Bible Study and Peacemaking 2007

posted Mar 17, 2009, 10:15 PM by J. B. Adams III   [ updated Mar 17, 2009, 10:26 PM by Melanie Adams ]
Bible Study on Peacemaking 
The highlights of the Year. 
Part I,   by J. B. Adams III

    Our Wednesday Bible study, began as a “Seasoned Citizen’s” Project and moved to 4:30 PM to include others. It has become the spiritual highlight of the year. It is not possible in so short a space to summarize a one and a half hours - once a week - Bible study, but it is possible to give a bare bones outline of our “Peacemaking” study.
    To quickly focus on the issues of Peacemaking - and what it is not - which grow out of Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemaker for they shall be called the children of God.” [NRSV], we went to the words of Jesus from Luke 12:51* Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! Or the other version from Matthew 10:34* “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
    There is a huge difference between peacemaking and “peacekeeping” for the victors almost want to impose their “peacekeeping’” on the vanquished and end up substituting one form of injustice for another. It is the unresolved “peacekeeping” which the liberals of our denomination did to the ultra conservatives in our churches after we accepted the full equality of women in the denomination. The liberals fought to remain in the denomination when the fundamentalists fought to drive them out, but liberals in turn drove out the fundamentalist over their touch stone of liberal orthodoxy, but more of that later as to how “we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature .. . . [and still need to learn] to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom and peace.”
    Peacemaking from the Hebrew word “shalom” is more than the absence of war and conflict. Peace keepers are interested in keeping down the conflict in the hope that something - anything - will resolve the difficulties. “Peacemaking” is aimed directly at ending the divisions though specific procedures and practices. It is not repression and leaving to chance or happenstance the resolution of problems. When Jesus suggested that no one enters the kingdom of God except as a child, he may have been pointing out how children can fight and make up when all the attitudes are out in the open, but the parents continue the fight long after the children are reconciled.
    The Hebrew word “shalom” or peace means "well being” and fullness, complete  health and even prosperity. One part of the body cannot be healthy while another part is sick. One part cannot be joyful while another part is sad or tortured. So peacemaking at its best is the bringing of true health and happiness to all of humanity. “You ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee!” So in our Bible study we looked an many passages where the English Bible used a different word to translate “peace” that limits our understanding of the vast breadth of meaning for shalom.
Scripture Alone
    Our Bible study was confined to scripture alone, but we did risk the only sin that the liberals of the church really work at avoiding: the sin of proof texting! If you wonder why liberals quote scripture so little - even when it is to their advantage to do so - it is so they will not risk committing the first unforgivable sin of proof texting. (We will look at the other unforgivable sin later.) We brought scripture together from everywhere in the Bible to apply to a given subject.
    Our criteria for picking out scripture and bringing it together was really very simple: Revelation 22:18 I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19* and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. The Old Testament parallel is Ecclesiastes 3:14* I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. So we look at all the scripture on given subjects that most conservatives and liberals had taken from the Bible by ignoring it.
    We looked at the confrontation between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16:23 “But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”” Then the division s between Peter and Paul and Paul and Barnabas from Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. Acts 15:38, 39  But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.
    We looked at how Jesus could  not tell his disciples what they were not ready for any more than he can tell us what we are not ready for: Mark 4:33b Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
    And we looked and how Jesus would not let his disciples preform mission journeys that their own prejudice would destroy.  Matthew 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,”  But as they grew under his leadership he could finally include in the great commission: Mark 16:15* And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
Both Men and Women
    The “whole of creation” especially means both women and men. The society thinks that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, so our Bible study moved to peacemaking between men and women. Most of the scripture texts we used had been shared with our sibling church through the pastor of Christ Liberation Fellowship. Since their denomination does not ordain women, they fall into the same theological camp as the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Southern Baptists, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and even Islam.
