Pastor's Blog

There is a lot of talk about “bringing people together”, but precious little of actually accomplishing it. I believe that is because the modern understanding of “bringing people together” is defined, not by standards that are too low, but ones that are too high.

These days many don’t consider people to have been “brought together” unless there is complete approval and complete agreement between the parties involved. If one person can’t approve certain practices or behaviors of another person, or one person disagrees with or dissents from another person’s beliefs, then the disapproving dissenter is deemed “intolerant”, “divisive”, and a “hater”. And if you’re a “hater”, you couldn’t possibly be loving others, and so you couldn’t possibly be a part of bringing people together.

But is “love” to be equated with complete agreement with and approval of others?

Love has to do with how you behave toward others – not with what you think about their beliefs. If this were not true God could not possibly require us to love our enemies (Matthew 5.44ff). Loving your enemies means not doing them harm and trying to do good for them despite your disagreements with them and your disapprovals of things they believe or practice. God gives sunshine, rain, and food to those who are hostile to Him – but that doesn’t mean that He approves of all of their beliefs and practices. Likewise, we can love others while still disagreeing with them and believing that they are wrong about things. Disagreement and disapproval are not “hate”.

Love doesn’t insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13.5). Demanding that others conform to all of your beliefs is insisting on your own way and is a lack of love. Real love allows room for differences, dissent, and disagreement. Real love demands a certain level of compromise – finding a way to behave civilly toward one another without demanding complete agreement or approval of one another.

Love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13.4). This is about behavior – not agreement or approval. Being unkind is a demonstration of impatience. Being impatient is a demonstration of unkindness. When people differ but have to get along, it requires patience and kindness because we are working apart from the luxuries of agreement and approval.  Anyone can love someone with whom they agree, as Jesus pointed out (Matthew 5.46). Tension between the two parties is a given in the passages on love. Love doesn’t need to eliminate the differences; it must navigate them selflessly and gracefully.

Love bears all things (1 Corinthians 13.7). Put into everyday speech: “love puts up with all things”. Once again it is a given that the two parties don’t agree with or approve of each other; they learn to put up with each other. They find a way to behave civilly toward each other without being friends, without coming to complete agreement, and without approving everything about each other. The phrase “putting up with” is not about enduring that which is pleasant and comfortable; it requires thick skin.

And bringing people together requires that the parties involved have thick skin – thicker skin than our society presently requires. Thick skin is not quickly or easily offended (neither is love), but everyone these days is quickly offended, and we insist that those who dare to offend couldn’t possibly be loving! But those who don’t “put up with” anything aren’t loving either. Preaching tolerance is not the same as being loving, patient, kind, and bearing all sorts of wrongs.

If people are going to be brought together, they have got to stop expecting perfect agreement between themselves and their neighbors. People can’t continue insisting that everything has got to be their way. They have to learn to put up with a lot more than they do and still be patient and kind, behaving civilly. Each person has got to look first at his own responsibilities in getting along with others – what can I deny myself and how can I bless my neighbor? – rather than constantly asserting his own rights and demanding that his neighbor concede, agree, and approve. This is not where love starts and love is what brings people together.

People who don’t accept these simple truths can’t be brought together.

People who accept these truths and practice them will not only start bringing people together, they will start growing in love – and they will be well on their way to destroying their enemies and making them friends.

I’d like to share a few thoughts from the Bible about a topic that is apropos to the holiday dedicated to erotic love – Valentine’s Day – which is almost upon us.  The topic is female breasts.

Feeding babies is one purpose of the female breast, but the Song of Solomon, dedicated exclusively to the erotic interactions between a woman and her lover, makes clear that the female breast plays another role: sexually tantalizing a man.

When the woman sits at dinner with her lover she reveals that she’s thinking about a lot more than dinner.  She wears perfume in a spice-filled sachet necklace that hangs down between her breasts. As the sachet gives off its aroma, she whispers to her lover that he is to imagine that he is that sachet: “My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts” (Song 1.12-13).

Her lover contemplates the idea of being between her breasts.  Twice he describes her breasts as “two fawns, twins of a gazelle” (Song 4.5, 7.3). Fawns are soft and tender.  The sight of them invites touching and stroking.  Twins share symmetry; they are matched perfectly to one another.  The lover enjoys thinking about the texture and curves of his lover's breasts.

While preparing a lesson on the differences between men and women I found a number of secular articles providing lists of things that the sexes don’t understand about each other.  The male infatuation with breasts showed up in nearly every list as something that mystified women.  Why was a lump of fat such a big deal?  Whether women understand it or not, looking at a woman’s breasts is sexually pleasurable to a normal man.  The lover in the Song of Songs is not a psychotic creeper, nor are his desires perverted.  He’s a normal guy, an average guy.  The inability of women to comprehend this male fascination with breasts doesn’t make it “weird” or aberrant.   It simply confirms that men and women really are different from each other.


The lover in the Song of Songs wants to do a lot more than look at his partner’s breasts.

“Your stature is like a palm tree,” he says, “and your breasts are like its clusters. I said [to myself], ‘I will climb that palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit.’ Oh may your breasts be like the clusters of the vine…” (Song 7.7-8).

He wants to grasp her breasts the way he would grasp dates picked off of a date-palm.  He tells her he wants to “taste the fruit” of the palm-tree.  She responds: “It goes down smoothly for my beloved, flowing gently through the lips of those who fall asleep…” (Song 7.9).

