2014 Lent 22

I Corinthians 10:1-13

Again, more issues for me here.

In today’s passage, Paul begins with a reference to one cool thing that happened in the past: that all Israel was delivered from slavery through a miraculous parting of the Red Sea.  No problem here.

But then he lists several negative things.  “Nevertheless,” he begins this list, “God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.”  Yikes!  Next, some were idolaters, others indulged in sexual immorality, “and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day” because of it.  Again, some put Christ to the test “and were destroyed by serpents.”  And finally, some of “our ancestors” complained and thus “were destroyed by the destroyer.”

So let me get this straight.  God delivered the nation of Israel miraculously only then to allow them to die in the wilderness?  And I don’t know about you, but some of these descriptions of death–the one by serpents at least–strike me as more gruesome than drowning.

But this isn’t Paul’s point.  Rather, these things are an example to us, he says, to instruct us.  Then he sums it up this way: “So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.”

Okay, okay, it’s a good point, I’ll grant you that.  Pride indeed comes before the fall, as we can all attest.

But my issues lie in how Paul got us here.

For it strikes me that he motivates the Corinthians, and by extension us, with fear.

“Our ancestors did these wrong things,” he says, “and look what happened to them.  Do you want to bring the same thing down on you?”

But I don’t do well with fear mongering.

As a little boy there were certain men I minded my p’s and q’s around more than anyone else.  It wasn’t because I respected them, though; but because I feared them.

Some of them were my dad’s friends.  And he’d ask, “Wow, how did you get Timmy to listen to you?  He won’t do a thing I tell him.”

But is this really the best way to get kids to obey?

One of these guys–I can barely remember most of the exchange, I was so young–I liked initially.  He made me laugh, I remember.  And for that reason I was drawn to him.  But then, whether I got too close for his comfort level or was otherwise too riled up for his liking, he threw a limon at my head.

Limons are rock-hard little lemon-like fruits the grow in Mexico, where we were camping for the long weekend.  So imagine a thirty-ish year-old engineer with little experience around kids interacting with a five year-old boy with puppy-like energy.  Then imagine the engineer getting tired of playing with the puppy.  He tries to move on but the puppy-kid won’t let him.  So to make his point he throws a rock-hard fruit at the kid’s head.  And he hits him squarely.

Now this might seem funny to an engineer, or even to a grownup in general.  (I seem to remember my mom laughing.)  But, let me tell you, to a five year-old it was enough.  That friendship was immediately over.  For, to the five year-old, that engineer-man was uncertain, unpredictable, to be feared.

Now, today, as a dad, I in no way want to bring fear mongering into the way I raise my kids.  I want them to obey me, sure.  But they should do it out of love for me, not out of fear.

I view God this way too: to be obeyed; but out of love, not fear.

So, Paul, I know you’re a writer of the sacred scriptures and all, but this is an instance where reason and experience must rule the day for me.

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