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A View from the Altar / Because I said so…
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Because I said so…

I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy, for I am holy…   — Leviticus 11:44KJV

Baptist Theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong often quoted from the poet Tennyson saying, “Right is right and wrong is wrong because God is God.”  This reflects a deeper understanding about the nature of morality than many people ever attain to.

The human heart has a craving to know why things are right or wrong, and I hasten to add that this craving is not wrong.  Rightly used, it should lead us to understand the nature of God.  The Creator is holy — so holy that the angels cover their faces in his presence (Isa 6:2), and the stars are not pure in his sight (Job 25:5).  When the word of God proceeds from his mouth, it is God-breathed, so it carries with it the character and purity of God.  His law, then, bears along with it a living element of utmost moral perfection.

Suppose one of God’s children were to ask the reason for a certain commandment.  “Father, why have you commanded this?”  What might be the answer?  If the Lord were to say, “You must do this command because I said so,” that would be a far different thing from an earthly father who says the same thing.  An earthly father might give that answer because he’s callous and overbearing, or because he simply doesn’t have time to explain  himself.  Even a very kind father might need to reply that way to a small child incapable of understanding adult reasons.

God is a father also, but not merely a father.  His commandments emerge alive and perfectly formed from a heart that is holy beyond all our power of comprehension.  His law is not a list of really good suggestions to invigorate and enrich the creature.  Instead, God’s law reveals him.  The Secular Man doesn’t know God and sees no reason for the commandment, so he feels entitled to disregard it.  The Christian wonders why such and such a thing is forbidden but obeys anyway.  The trusting child of God asks the next question: What is there about this thing that conflicts with the way God is?  Why is he displeased with this?

Many of God’s commands forbid whatever does immediate damage.  The Secular Man says we ought not lie because deceit harms our neighbor, which is true, but not the whole truth.  Back of this is a God of truth who cannot lie, whose word is truth, and whose living Word became incarnate as the embodiment of truth and grace.  Since we’re made in his image, we ought to reflect that glory before one another and before hosts of heavenly witnesses.  Faith, the evidence of things not seen, perceives reasons beyond mortal practicality.  Love, which believes all things (1 Cor 13:7), beholds the nail-pierced Captain and knows he could never be arbitrary or cruel.  To be told that the law is for our good and God’s glory is not an evasion to such a heart.

The modern mind finds God’s law on sexual mores particularly inexplicable.  I’ve recently been asked why being a transvestite should be considered sinful.  After all, “how does it hurt anybody else if some guy wants to dress like a woman?”

Actually, the Bible doesn’t give any reason for forbidding cross-dressing other than that God finds it offensive.  (Dt 22:5)  God’s displeasure is an explanation that quickens the heart that loves Jesus and imparts understanding.  The guy who is looking to prove a point (or disprove one) feels like his question got brushed off.

Should we construe this to mean God has no other reasons?  No, but even if there actually were no other reasons, God’s command should be respected and obeyed as the absolute standard of perfection and holiness.  You can put Bro. Steve in the category of People With Deep Misgivings About Pragmatic Morality.  Not only does it lack any final authority, but you’re prone to err when you approve of anything that doesn’t appear to overtly damage the other guy.  That’s a functional standard for grand juries to use when considering a criminal indictment.  It won’t do when we stand before God, because the function of the commandment is not merely to prevent damage to your neighbor.  It’s also to prevent offending God.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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