Monday, June 16, 2014

More than one sin

Sometimes we behave as if there was only one sin a woman in the Bible could commit. Mary Magdalene for example, there is nothing to suggest that she committed some sexual sin. Call someone a Jezebel and where does our mind go?

We forget that Jezabel was the wife of the King of Israel. Her great sin, as we see in today's reading, was not adultery; it was a well-intended lie and speaking in someone else's name.

Jezabel who holds no office writes letters in her husband's name. Her husband had attempted to buy a piece of land from the neighbor and the neighbor said no. The king is depressed. And so she writes letters to the nobles in his name, has them accuse the neighbor of blasphemy and the neighbor ends up stoned to dead. And the land is now available to Ahab, the king.

Was her intention to help her husband? Yes. But a lie is still a lie. She had no right to write in his name. If the king had wanted to do this, he would have. He didn't. He understood the limits of his power. If you remember, God never wanted his people to have human kings, but when they insisted God gave them a king, and warned them about the seductive nature of power.

In the modern age we still see this. When I used to work with the military the derogatory phrase to describe the behavior was "wearing her husband's rank", spouses behaving as if they had rank or honor. Closer to home, in the Church we have the wives of deacons who can fall into behaving as if Mrs Deacon, gives them some special place of power, forgetting that the word deacon means servant, and only one of them was ordained.

More generally, all of us can fall into this sin when we speak, particularly to those in authority, and use the word "people"instead of "I." There are always those in the church who will come up to the pastor( in any denomination) with a complaint that starts off, "People don't like...." One of our pastors famously responds, "Name three", which usually shuts them down, because they can't. We do it not only in church, but in writing to legislators and other leaders. The real sin underneath it is cowardice.

When Jesus told us, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. It also has to be your yes or no. Unless we are the official representative of some group, we should have the courage to speak for ourselves, say "I don't like..." or "I think..." We should not play Jezabel and speak for others or hide behind words like "people" or "they." If what we are speaking is the truth we should stand up and speak it with courage and conviction. If it is merely our feelings or worse hearsay or gossip, perhaps we would be better not to speak it at all. Take it to pray. Discern with God. Then if there is a truth that needs to be spoken, stand up and speak in your own name.

In the coming days we will see what happens to her and to him,because of her actions. Here is where interconnectedness and unintended consequences come together to create a storm. And next time you go toward your boss at work with "people around here...", remember Jezebel.