled, from the pulpit, as suffering either from serious mental illness or being in flagrant sin as a "judger."

Maybe we stick with clearly stated expectations for the different positions, using as much as possible those clearly given in the Bible (such as for teachers, preachers, deacons, etc) and make it clear not to even volunteer for positions if you are living in that willful, defiant sin. Pretty simple stuff not to put known pedophiles in SS classes of children, or known embezzlers in charge of counting the offering, or pastors known to be engaging in affairs in the pulpit, or those living in homosexual, heterosexual cohabiting, or incestuous family relationships in leadership including musical.

None of that judges the persons, just the actions or situations. It leaves PLENTY of room for loving people into relationships with Jesus. I'm now in a Wesleyan Holiness denom with very strict membership rules. Have to be a member to serve. But we sure attract and disciple and work with all kinds.


RB Kuter said...

Rex Ray, you are outrageous! I continue to be astounded by the innumerable accounts of your experiences and your gifts in writing about them. Stand aside, Will Rogers!

Rex Ray said...


Watch it! You’ll give me the ‘Big Head’, but thanks; you know how to make a guy feel good. :)

Wade Burleson said...


You make some good points. In our Celebrate Recovery ministry, we have leaders who have been in prison, men and women whose pictures have been on the front page of our paper, and other "notorious sinners" whose lives are being changed by the power of Christ. Of course, we know them, they have groups of people who love them, support them, work with them as they overcome their "hurts, habits and addictions." Leaders - as you well state - are those who are showing God's grace in overcoming their sins. However, I never ceased to be amazed at the number of people who complain about "someone being on the stage," or "someone taking the offering" or "someone greeting people at the door" who have been arrested or struggled with addictions. Those complaining have NO relationship with these folks. They just feel "anyone representing the church" shouldn't have a past. What we say in response is this: All of us have a past; but Christ is our future. I'm advocating that if we would simply love people and get to know them, we would know when the time is right for them to "represent our church," and it's not perfect people who represent us well, but rather transformed people. Thanks, as always, for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Ah, we agree totally then. I had misunderstood you to be advocating letting those not struggling with their sin issues but rather embracing and celebrating them to be in leadership. Huge, monumental difference.

While in that ELCA church I counted it a privilege to kneel for communion with a friend struggling with lesbianism. She had moved out of her home with her "mate" but fell back into frequent sin. Still, she repudiated it and knelt in contrition and simple trust in the gospel. We often communed weeping together at the sheer magnitude of grace for not just her sin, but my many sins.

We did so in spite of the pastor labelling us both as mentally defective for seeing our own sins as sin. Not me seeing J's and her seeing mine, but her seeing hers and me seeing mine as sins based solely on the Bible says it is sin.

The three of us will all be together in the hereafter. And at that point I suspect J's faithfulness in spite of the high cost and pain will be applauded, not her frequent failure publicized. I pray the same for myself for my own "sin bundle." And I have God's Word on it Pastor A will hear a thing or two concerning teaching amiss, but will still be loved.

Off topic, but am binge reading through the posts I missed while out of range of all things electronic up in the mountains. Love your post on annihilationism, although I still hope for the final total reconciliation of all creation including all humans, but if that turns out not to be I believe you to be correct, not ECT.

But better watch out--you preach like the SBC preached before the dispensational fundamentalists hit our little oilfield village in the 50's. Someone might accuse you of being a real Baptist :)

Christiane said...

WADE, you wrote
"We somehow think sinners clean up over night, but it requires the Spirit a lifetime to remove what needs removing.

I'm advocating patience."

Amen, Amen, Amen

Christiane said...

I'm still laughing at your story. Honestly, human nature being what it is, you can't make this stuff up. :)

Wade Burleson said...

Rex does have some of the greatest stories ever posted on the Internet! :)

Christiane said...

I wish REX RAY would publish his favorites in a book. Right now, this country could use some good old-fashioned humor. Rex-The-Author is a national treasure, but many people aren't familiar with his work. :)

Christiane said...

Wade wrote,
"It's about the heart.

And we'd all be better off if we stopped judging each other by the externals."

I can see the wisdom of this.
I do think that in the end, people will be judged by their love, and they will be judged by the One Who Is Love.
As far as judging others in the manner of the Pharisee in the temple, we can find 'reasons', but in the end the only thing that matters to God is a humble heart that knows it needs Him. And that's where people who judge others get confused ...... they see only the 'external', they fixate on a 'label';
but they cannot see into the hearts of those for whom they have contempt ...... only God knows what is in the heart of a person. Only He can 'judge' with a mercy and a justice far beyond what we can imagine.

"The heart has reasons that reason does not understand"
(Blaise Pascal)

RB Kuter said...

Many times we label "discernment" and "awareness" as "judging" people.

Of course, Jesus taught us not to "judge", lest we be judged. He immediately expounded on this by saying, "Beware of those who come in among you dressed as sheep but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit, for a good tree will produce good fruit and a bad tree will produce bad fruit."

Christiane said...

