I want to share some thoughts, because I understand the Christian struggle with resolving the seeming conflict between what God has said, through scripture, is an abomination, and how Christ taught us to live and love. The common focus, of recent, has been on sexual orientation and gender issues. It is not my intent to place attention onto either of those topics directly, but onto moving a Christian perspective through internal moral conflict toward fostering a sense of belonging in God’s kingdom among all people.
Meaning of “Abomination”
I think we all have a clear feel for the essence of “abomination,” but I find it interesting to identify the original Biblical words used. I am not an expert. I am using the Blue Letter Bible for reference. In the Old Testament (the books of Genesis through Malachi), these Hebrew words are mostly used:
tow`ebah (tow-a-VAH) – noun- means, “a disgusting thing, ritually unclean (food, idol, mixed marriage, etc), wicked, abhorrent”
pigguwl (pig-GOOL) – noun- means, “a foul thing, refuse, fetid, ceremonially unclean”
sheqets/shaqats (SHEK-ets) -noun/verb- means, “an idolatrous object, filth, an unclean thing”/”be filthy, to loathe, pollute, make abominable, contaminate”
ba’ash (bah-ASH) – verb- means, “to have a bad smell, stink, be morally offensive, be of an evil nature”
za`am (zai-AM) -verb- means, “denounce, express indignation, show anger, foam at the mouth, abhor, defy, curse”
In the New Testament (the books of Mathew through Revelation during and after Jesus’ Earthly arrival on scene), this Greek word is used:
bdelygma (basically pronounced as clumsily as it looks) -noun- meaning, “a foul thing, a detestable thing, loathsome on account of its stench
Biblical uses of “Abomination”
Next, let’s look at some things in the Bible that God called an “abomination” or “detestable.” I will provide the reference, but I will also be interpreting it based on my personal understanding. Please spend your own time with God to give him time and space to develop his words in your heart.
What are some examples of what God finds “abominable?” This may turn out to be good news and bad news all at once. Hang with me to the end, please, because you may not find my point to be what you expect.
- Creatures God described as “unclean” for eating (Leviticus 11)
- A man having sex with a man (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13 — don’t run away yet).
- Eating 3-day-old meat (Leviticus 19:7)
- Things that distract you from putting your complete trust in God (Deuteronomy 7)
- Encouraging others to prioritize anything besides God, or to trust anything besides God for their fundamental well-being (Deuteronomy 13)
- Actively relying on power that is not from God (Deuteronomy 18)
- Minimizing (especially deceptively) the value of God’s biological and spiritual gender design (Deuteronomy 22:5 – This gets very complicated. I am not unsympathetic or preclusive to the possibility that genetic anomalies exist in a way that brains sometimes don’t match bodies. I don’t and can’t speak to this conclusively.).
- Offerings to God of money attained by immoral means (Deuteronomy 23:18)
- Volatile commitment to a wife (Deuteronomy 24:4)
- Deception, extortion, cheating, taking advantage (Deuteronomy 25:16, Proverbs 11:1)
- Devious people (Proverbs 3:32)
- Pride, killing the innocent, wicked scheming, admiration of evil, lying (Proverbs 6:16, etc)
- Insincere religious actions (Proverbs 15:8)
- Leaders of nations behaving immorally (Proverbs 16:12)
- Injustice and enabling evil (Proverbs 17:15)
- Intentional disregard of God’s Law of Love (Proverbs 28:9)
- Trusting your fundamental well-being to anything or anyone besides God (Isaiah 44:19, etc)
- Not only feeling prideful and self-reliant in your well-off condition, but failing to help and share from your abundance (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
- Violating the dignity, security, trust, or well-being of others; cheapening the holiness and sovereignty of God (Ezekiel 22).
And from the New Testament:
- Our insufficient, human ideas of what is important (Luke 16:15)
A large part of the above list feels pretty easy to dismiss as being “nothing like me.” Unfortunately, other parts of it render it nearly inevitable that each of us, at times, triggers our own personal atomizer of Eau de Abomination, at least until we have only Jesus’ Perfect Love flowing through us. I think I’ve revealed the direction I intend to go, while also creating the problem of near-universal “stink.” I’ll get back to this after it airs out for a minute.
Old Testament vs. New Testament
A vast majority of the “abomination” comes from the Old Testament. What, perhaps, changed between Old Testament times and when Jesus arrived on the scene in the New Testament? Absolutely nothing changed about the nature, character, or expectations of God (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). In the Old Testament, people were instructed to obey in faith, leaning on ritualistic symbols of a Hope to come, for grace, mercy, justice, and forgiveness. In the New Testament, Jesus became that Hope and Salvation, and the symbols became unnecessary. The Law – and by that I mean every contextualized command of God – neither saved nor vanished. Jesus elevated what actually resembled more of a bare minimum of non-injury to the higher plane of self-sacrificing concern for the welfare of others.
What About 1 Corinthians 6?
