The unforgivable sins
You only have to spend an hour on Facebook to see what people consider to be unforgivable sins. Individuals rage about what has been done to innocent children and what the perpetrator deserves – in no uncertain terms. Posts are circulated about people getting away with all sorts of heinous acts and our sense of justice burns for vengeance. Or the individual gets their comeuppance and we rejoice with glee. Humans have an inbuilt sense of right and wrong on extreme moral issues and so I am sure, today’s chapter will strike a chord.
Previously, God has instituted the Day of Atonement, where the priest can atone for ALL the sins of ALL the people – except for these ones. These ones are beyond atonement. There is no offering that can be made or ritual observed to cleanse an individual from the sins listed here. These are the sins the Israelites might commit that could never be forgiven. And this is why –
I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. Leviticus 18:1-5
Don’t do what they did in Egypt, where you used to live. Why? Because I am the Lord your God. Things are different. I am a different God to the ones they worship.
Don’t do what they are already doing in the land where you are going to live. Why? Because I am the Lord your God.
Obey my laws. Follow my decrees. Do as I say. Why? Because I am the Lord you God.
Why? So that you may live. Live life as it should be lived. Live life to the full.
So here’s a summary of the laws listed in this chapter:-
- don’t have sex with a close relative – incest in other words – father, mother, father’s wife, sister, step sister, grandchild, step-daughter, aunt, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law…….it’s the stuff of the Jeremy Kyle show, isn’t it? And it dishonours you and the other individuals involved. Disrespecting. Dissing.
- don’t have sex with both a woman and her daughter – this is wickedness
- do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife
- don’t have sex during a period
- don’t have sex with a neighbour’s wife
- do not sacrifice your child to Molech
- do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable (v22)
- do not have sex with an animal – that is perversion
So that’s the list. They all still happen. Some seem more obviously wrong than others, don’t they? Some are still taboo and some have become more socially acceptable over the years.
God goes on to explain how these acts lead to the breakdown of society – even the land becomes defiled. To stay pure and to live well and in close relationship with God, everyone must follow these rules, including those who already live and work in the land and those foreigners that the Israelites have brought along with them. They don’t all have to share a religious code to share a moral code.
And the consequence?
Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. Leviticus 18:29
It’s interesting that the emphasis is on the damage done to yourself in committing one of these acts – do not defile yourself – rather than the damage inflicted on the other person. Nowadays it is the opposite – the emphasis is on making amends for the wrong to another, rather than recognising the damage done to self by acting inappropriately. Both are valid and important.
Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus 18:22
I cannot begin to express how much I struggle with this verse. Mine is not a theological struggle but straight from the heart – I’ll let Andy develop or unravel the doctrinal explanation of all this tomorrow. So forgive me if I sound naive or just downright wrong. I believe in love and I believe that God is love. I therefore believe that any love that is pure and kind and faithful (and everything set out in 1 Corinthians 13….which actually rules out a lot of the heterosexual relationships out there!) is of God and is to be celebrated. I believe that humankind has evolved for whatever reasons into what it is today. I believe that the damage done to homosexuals over the years by people of faith is infinitely more detestable and lamentable than any loving homosexual relationship. Just listen again to ‘Same Love’ if you need a reminder.
Some would are rather die than be who they are……
Really? Is this how God wants it to be? Is this showing God’s love to all around us? That people can suffer this much prejudice and abuse and inequality and bullying in the name of religion? The God that I am journeying with is not that God.
And hopefully, tomorrow, Andy will be able to explain why.