No explanatory comments needed, right? Female breasts are sexually tantalizing to a man.  It is natural and normal.  Denying that is to deny a well-established fact of nature, human experience, and the truth of God’s Word.


Solomon referred to female breasts in one more passage (Proverbs 5.15-20).

Drink water from your own cistern, and fresh water from your own well.
Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets?
Let them be yours aloneand not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice with the wife of your youth, as a loving hind and a graceful doe.
Let HER breasts satisfy YOU at all times. Be exhilarated always with HER love.
For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress,
And why should you embrace the bosom of a stranger?

The wise king uses several different images to make a single point: marriage is an exclusive relationship.  A husband and a wife belong exclusively to one another.  The sexual aspect of the married relationship, taken up in the symbol “her breasts”, is singled out as something sacred, something not to be shared with others, something not made for indiscriminate public consumption.  A woman’s breasts are for her husband to think about, view, touch, and enjoy.


Finally, two questions from a pastor who has listened to the debate about the public exposure of breasts for the purpose of nursing for some time now -- questions directed toward those interested in walking by the Spirit of the Lord and His revealed Word...

It is a given, I think, that the act of nursing does not render the tantalizing aspect of the female breast inoperative.  So...

Why fight so vigorously, then, for the right of a woman to expose her breast(s) in public?
And why protest the use of a modesty cover while nursing in public?

Ponder...

 

A friend asked if it is good or bad that the President wants to take in Syrian refugees, given what happened in Paris. I think it’s a case in point that not all decisions come down to a simple unqualified yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong. The qualifications in this case are crucial to take into account. The question is not good or bad – but wise or unwise.

 

There is no question that giving money to a begging drug addict or alcoholic on the street is a show of compassion. But when you discover that he used your gift to buy drugs or liquor, would you be compassionate to the same person in the same manner a second time? And if you chose not to give him cash the second time, did you lack compassion – or were you wise?

 

Enduring the atrocity of war in Syria must be horrible. These people are willing to leave entire lives and possessions behind to flee to an unknown and foreign world with no plan other than escaping what they know now. Such people are certainly worthy of compassion.

 

But then we come to the qualifications.

 

We are in the midst of a long war against Islamic extremists and we need to understand several things about them. First, although they chant death to America and to Israel, they are also willing to kill any Muslim that doesn’t agree with them. This is one of the reasons moderate Muslims don’t get too vocal in their dissent from extremism. They fear for their own lives.

 

Alongside this, the concept of the “umma” (meaning “the people”) is very powerful in Muslim thought. All Muslims are one people united in the one true faith – and that includes the extremists. So when push comes to shove, if the extremists are threatening you and/or if the extremists seem to be winning “for Allah” – it’s not seen as a moral compromise to join the extremists. You and they are all a part of the “umma”, the one people, and their hope and goal is that one day all people would become “the umma”. So when the pressure is on, it is not difficult to justify saving your own life by joining the extremists. You have not betrayed the Muslim people.

 

The Islamic extremists are not trying to win this war all at once. They are very patient and willing to win in stages and in several generations – as Europe is discovering. The western assumption is that when you move to a country you assimilate into that culture. But that is not what is happening with Muslims in Europe. Many of them are NOT assimilating. They set up very isolated Muslim communities (popularly referred to as no-go zones for Europeans). They continue to arrange marriages for their Muslim sons with Muslim girls from the Middle East. Their children are sent back to the Middle East to be educated in Muslim ideology. They refuse to assimilate. Instead they are overrunning Europe with sheer numbers and it appears that they may eventually force Europe to be assimilated into Islam.

Europe with its progressive open-minded ways, so appreciative of diversity, has not challenged this behavior. The few who have attempted to stand against it are either mocked as closed-minded xenophobes, relentlessly harassed (e.g. Ayaan Hirsi Ali), or even assassinated by pro-Islamic forces (e.g. Pim Fortuyn). Europe’s tolerance is being used to undermine its own existence.

 

Still, many in America hold up the slowly crumbling western culture of Europe as worthy of emulation.

The refugee crisis is speeding up the destructive process and making it easier for the more extreme Islamic elements to infiltrate Europe. They can pose as refugees and hide behind helpless women and children to take advantage of western sympathy, and begin setting up cells from which to operate and orchestrate terrorist attacks like the ones recently witnessed in Paris.

 

Our western values say that if someone reaches out to you and does something good for you it should soften your heart toward them and build friendship. The culture of the Islamic extremists says the exact opposite. Our compassion and our overly sensitive political correctness is a weakness to be exploited. They have exploited it in Europe. If they get a foothold here, they will certainly exploit it here.

 

It can’t happen here? Have we already forgotten 9-11 and the Boston Marathon bombing???

 

Given these qualifications – not to mention the fact that we are already overrun with illegal aliens who are putting extensive burdens on the system, as well as the fact that our nation is drowning in red ink in terms of trillions of dollars – is it wise or unwise to take in Syrian refugees?

 

If the president’s administration forces our citizens to accept these refugees, we will have no choice but to deal with it and extend as much grace combined with wisdom as we can to the poor souls that are certainly worthy of mercy. If they do what refugees often do – form a tightly closed community – that is going to prove a difficult task, but it is one that Christian morality would dictate that we pursue.

 

In the meantime, perhaps we should ask the president to start pressuring the nations of the peaceful religion of Islam to start doing their part in showing some compassion and caring for their own...

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