What is the kinsman redeemer?

There are two main duties of a kinsman redeemer.  Both revolve around the death of a man’s brother.

In the first case, if a brother died, the man had a responsibility to take care of his brother’s widow.  Not only this but he was to marry her and father children in his brother’s name.  They would receive his brother’s inheritance, the land that the man took care of.  This was a sacred duty and not an easy one as the man would essentially be paying to raise two families.  If the brother rejected his right as kinsman redeemer the next in line could claim it.  This is what happened in the story of Ruth when Boaz agreed to marry her.  He was not the first in line as her kinsman redeemer and had to have the closest relative to her waive his right to redeem her ex husband’s property.

The other right of a kinsman redeemer involved if a brother was wrongfully killed.  The kinsman redeemer could seek out justice and hunt down his brother’s killer.  If it was an accident the killer could flee to one of twelve cities of refuge.  There the elders of the city would hear what happened and determine the proper punishment.  If the man left the city of refuge his blood was on his own head if the kinsman redeemer sought justice for his brother’s wrongful death.  In the case of a deliberate killing – murder – there were no cities of refuge and the kinsman redeemer was entitled to act as his brother’s avenger.

Why did God allow polygamy in the Bible?

It would appear that polygamy is something that is tolerated rather than approved.  Just as Jesus noted that Moses allowed divorce because the people’s hearts were hard, it seems as if polygamy is something that is less than ideal.

The first instance of polygamy in the Bible is early in Genesis 4:19.  Lamech is noted to have two wives.  Lamech is also very wicked and boasts about killing a man for wounding him.  While we shouldn’t associate polygamy with wickedness just for this reason it is noteworthy that our first instance of polygamy comes from a very wicked man.

There is one place in the Bible that allows for polygamy.  In a levirate marriage a man is called upon to marry his brother’s widow in the event of his brother’s death.  This assured that the widow would be taken care of.  It also allowed for the brother’s line to continue as all children born to the widow would be considered legally to be the brother’s and they would inherit the brother’s property.

Some suggest that polygamy occurs in the ancient world as a matter of convenience.  This may or may not be the case, but here is the argument anyway.  Because of wars and a more physical lifestyle, men died younger and often before reaching marrying age as they tended to be older than their brides.  This created a shortage of available husbands.  Because women were most often untrained and uneducated they required a man to protect them.  While the father could take of them eventually he would die so it was far better to be a second wife to a man than to be left to fend for herself.  Whether this was actually the thinking of the time is questionable but the argument does make sense.

There is a very good and spiritual reason why men are allowed multiple wives but women are not allowed multiple husbands.  It is to preserve the sanctity of the family.  If a man with multiple wives impregnates his wife, it is clear who the father and mother are.  However, if a woman has multiple husbands and she becomes pregnant, it is not clear who the father may be. 

While there is not a recorded command forbidding polygamy by the time of the New Testament it did not exist.  Polygamy was not an issue in the Roman empire.  1 Timothy 3:2 states that church leaders should be “the husband of one wife.”  This would seem to imply that spiritual leaders should not practice polygamy.

When did polygamy stop in the Bible?

Polygamy begins early in Genesis 4:19 with Lamech having two wives.  Nothing good is associated with Lamech as he thumbs his nose at God and boasts of murdering another man some time after Cain killed Abel.  While this does not automatically make polygamy wrong, it is worth noting that our first instance of it comes from a very evil man.

Several Bible characters of note had multiple wives including Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon.  Despite this, we don’t get the impression that this was ever the norm and was never expressed as ideal.  There is one instance in which God calls for multiple wives – the kinsman redeemer.  If a man’s brother dies that man is to marry his brother’s widow, to take care of her, and to father children in his brother’s name in order to keep his family line going.  The story of Ruth is about a kinsman redeemer.  Closer relatives refused to do their duty so Boaz took Ruth as his wife.  While Boaz is not noted as being married previously the law of the kinsman redeemer allowed for multiple wives in this case.