    That is a pretty large section of our world society. As Presbyterian we may disdain to relate through the Local, State, National and World Council of Churches with religious bodies who will not ordain woman, but many will not touch with a ten foot pole our sibling churches who do not ordain women. The tragedy of not making peace with our sibling Presbyterian churches was pointed by Louisville when they stated there are still 300 PC (USA) that have yet to ordain a women elder. The fear/hatred that the other shoe will drop - that they will either leave or be driven out, makes it one of the many  900 pound gorillas no one in our Presbytery wants to acknowledge. When we or they say from 1 Corinthians 12:21 “I have no need of you” I think we miss something.
    Our peacemaking Bible study is looking at that gorilla to see where in scripture it came from. If one pivotal point in the history of Israel was in 1 Samuel 8:19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20 so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
    When Samuel tried to warn in 1 Samuel 8:11, 13, 16 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots;  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work.”
    If Israel was to be a peculiar people and yet they wanted to be “like nations,” don’t think that was the only thing they took from all the other nations. If a=2 0king has those powers over his subjects, why should not every man be such a king over the few subjects he has: women, slaves and children. If Abraham could try to pawn his wife off as his sister to save his own neck, why should not Lot be allowed to consider pawning his daughters off in Sodom to save the male messengers.
A Peculiar People
    So if the “peculiar people” of old want to mimic the people of their day, who is to say if we are mimicking the people of our day. The Bible study helps us look at the temptation to use power and authority over others. Jesus states in Luke 22:25, 26 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. And in John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
    How is it then that men can try to command a kingly role over women, or the counterpoint in the matriarchal society and use authority to demand submission? If there is no difference between a male chauvinist pig and a female chauvinist sow, it is incumbent on the “peculiar people” to have something else to offer as an alternative society which is call the kingdom of God. The good news of the gospel is mutual submission to all by all: a very radical doctrine. If NASA tried it and succeeded on getting a man on the moon in spite of military authoritarian egos, and corporate power structures that will not share proprietary patents, why should the church not be anxious to share the message of the kingdom that is based on friendship rather than authoritarian conforming power.
    Our peacemaking Bible study looked at how the disciples treated women, children and non-Jews and how Jesus told Parables about Samaritans, women seeking a coin, and children as the basis for kingdom entrance. The Rabbinic prayer of thanking God they were not “a women, a Gentile or a dog” focuses all the prejudice of that age with the Canaanite woman who wanted Jesus to heal her Gentile daughter. Those with no humor saw Jesus’ response as un feeling and they would rather worship the woman, But those who remembered that prayer could see his playful spirit that tenderly confronted his disciples prejudice.
    While that passage is open to multiple interpretations, the authoritarian left is faced with their own dilemma. We are to all be of one mind: as long as it is their mind. For to allow multiple interpretations would mean that other passages could have multiple interpretations: including those who still believe it is possible to force wives to be subject to their husbands. It might allow for a democratic family and even a wife as head of men. If sin permeates all of society, yet God loves us while we are yet sinners, why should the only unforgivable sin - higher even than proof texting  - be so terrible as to necessitate removal from the church? It could allow “local option” for a family or a church not to ordain women, but it cannot happen when one group has authority over another.
Taught Accurately Yet More Accurately
    Our Bible study addressed that issue with Acts 18:24-26 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately.
    If we have lived by that scripture in the PC (USA), we would have been “more accurate” in our teaching instead of relying on power and authority to drive the Apollos’ s out of the church. Instead we justified the ordination of women on anthropological, sociol ogical, psychological and politically correct reasons that come frorm the very society we are to be distinct form. The unique references to Priscilla and Aquila and then Aquila and Priscilla, in which each time the first name is changed to the second named of the couple hints at the breaking of male domination of a rigid society.
    Our Bible study looked closely at the many stories that broke the mold of the first century church as a male dominated society. Saul of Tarsus was so incensed that the followers of “the Way” destroyed the basis of the patriarchal Jewish family structure, that he went out to arrest “both men and women” That the women should be subjected to the same arrest can only be interpreted as their doing the same thing as the men who deserved arrest: where women were not allowed in the main part of the synagogue. Both should be arrested since there is no liberation of the oppressed woman until the oppressive man is liberated from his need for authoritarian oppress.