“When you are ready to stand in the Presence of the Lord, let your soul wear a garment woven from the cloth of your forgiveness of others . . . ”
(St. John Climacus)

Anonymous said...

I'm also scratching my head wondering why folks expect to be in any sort of leadership in any organization when they are not walking in the organizations' way? And why we are supposed to put folks into leadership hoping they will then accept our message, rather than the other way around?

Also being cautious since every time the words "judgmental" and "bitter" come into play these days it is because someone refuses to ok someone else's sin.

More and more I think we are being deceived by Satan and trying to find a way to accept some sins and not others. When I was young it was drinking, gambling, and divorce. We pretty much accepted those and have moved on. But should we have? Or should we have drawn the line back then?

My RCC friends say we are "sin leveling" in the sense of trying to make what they call "scruples" equal with gross sin. But they quickly point out to me that yes, it really is worse to commit fornication than it is to jaywalk.

Still pondering.


Rex Ray said...



“Trump to decide whether to block release of secret JFK files.”

16 pages tells the facts of James Files confession of shooting JFK.

Files said he used a mercury bullet. Since mercury never ‘dissolves’, an autopsy today would prove if Files told the truth.

RB Kuter said...

Rex Ray, thanks for that info. Pretty intriguing.

Rex Ray said...

On topic of off topic,

In 1968, Paul Schrade, a Kennedy family friend, was working as the labor chairman of Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Schrade was walking about six feet behind Kennedy when Schrade was shot in the head by Sirhan Sirhan who was three feet in front of Kennedy.


This link tells that 91 year-old Schrade pleaded unsuccessfully for Sirhan to be given freedom at his 15th parole hearing because Schrade believes another gunman killed Kennedy.

Schrade said, “The truth is in the prosecution’s own records and the autopsy. It says Sirhan couldn’t have shot Kennedy and didn’t because he was out of position.”
After Robert Kennedy was shot, he asked, “Is everybody OK? Is Paul all right?” Paul Schrade said, “He was always more concerned about others than himself.”


This tells why Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy.
1. Audiotape of a cassette recorder revealed 13 shots.
2. Sirhan’s gun held only 8 bullets.
3. Twice, Sirhan shot horizontal while several feet in FRONT of Kennedy, but medical evidence showed the bullets entered Kennedy point blank at an upward angle that left powder-burns and came from BEHIND him.
4. Kennedy was hit 3 times with one bullet passing harmless through the shoulder of his coat. Sirhan fired 8 times, but after his first two shots, bystanders had his shooting arm pinned against a table which caused five others to be injured by his shooting.
5. The recorder revealed eight gunshots had the same sound and were the 1st, 2nd,4th, 6th,7th,9th,11th, and 13th while a different gunshot sound was the 3rd,5th,8th,10th, and 12th shots. Also some of the sounds were so close together, it would be impossible to pull a trigger that fast.
6. Kennedy’s bodyguard, Thane Eugene Cesar, and two hotel captains were escorting Kennedy at the time of the shooting. Why did authorities NOT test them if they had shot a gun? Authorities DID NOT even test Cesar’s gun (different from Sirhan’s) if it had been fired! Cesar left to live in the Philippines for a period.
7. Private researchers found physical evidence of more than eight bullets fired, but authorities did not report the extra bullets and disposed of bullet-riddled wood panels and ceiling tiles.
8. At Sirhan’s trial, ‘substitute’ bullets were allowed to be used instead of those removed from Kennedy and other victims.
9. Daniel Brown, a professor in psychology at Harvard Medical School has interviewed Sirhan for 60 hours over a three-year period. Sirhan does not remember the assassination, but only being at a gun range and shooting at circular targets. Brown believes Sirhan was programmed to shoot by being hypnotized and was lured to the hotel by a young woman in a polka dot dress.

Why was the information above kept from the jurors including the autopsy? As Attorney General, Robert still had his files that proved LBJ had received $100,000 kickback from General Dynamics and was a corrupt politician. (James Tague’s book: page 317, 400)

I believe the assassination was similar as his brother’s since a ‘patsy’ was provided. It is well known that President LBJ was a champion at controlling authorities. Would he want someone to become president who had asked him “Why did you have my brother killed?”

jamie steele said...

David would not be allowed to be an Elder or Deacon in Paul's day.

Anonymous said...

thank you for the reply to this blog comment !
and also thanks for your sharing this topic !


Rex Ray said...


This is a book written about my father by John Erickson, author of “Hank the Cowdog”.

One chapter was titled, “Dave Ray the World’s Worst Driver”. It made him angry; “I never killed nobody!”

Not in the book is what happened when my sister was trying to get a ‘hardship driver’s license’ for her 14-year-old daughter.

Hard-nosed authority: “The law requires she must be 16.”
“But she will have to walk 3 miles to school.”
“Doesn’t she have a grandparent that can drive her?”
“Do you know who her grandfather is?”
“Dave Ray.”
“I’ll grant the request.”

Christiane said...
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harada57 said...
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