There is no official end to polygamy in the Bible.  There is little mention of it after Solomon and his son Rehoboam however.  While Solomon’s sin did not lie with having multiple wives but in marrying foreign women and worshipping foreign gods, it seems that Israel took note of the problem.  Multiple wives brought about trouble and if even the wisest man on earth, Solomon, could not keep from sinning the rest of Israel stood no chance.

In the New Testament polygamy was not an issue in the Roman world.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:2 that a requirement for spiritual leadership was to be the “husband of one wife.”  Some take this to imply that church leaders should only be men while others imply that it is in reference to divorce.  In either case, it seems clear that polygamy was not accepted within the church.

Can a Christian be forgiven if they won’t forgive?

The difficulty with the Christian life is that despite being Christians we aren’t perfect.  This means that at times we may hold grudges and not be willing to forgive just the same as a Christian may continue to struggle with issues such as lust, lying, or anger.

Just because we are not perfect does not mean that we stop striving for perfection though.  We must constantly be working to better ourselves and forgiveness is a big area.  In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  People who pray that pray are asking that God forgive them on the basis that they have forgiven others.  Anyone who prays that prayer and who has not forgiven someone else is essentially asking God not to forgive them.  This is obviously a serious issue.

There are two kinds of forgiveness in Christianity.  The first is the forgiveness of our sins at the time of salvation.  Our sins are erased on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross.  Every Christian has this and it can’t be undone.  What some Christians don’t have is the daily forgiveness of their sins.  As mentioned earlier we are not perfect and continue to sin even after we become Christians.  As before we were saved sin affects our relationship with God.  The more we sin, the worse our relationship with God. 

Daily asking forgiveness of our sins not only keeps our relationship right with God, it keeps our focus on Him.  It reminds us that our forgiveness is from God and has nothing to do with how “holy” we are.  A person who won’t forgive others has no right to ask God to continue to forgive them however and their relationship with God suffers.

In Matthew 18 Jesus told a parable about a man who was forgiven a debt that he could never repay by the king.  However that man went and held another man to a much smaller debt that was owed to him.  When the king heard about this he was furious and had the man thrown into prison for his inability to forgive a debt despite the fact that he had a much greater one forgiven.  Some believe that this passage warns of a loss of salvation while others hold that salvation can never truly be lost.  Whatever one’s interpretation is, everyone can agree upon the fact that the situation is not good and the man should have forgiven the small debt as he had been forgiven a great one.

Christians should be forgiving, plain and simple.  It may not affect one’s salvation but it definitely affects one’s relationship with God.

Bible Questions and Answers

After a couple of months off during a tumultuous summer I am back to doing web projects.  While I fear that I am never going to complete all of my projects I keep coming up with new ideas.  Fortunately I have a lot better follow through with my Christian related sites and ideas than I do with any other projects.

My newest project is up and running already.  Fortunately it is designed to be quickly expandable and relies on the questions of other Christians.  Bible Questions and Answers is designed to answer the questions of Christians about what it means to be a Christian, issues of theology, questions about passages in the Bible, and just about anything else that people come up with.

I got this idea from another pastor who did a sermon series based on questions from people in the church.  I’m doing the same thing in October at my church and I’m using the questions submitted as a starter for the site.  I figure if people from my church are asking these question, lots of of Christians must be asking the same questions.  So a new site was born.

I’m also working on another site which I hope to have up in a relatively short amount of time.  I could have things up this week if I have a good week or I might get distracted.  I have everything I need, I just need to do some time intensive work of copying from notes to the site.  After that it will be very low maintenance which is something I really like for websites.

What is a Christian?

What is a Christian is one of the simplest and most complex questions that can be asked.  Within Christianity there is a definite divide between Protestantism and Catholicism.  There is also Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal which started as a branch off of Catholicism that allowed divorce and is now somewhere between Protestant and Catholic.  Add in the hundreds if not thousands of denominations that have differing views on the Bible and its interpretation and the question, “What is a Christian?” become very complex.

