Monday, 4 July 2011

‘It’s another grey area!’

Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
‘But He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me Satan thou art an offence (σκάνδαλον) unto me for thou savourest not the things that be of God but those that be of men’ (Matt. 16:22,23)

Of course, this probably wasn’t what Anglican Mainstream had in mind when they used the word ‘scandal’ in the context of their quoted response to the 2005 pastoral statement on Civil Partnerships. Nevertheless, the meaning of the word, scandal has changed considerably from its Greek root. A far cry from the idea of public disgrace is a word originally describing the small twig covered with bait that collapses under pressure to close a trap, thereby restraining or killing the unwitting prey. Peter’s misleading advice would be a collapsing twig, if relied upon during the onslaught of Christ’s necessary suffering as the rejected Messiah, the Lamb of God. It would thwart His prophetic role in delivering our salvation and the conclusive indictment on the guilt of that, or all other societies that superficially embrace the rule of God. The church should remember that even to this day.

The cross itself was to Jews a σκάνδαλον (1 Cor. 1:23), repulsive to those who superficially could not see God’s salvation behind its indelible mark of divinely imposed shame. The σκάνδαλον is merely the inadvertent trigger of a moral calamity, but it is connected to the trap of discouraging adherence to God’s scripturally revealed purpose. By this means, it causes actual harm to the mission of the church. In spite of Peter’s best intentions, Jesus knew that paying attention to ‘the things of men’ was a diversion from His priorities which, if it continued, would jeopardise the primary mission of the Messiah as revealed in scripture. What things divert us from our scripturally revealed priorities in life?

Christ indicated that these triggers of moral calamity are impossible to prevent, but those causing them reap divine rejection: ‘Woe unto the world because of offences (σκανδάλων)! for it is necessary that offences (σκανδάλα) come; but woe to that man by whom the offence (σκανδάλων) comes.’ (Matt. 18:7)

For Christ, even in the twilight of the widespread defection from God, His commitment to His scriptural purpose remained ‘black and white’. He was following the ‘Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow’ (Jas 1:17)

Yes, Isaiah predicted the era of grace and yet he declared, ‘To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn’ (Is. 8:20)

So, morality, sexual or otherwise, is not as grey as it seems.