There are many examples in the Old Testament where it seems like God has a lot of rules that do not make sense to people of modern sensibilities. One of the most controversial centers around Leviticus 18:22, where it says, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.” This seems to mean that homosexuality is an abomination. It does not say homosexuals are an abomination. It is talking about the act of homosexuality. People seem to pick and choose what they are offended by and what they are not offended by in the Old Testament. Leviticus 18:23, the very next verse talks about bestiality: “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast or defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.” In Western society today, most people accept that having sex with animals is gross and disgusting. People are becoming very tolerant on the issue of homosexuality, however, and increasingly so. Since the Old Testament has been written by more than one person and not every word has come directly from God, people feel as though they can select which part of the Bible they agree with, and reject the rest. However, many times I feel that people simply do not understand the import of what is being written. Here are a few examples:
In Leviticus 15:19-24, it talks about how a man should not have sexual relations with a woman who is menstruating because she is temporarily unclean. I have heard the joke that women will never tell a man when they are menstruating, so how is the man to know? My answer to this is that if he is not married to her, then he should not be having sex with her. If he is married to her, then of course he is going to know when she is menstruating. Modern societal theory states that it is ridiculous for men and women not to have sex together before they are married. But a person’s default rationale should be: God is perfect. If He has an opinion on something, and I have an opinion on something, I will go with His. Think of the problems that are avoided from a practical perspective if people do not have sex outside of marriage. Disease does not come from one man having sex with one woman. Epidemics have not arisen because of such behaviour. Unwanted pregnancies do not happen. Lives are not changed for the worse. Life is much simpler and many believe that a simple life is the most happy life.
Another example of confusion exists concerning Exodus 35:2. People think it is extreme that should someone should be put to death if they break the Sabbath, and work on the sacred day. I interpret this to mean that a person, by not honouring the Sabbath, is killing themselves spiritually. If we do not take a day to rest and reflect, then we harm our own spirituality. I do break the Sabbath, although I didn’t use to. I used to be very careful about that. I hope to get back to the point where I honour it better. But I would also like to make the point that all of these rules that are discussed in the Old Testament of the Bible are designed to make us happier. God is perfect. He loves us perfectly. He wants us to be happy. Giving one day of the week to Him does not seem like that much. It helps us. We give a gift of sacrifice, and receive even larger gifts in return. Many people tithe 10% of their income to help the poor. In a way, honouring the Sabbath is like tithing 1/7 of our time. We are helping ourselves become less spiritually poor.
Leviticius 21:20 says that we cannot approach God with a defect in our eye. I think this means that if we have an awareness of guilt that we have done something wrong and have not repented of it, then we are going to ourselves feel unworthy to be in the presence of God. I have read that we will decide ourselves partly if we belong in Heaven in the next life. Our guilt will keep us from accepting presence there. I think this verse expresses the same idea. If we have a blemish then we will not feel comfortable with God. Of course, as human beings, we all have blemishes. But the point is that as long as we are repenting, and genuinely attempting to be a better person, then we are going to, because of the Atonement, be comfortable in the presence of God.
A final example I would like to discuss is the passage in the Bible that talks about how the sins of the parents will be visited on the children (Exodus 20:5). People react with horror to this verse, saying how cruel it is. However, I have a different take. I think it means that because of natural law, people who make certain bad decisions will inflict negative consequences not only upon themselves, but also upon their children. For example, if a mother becomes addicted to drugs while pregnant, her child will no doubt be born already addicted to the drug in question. The sins of the mother is then visited on the child, through no fault of the child. That is cruel. The mother is cruel for doing that to her body. It is not God who is being cruel. We often blame God for negative events that have been caused solely by humankind.
I will never convince anyone with these words that God exists, that He loves us perfectly, and that the Old Testament is necessary reading for everyone, if they do not already agree with me, probably. But my main point is that God will not be mocked. People can put their own interpretation on what is being said in these verses, but my hope is that people use as a default the position that God is right. If we disagree with Him, we are wrong. We are not perfect. He is.
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