Tag Archives: Bible

What have same sex relationships and kleptomania to do with each other?

There are so many different opinions and interpretations about the present theological “hot potatoes’ that one easily looses one’s way in its jungle. (Here, here, here, here and here… People question the way I relate to Scriptures where the Apostle Paul writes about homosexuality. Their statement is: “What did the apostle Paul really know about same-sex relations? There are so many new things that we have learned since New Testament times about the complexities of sexuality!”

They make a good point. By the Way: after having allowed myself a “slumbering blog state” for a number of months (it was hard to find time to write and express my deepest feelings), I am encouraged by different people to NOT GIVE UP writing blogs. I feel that the discussion on same sex relationships needs yet another perspective and I am motivated to use this occasion as a re-entry to the blog sphere.

“They make a good point”, I stated earlier. It is true that since the writings of the New Testament many more things have become clear to us; the (dark) wrestles of life and our soul have been brought to the surface and have been examined, analyzed, evaluated, and explained like never before.

I know that not everything we need to know about sex is right there on the pages of the Bible. Many authors who have written about sex and who researched sex had an awful lot of good things to say. Yet, I dare say that the Bible is my only and supreme authority on the subject of sex.

With that I don’t mean that it is our only source on the subject. There is a whole lot to learn from tradition, experience, and reason (including scientific investigation). But these latter mentioned sources are not authoritative. While they can provide important information and insights, it is clear to me that what the Bible is actually teaching us on a given subject supersedes all other sources. Again, we know more about sex in general, and about same-sex relations in particular, than the Apostle Paul did. It would be unwise to ignore what we can learn, there is a whole lot to learn from what people tell us about the experience of same-sex attractions, and what scientific investigation tells us about the complex issues of attraction and sexuality. All different aspects of humankind as expressed through our genes, cultures, social circumstances and theological insights need to be brought together to help us understand the question at hand. But yet… how do I dare to say that the Bible supersedes all of our insights by speaking with authority to a subject like sexuality?

Well, here we finally come in on the subject of kleptomania…It is at this point that a parallel can be drawn to sexuality. The majority of the people living in the world today have probably a greater insight and knowledge about stealing than Moses ever had. In the Ten Commandments a simple and straightforward commandment is given: “You shall not steal!”

There is really no nuance nor is any explanation given about the way this should (could) be considered. There are no links to praxis, history, experiences or principles. You shall not steal. That’s it. Don’t steal; IT IS WRONG!

During my years as pastor in New Life Church Stockholm (www.newlife.nu) I have had to deal with some people who were compulsive thieves. When meeting with them, one thing they told me was the fact that they could not help doing it… they stole things that were of no interest or value to them, and yet, time after time they stole even if it meant that their relationships and trust with other people and friends got broken. The surge to steal was like a beast within them they could not handle.

In regards to this matter, there are major drives and issues which drive people into such destructive behavior. There are psychological, social and other issues involved… YET, time after time again I had to come back in my conversations with them to that same statement, or commandment: You shall not steal!

That statement did not give me room for interpretation, or nuances. It did not give room to wiggle. It was one of those “one liners”, almost too clear, too obvious… It was unnegotionable. A cold fact… You shall not steal. No explanation, no excuses. Although much reasoning and information could be brought into the matter, only one thing remained the same: “You shall not steal!”

The point I want to make is the following: when it comes to the basics, what is right and what is wrong; the Bible supersedes all other sources. It is our authoritative guide on ethical issues. Of course we will have to consider where the rubber hits the road; that’s in the praxis in our pastoral dimension. I know there are people who steal because they have nothing to eat, others because they have a responsibility for their families. Others because they have been abused and victimized by greedy economic systems (I will in the near future write more about greed and such systems). But no matter what we can give as explanation for our actions, stealing was, is and remains wrong!

In some occasions we choose to forgive and forget, in other occasions we counsel, yet in others we send people to jail. But no matter what the cause and circumstances might be the basics are: It is wrong to steal! In the discussion on the so-called “sin catalogues” which were used by Christians and churches 30-60 years ago we have heard time after time again how insensitive the Church has been. OK! Many leaders have crawled to the cross a number of time and affirmed their guilt in these matters… But we have to realize that the large majority of the people using “the sin catalogue arguments” have not received the kind of insensitive treatment they are relating to. It’s “hear-say” in most occasions. The Church, because of its historical guilt complex has gone the opposite direction and has allowed everything without nuances as an appeasement to the guilt memory.

In days past, conservative Christians have often done a terrible job in dealing with the complexities and nuances of human sexuality. But no matter what these complexities and nuances might be… the fact remains the same: the word of God remains true and it supersedes all other sources, whether they are endorsed or not by our society or ideologies. I might be politically incorrect but I will continue to follow His Word and Truth as a basic authority yet, with a heart open to be touched to be able understand the complexities people experience.

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

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Ministering as a leader in a leader-hostile environment…

In the latest article on Livets Ord in the Christian Daily “Dagen”, we read about “Power” or more specific about leadership. I am one of the leaders in a multi-cultural church with a majority of Swedish members and others representing approximately 40 nations. Within this context we are learning a lot about leadership. As leaders in our different churches we are called to contextualize our way of being Church, being leaders and also how we present the message that God has entrusted to us through His word. Like I said, we are learning a lot about leadership (mainly through mistakes) as we are facing expectations, demands, theological viewpoints and experiences of cultural emphasized ways of leadership.

