is this offensive?

You know how certain verses you’ve read many times suddenly smack you upside the head?  I just read this from Paul:  “If anyone does not love the Lord–a curse be on him.  Come, O Lord!” (1 Cor. 16:22). 

I suspect that many evangelical Christians would be embarrassed by such talk, and if you told them that it’s in the Bible–and in the turn the other cheek world of the New Testament to boot–they might not know what to do with it.  I’m trying to imagine a Christian leader saying this on Larry King or the Today show, and I don’t think it ends well.

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  1. A curse be on him?

    Of course, he’s not going any place good after death. Maybe the curse is already on him, and Paul is stating the condition of the sinner.

  2. That’s why Christ died and rose again, to remove the curse and give us new hearts so that we could love Him. Because otherwise we are under the curse.

    So, yeah, if we left it at:

    “a curse be on him,”

    then people are going to get ticked. Because we can’t love Him apart from His work and His Spirit.

    “a curse be on him” does not present the full picture. The verse, taken without the rest of the Bible (not to mention the rest of the letter), would lend itself, easily enough, to a works driven interpretation.

    But God isn’t about us trying to love Him by our own effort. That’s the beauty of God. He wants the glory. And His lovingkindness is everlasting, such that in Christ we can be born again to love Him. God does it for me.

    So if a Christian were to say this on Larry King, then he better back it up with what God has done to save sinners. Otherwise I would be frustrated too. I would be left hopeless.

    Because I know I can’t love Christ apart from God giving me a new heart. He needs to do it for me. I cannot save myself.

    I.e. it is not offensive inasmuch as it is hopeless without the context of the Gospel. Unfortunately, to most, the Gospel is offensive. So in the end, within the context of the Gospel, this verse is offensive to many.

    Wow. I apologize.

    Christ is the Gospel.

    (I responded this way because when I read the verse the lies popped into my head of me needing to love God through my own effort. But that is a hopeless message. A dead message. That’s what the world preaches, not God’s word).

  3. I prefer “…let him be Anathema Maranatha.” It causes me to do more homework and packs a stronger wallop.

  4. Mike,

    Nothing seems as offensive compared to the shameless promotion of your last book and your home state with the previously posted youtube video:)

  5. Jack H.

    That really hurts, coming from a former politician! Are you telling me that you didn’t plaster your name all over our county?🙂

  6. It does seem to emanate from a different spirit than what is prevalent today. But it surely does not mean we should not eat with sinners even as Jesus did. And as Paul makes clear we should, though not doing so as if they are fellow believers. That is why Holy Communion should be open to all who are in Jesus, but not to all period, I believe. But we should also somehow do as Jesus did in having table fellowship with sinners who have not yet repented. So that Paul’s point in that Corinthian passage is simply a point as to who is part of Christ, or in Christ. A line is drawn.

    Just my thoughts. I’m not at all suggesting Mike that you don’t see this, because I’m sure you do. Though probably in a much more nuanced, better way.

  7. Ted:

    Of course I think that we should eat with non-Christians, unless you’re Amish and your son has bought a Chevy. Paul’s words just seem so harsh–it’s difficult to imagine a Christian leader saying that in our context today.

  8. Jonathan Shelley July 30, 2010 — 11:14 am

    Yooper,

    Thanks for going back to the Greek – you made me do my homework and forced me to really chew on what Paul is saying. The term anathema carries a broader and more nuanced meaning than simply “let him be cursed.” It also means excommunicated, cast out, cut off, which all indicate that those who do not love the Lord have no place in the community of believers. Ironically, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα is an indication of community and inclusion, that those who do love the Lord are part of the body of Christ, elected by God and sealed by the Spirit. Those who do not love the Lord have no part of the fellowship. We still dine with the sinners and taxcollectors, in the hopes that they will repent of their sins and love the Lord like we do, thereby lifting the anathema on them as they join the fellowship of those who have been redeemed by Christ.

    In a simplistic English translation, it is a hard saying. But when you consider what Paul actually said (and thanks again for pointing us back to the Greek) it is a powerful statement of belonging in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I think I found a new “life verse.”

  9. Mike, Yeah. I did think of the Amish, as well.🙂

    Jonathan, Under God’s curse might equal let them be excommunicated? It is a strong way of putting it.

    Might we try to unpack the theological meaning as you have done, then speak it well into the cultural context in which we live? That ends up being a judgment call, requiring across the board discernment, and doing the best we can at the time.

    Not sure though that we can’t use Paul’s words as part of liturgy, in reading scripture. We would want to do that.

  10. Truth Unites... and Divides July 30, 2010 — 2:33 pm

    “I suspect that many evangelical Christians would be embarrassed by such talk, and if you told them that it’s in the Bible–and in the turn the other cheek world of the New Testament to boot–they might not know what to do with it. I’m trying to imagine a Christian leader saying this on Larry King or the Today show, and I don’t think it ends well.

    I agree.

    Would you say it, Dr. Wittmer, on a television show?

    You see, even if you spent the majority of your time communicating the Gospel on your tv segment, that snippet of where you cited “If anyone does not love the Lord–a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!” would be extracted and YouTubed.

    But to extend your point a bit further, I think there are quite a few professing Christians who are embarrassed by the Doctrine of Hell.

    What about having a Christian leader cite what Jesus said about Hell on a tv show? How would that turn out?

  11. Truth:

    What I would say and how I would say it would depend on the context. I probably wouldn’t lead with cursing but could imagine a context in which it would come up. Certainly I would assert directly that Jesus is the only Savior and those who don’t put their faith in him will suffer forever in hell. I would still want to explain why this doesn’t make God a monster or me unloving, but it does get at Paul’s point, I think.

  12. How about a pastor (or outside speaker) saying it to his church? “If you don’t love the Lord, get out.” Paul was communicating this point to a church.

    The world does not know Jesus Christ, and cannot love Him. The church does know Him, but many times does not obey Jesus in His admonition, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

    If the church is admonished in this way, it needs to know the reason for the admonishment, and the proper response to it as well.

  13. Jonathan Shelley July 30, 2010 — 7:03 pm

    Ted:

    We are all under God’s curse in this life. I may be a justified sinner, but I’m still a sinner. Don’t get me wrong, I wish the curse were lifted – I’m sick of the weeds in my garden. [That’s a joke, all – my wife does the weeding!] Back to the point, though, there is a difference between being under God’s curse (as you put it) and being cast out from among those whose faith you do not share. I think David hit the nail on the head with his comment. I wish I had phrased my comment as well as he did.

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