This chapter in the New Testament is a great example of a location that lists all sorts of juicy “pet sinners.” We’re deeply concerned for the salvation of “those kinds.” We may have to work with them, or decorate our family tree with them, but keep the 10-foot pole handy in the event the forecast starts looking too electively social.
There are two things I want to pay attention to. First, what is the context? The main point of the chapter is Paul calling out people who were refusing to settle civil disputes in a civilized Christian manner, while also being guilty of their own sinful behaviors. Lesson: Be humble and realistic about my own condition before I get too huffy about someone else’s.
Second, what of those sins? Specifically listed here are: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners. “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Yikes. A similar list is found in Galatians 5, where its practitioners also will not inherit the kingdom of God. Additions to the above “lusts of the flesh” include hatred, jealousy, selfishness, entertaining objectifying or unloving thoughts, and treasuring or being satisfied by anything more than God. That just got disturbingly close to home. So, are we all hopeless messes? Yes. And no.
My Abomination Theory
We can’t really help ourselves. We rank sins. There are things that, to us, are devastatingly worse in their effect than others. There are other things that deeply challenge our understandings of how things are supposed to be. In either case, when it comes to perceiving Sin (the capital S soul poison kind), we’re thinking way too small. Many of us are familiar with the James 2:10-11 concept: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. The big, pink Truth Elephant in the room is that God has a universal Law of Love, and it is binary. Either we love, or we fail to love. “Sometimes love” is a failure. “Most of the time love” is a failure. God’s kind of love must be fully reliable and trustworthy. Unfailing.
We drastically minimize our personal sin, because it is SO familiar, and because we want to believe we are basically good and generally obedient. But, in God’s system, my little lie, my little envy, my little self-protective measure is…devastating. Maybe not to the perception of other people, but according to what God wants for us, it is a turn in the death spiral.
The twenty Abominations I drew attention to are called such because the environmental conditions necessary for these actions to take place stand in utter contrast to God’s created design, in which people experience only wholeness and joy in relationships, wellness in their bodies and minds, and unhindered satisfaction in God.
The difference between struggling with propensity and being cut out of the will is willfulness — what one clings to: God or self. Inspiration or inclination. The Problem is also much bigger than the individual. We are now affected from the genetic level to the systemic. According to my Algebra, Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4), and God’s law is Love, therefore, Sin is de-prioritizing love in actions and thoughts (my needs/impulses first), and it is a nature and a body that has mutated away from the template. God hates for us when we can’t experience what he wants to give.
That some of us squirm in our seats over LGBTQIA topics, based on the above verses, isn’t all that odd. What IS concerning is when we don’t squirm in our seats about “prayer request” gossip, feeling secure because of our investments, hating that person that stole my promotion, yelling impatiently at the kids or spouse, not helping that person because *good reason*, clinging to worry — you get the idea. We need to be in a hot hurry to cling to Jesus.
His perfect love relationship is the only way to experience the deep, lasting sensation –no, reality — that all is OK. Better than OK.
The take-away is this: we need to take all Sin more seriously, primarily our own. We need to hunger for more than “getting by” or “being good.” Thinking bigger, we can see that we are all, together, meant for more than what we’re currently enduring. Where we get to celebrate is that we can now begin to experience what we’re meant to have.
Consider the list of abominations we’re affected by and participate in, and let these words take effect:
“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Romans 4:7-8 NIV
As you learn to see the beauty of what God gave humanity, and is restoring to us, you finally recognize what you’re hungry for. You hate the hindrances you experience. God, here, offers freedom and restoration. You are blessed. You are covered.
“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14 NIV
Be affected by the desolation of your sin. Then, be overwhelmed by your freedom.
This is not about how to simply focus on your own sinful state instead of someone else’s. Nor is it about calling all things good. What I’m trying to convey is the ability to observe and interact from an entirely alternate experience that is unshaken by external reflections of the spiritual war on our planet. I’m referring to Christ-filled hearts that close the gap.
Learn to crave God. Fight for each other to succeed, to belong, to experience the safety to grow, to claim inheritance in God’s kingdom. We need not be distracted by appearances or run from discomfort, but to show people what Jesus looks like up close. We need to trust God to be as powerful in anyone else’s life as he is in our own. Go to them as one snatched from a fire, as one compelled by relief. Be hope to someone.
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[We’re sooooo like the Pharisees, it isn’t even funny. We major in minors, and minor the majors.]
Amy, I praise Jesus for revealing himself through a non-professional Bible scholar — YOU, even though they too can help, at times.
Keep on the path you’re on, seek humbleness of heart, and he’ll continue to shine light around you, in you, and through you.
I rejoice with your conclusions.
An aside. Are you acquainted with Dr. Graham Maxwell (his Dad was Arthur Maxwell, of “Bible Story” and “Bedtime Stories” fame)? If not, let me know, and I’ll link you with a joyous video series of studies on the trustworthiness of our Father in light of the great controversy and conflict which arose within the family of God. You’ll find much comfort and confirmation of your thinking, as Jesus is leading it. He was a New Testament scholar—who dug deep, but kept things simple.