It’s best to remain simple and basic on this question.  Once things start getting adding it gets difficult and ugly and ultimately that’s how the divisions came about in the first place.  A Christian is anyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior.  This means that they have acknowledged that they are a sinner.  They believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins.  They have asked God to forgive them of their sins on this basis.  I fully believe that anyone who does this is a Christian and is saved.

What most people mean when they ask “What is a Christian?” is really “What does a good Christian look like?”  If a person commits such and such a sin, are they really a Christian?  If a person doesn’t go to church every Sunday or isn’t forgiving, are they really a Christian?  Christians are not perfect and they are going to slip up and sin.  Some Christians slip up more than others and some are much more mature than others. 

The mark of a mature Christian is best seen in the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Mature Christians are going to demonstrate these things consistently.  Immature Christians are going to be lacking them as they take time to develop.  Showing possession of the fruit of the Spirit is a good indication that a person is a genuine Christian.  The reverse is not true however.  Just because they don’t show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives does not mean that they are not a Christian, it may just mean that they are an immature Christian.  There are many immature Christians in the world and they should be striving to be better Christians.

The end of summer

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer and I must say that this summer can’t be over soon enough now.  What began as a summer full of excitement quickly turned to frustration and despair.  Beginning around the 4th of July weekend my wife starting getting sick with her pregnancy.  As basically every woman in my church tried to reassure me, every woman goes through varying degrees of morning sickness.  Unfortunately I’ve also discovered that this is practically a competition among women to say who had the worst morning sickness.

While morning sickness was definitely a factor this was not my wife’s only problem and for the entire month I couldn’t leave her alone.  Despite the fact that I work from my home office, this caused some people to accuse me of not doing my full job.  I will always maintain that as much as I love the church, my wife comes first.  In fact if I can’t take care of my family, I’m not much of a pastor because the church structure (at least ideally) is based on the family model.  While other people take days off to tend to sick children, spouses, or parents, unless I take an entire week off, my workload doesn’t decrease.  No one accepts the excuse of “that was my day off” for not being visited in the hospital or being tended to for whatever their problem is.

July ended with my wife having a miscarriage.  We were assured by the doctors that it had nothing to do with my wife being sick and nothing that either of us did, these things just happen and unfortunately quite often.  Nevertheless, this does little to dull the pain.  Three other pastors failed in offering any words of comfort during this time – one actually made me feel worse after the fact.  The truth is that there are no true words of comfort to offer in such a time.  Others who have gone through the experience can sympathize a bit more but still I believe that each experience is very personal.

One thing that I can offer to anyone trying to console someone else going through the pain of miscarriage is to never pretend like the child is replaceable and the woman will be pregant again in no time.  While we had no trouble getting pregnant I’ve seen that many who have had heartbreaking miscarriages also had trouble getting pregnant in the first place, sometimes taking years.  Beyond that a child is not replaceable.  It does not matter if the parents never got to know their child, from the moment they found out they were pregnant they had hopes and dreams for the child and all of those dreams died with that child.  Telling a grieving parent that they will be pregnant again soon is like telling a grieving spouse that they will find someone else and get remarried soon.  There is no replacement.  Even though people mean well in saying it, they really aren’t words of comfort.

After two months – one month of tending to my wife and another of picking up the pieces – life is starting to return to normal a bit.  My wife and I are strong and with God’s help we will make it through this.  The week after the miscarriage I was able to stand in front of my church and say that despite all that had happened, God is still good and He’s still with us.  I know that I’m the exception but I have never questioned why God allowed this to happen or became angry or complained that it was unfair.  I have repeatedly told people that God did not abandon them in times or trial nor fail them when their prayers weren’t answered the way they hoped.  I not only have to believe this as well, I truly do believe it.

And so life goes on.  I don’t know precisely what life holds in store for us right now.  I certainly don’t know precisely why this happened, only that my wife and I are going to be stronger from the experience.  Right now I’m using the changing of the seasons to put a symbolic close to a very difficult and painful season of my life.  And I know that a month from now and a year from now I will still be able to say as I do today that God is still good despite all that has taken place.