First of all it is important to conclude that there is more to leadership and even Biblical leadership that what we perceive to be true within our Swedish cultural context. There are many people in our churches who are used to the fact that leadership is exercised through consensus. Actually we are brought up in that kind of social environment which, if one dares to be honest, is far removed from the Biblical perspective on leadership. I dare say that we have a leadership hostile environment within the nation which has also permeated the Church in Sweden.

I have lived and ministered in five different nations (Holland, Sweden, USA, the Philippines and Japan) and besides that ministered in another 15-20 nations. In all of these nations there have been very different perspectives on what Christian leadership (or Biblical leadership) is all about. Even within our own church we have the two extremes with groups of people who have the deepest conviction that the pastor is to tell what is to happen while at the same time we have many who will always look for total consensus in vision, decisions and processes.

The fact of the matter is that many of our opinions about leadership in Sweden are culturally, rather than Biblically determined. It is not strange that a leadership style as practiced by Ulf Ekman is questioned, evaluated and scrutinized until the bone by many of us who are culturally inclined to go against any form of leadership which is not based on consensus. To my opinion; Sweden is a leadership hostile environment! Many of my Swedish (!) colleagues who are part of other church traditions than Livets Ord express so often their frustration how difficult it is to be a leader in a church in Sweden, and many actually leave the ministry because they cannot cope with the mechanisms of leadership within the rather rigid structures and praxis that we have formed within our churches.

Having said that, how do I look at leadership? Here are some pointers:

All the effective leaders I have encountered-both those I worked with and those I merely watched-knew four simple things:

1. The only definition of a leader is someone who has “followers”. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders.

2. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He or she is someone “whose followers” do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are.

3. Leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples.

4. Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money. It is responsibility.

Another main question is what do these leaders do?
Regardless of their almost limitless diversity with respect to personality, style, abilities, and interests, the effective leaders I have met, worked with, and observed also behaved much the same way:

1. They did not start out with the question, “What do I want?” They started out asking, “What needs to be done?

2. Then they asked, “What can and should I do to make a difference?” This has to be something that both needs to be done and fits the leader’s strengths and the way she or he is most effective.

3. They constantly asked, “What are the organization’s mission and goals.

4. They were extremely tolerant of diversity in people and did not look for carbon copies of themselves. It rarely even occurred to them to ask, “Do I like or dislike this person?”

5. They were not afraid of strength in the people working with them. Whether they had heard of it or not, their motto was what Andrew Carnegie wanted to have put on his tombstone: “Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself.”

6. One way or another, they submitted themselves to the “mirror test“-that is, they made sure that the person they saw in the mirror in the morning was the kind of person they wanted to be, respect, and believe in. This way they equipped themselves against the leader’s greatest temptations-to do things that are popular rather than right things.

7. Finally, these effective leaders were not preachers; they were doers. I read a story the other day about a student who had read different historical books, he said: “Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence. Why was it?” The teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, “Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying.”

Dear friends, if we want to look at this difficult and complex subject of Biblical leadership let us ask ourselves; “Am I willing to die for the sheep that God has entrusted us/me?” If you can say “Yes” you might be on your way becoming a leader God has set His heart on!

That’s the Way I see it for now… God bless you,

John

PS… Check my article about leadership and an invitation to become a member of an union for pastors here in Sweden. DS


Trust in Lust – the new approach to relationships! Sex sells, sell sex, xxx

Apoteket AB (drugstore, or pharmacy) has since 1970 a national monopoly position in Sweden. Until now, rubbers (condoms) and chewing gum (some kind of rubber) can be found located on the same shelf (NO! There is logic behind it!).

Soon however, to be precise on June 23, our national health store will with the help of RFSU present the “Trust in Lust” line of design of sex toys and change their image to a kind of kinky Afrodites pharmacy. The Afrodites pharmacy under leadership of erotic educationalist Ylva Franzén has continued to evolve and might have become the role model in the transformation of our national pride as they already offer products like: orgasm classes, orgasm coaching and designer dildos.

Whether this initiative is a strategic effort to raise the stocks of our nationally renowned pharmacy as it will be put up for sale latest by January 1, 2009 or, if this is yet another tasteless and un-thoughtful Big Brother State attempt trying to educate and support its citizens sex lives beyond the threshold of privacy – we might never know! Honestly I don’t want to know!

According to different articles and press releases, on many sites and publications it has become time —-“to welcome sex toys out in the open into the daylight”! “The Trust in Lust” product line has been developed through much research and evaluation by the RFSU and all the personnel of Apoteket has been trained by RFSU! “OH MY G…!” (Read how much I trust the RFSU in “Guidelines for teenagers who want sex – RFSU hands off”).

Let’s be honest, the catchy product line “Trust in Lust” says it all, trust your animal like instincts and uncontrolled lingering volcano-like lust boiling within your limbs: that will set you free! Right!

How different is the approach by God as He through Jesus and the apostle John addresses the deeper motives and pitfalls of humankind leading to distortion and de-humanized approaches of the same and/or opposite sex through lust. (Some might call this yet another “underlivs” (genital area) theology… I don’t care what you think, I do care what God thinks of this:

Matthew 5: 27-28 ”You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.” 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

1 John 2: 16 “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world”.

We don’t need yet another effort to make overtly public that which belongs to the privacy of people. Big Brother hands off! (I totally agree with Per Gudmunsson ” Sell Apoteket fast so that we won’t have to explain these (awkward) matters for our international guests!)

That’s the Way I see it!

John

PS. How does this approach and unwanted public product placement in the stores affect our multi-cultural (orthodoxmuslimcatholicjewishchristianbuddhistshintoistetc) citizens as this is shoved down their throats?! Culturally sensitive BS? DS (I mean)