Neither Male Nor female
If it was not spelled out as clearly as I am here making it, then listed to how Paul, after his conversion, addresses the subject from our Bible study quotes: Galatians 3:27-28  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Or look at how even Peter addresses the gentiles - before he backslid and needed to be confronted by Paul: 1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be=2 0subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Is the only place a man need not be humble is in relation to women at home or in the church?
    Or in today’s world are women allowed to be arrogant against whose whose conscience will not let them ordain women or those who honestly believe a man is to be head of his household. If Peter could back track about eating with gentiles, are there no Paulines who can confront as Paul did and are there no Priscillas and Aquilas who can teach the Bible  more accurately: unless they have the power to run them out of the church if they fail to heed their teaching?
    We look at Paul’s restatement of the Peter principal of equality in submission, we find the reason behind the principal: Galatians 5:6* For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. If it was from love that we drove our siblings out of our denomination, what about the others growing up in those churches where there is no one to support women in their call from God to serve God in ordained eldes or ministries? If it is my way or the highway, when it come to strategies of share the good news of God’s kingdom to oppressed women, is not that exactly with the fundamentalist tried and failed to do. So are we looking with pride on our power and authority to drive “them” out of he church?
The Truth that Sets Us Free
    Our Bible study looked at  John 8:32  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  We could see how we are little different from Peter backtracking or rather playing both sides of the street by going out to defend Jesus from the arrest with a dagger clocked in our garb. So we draw the dagger forgetting that the truth is a two edged sword - that cuts in both directions and it is always the innocent servant who gets hurt. And then our own embarrassment keeps us on the fringe of things when we can no longer be helpful. But the truth that sets others free, is also the truth that sets us free as well.
    If Jesus is “the way the truth and the life”, then the truth we learn in scripture can bear witness to the truth of what Jesus said about his sending the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance “all that I have said to you.”  We looked at how powerful is the need for the promised Holy Spirit because the synoptic gospels all stated that without a parable he did not speak and his disciples always resented the fact that they did not understand what he was driving at. The few times when they did understand, they jubilantly said so: John 16:29 His dis ciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech!
    If it happened to the disciples, is it any wonder that many Christians today still fail to grasp the meaning of the radical equality Jesus brought into the world. Luke 18:34 But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. John 12:16* His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. If we can have compassion for the disciples who lived with him and still misunderstood Jesus, can we not find compassion for those who continue to misunderstand his message: that if God as king (or queen) does not order us around, how can we order others around: instead of witnessing to what the Holy Spirit can do for the church.
Milk or Solid Food
    In our Bible study we looked at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:2 “I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready.”  So why should we feel we no longer have an obligation to share the truth “more accurately” with those who still do no understand the radical equality of the kingdom of God? If we say “their” eye is not a part of the body of Christ because they“see men; but they look like trees, walking,”  or if some Christians need a second touch from the master’s hand to see the kingdom of God as it really is, I suspect the second touch will involve answers to the questions: if God is the same yesterday, today and for ever, how can we account for the glacial slowness of the progress of peace and justice for women? Do we see now as a “fullness of time” prophesied in the Old Testament?
    Those questions of why the “progress” in the New Testament church from radical equality to a return to “unequal” submission is part of the focus of our Bible study in the weeks ahead. We did look at how in Samuel’s time both men and women in Israel internalized a “kingly” concept from the people of the land, but how did the followers of the Way return to it over time. Our Bible study saw the first step when it took the mutual submission from Ephesians 5;21-22 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. but started their admonitions with the 22 ver se: Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
    They jumped down to Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  First, they overlooked the phrase “in the Lord”  and then they applied it to wives instead of children. It was missing or replace in Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord.  With the added significance of Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything,”  it is not hard to see how the Judaizers in Paul’s day would want to return to the obedience to Torah models of the Old Testament and want women to also obey “in everything.”  If the submission so eloquently lauded by Southern Baptist women is so great, why should not men also learn from it? That is what New Testament mutual submission in the kingdom of God is all about.
    Our Bible study will take us further down the road to see more of the truth that sets us all free.