Today we move into 1 Corinthian 13:5, and I think it deserves a reflective moment.
When a butcher needs to cut apart a cow they need to stay efficient; they can’t waste time fiddling with minutiae. Thus the first cuts they make are referred to as “primal” cuts because they are the basic segregations of types of meat which are then further cut down later to make the types of beef we see in the market. This ends up being a very useful visual for education, because we learn the very same way; you don’t start a kindergartener on calculus, you start with addition and subtraction and refine from there. When you start on the job you get the basic rules and figure the finer distinctions out as you go.
1 Corinthians 13:4 really lays out the primal cuts of Love: the things basic and critical that lay foundation for further understanding. But why do you care? We’re 7 posts and roughly 7,000 words into this thing, so clearly I’m throwing a ton of words at you, but beyond showing I like to write what’s the point? Well, in my view we have spent a couple hundred years watering down our languages, shallowing our communications, and reducing our interactivity. The effect of that is we are 7 billion islands who are sending out messages in bottles, but none of us speak the same language. I have hundreds of social media connections, but I still struggle to churn up a conversation and I see that same struggle everywhere.
Calling All Messengers
The call my Father placed in my heart when He touched me, saved me, resurrected me, is that we have lost our grasp on Love, and that the less we care about the words we say the more we lose. I see it everywhere, constantly. We sling the word “love” around with all the weight of a cotton ball, and the effect is that we even further reduce it. The cause of that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. I think we need to reeducate ourselves.
In human history there have been thousands of words for Love in its various incarnations, aspects, and applications. Every one carries a different meaning, a different angle, because it is so core a topic that it defies simple explanation or complete encompassing. Love has fuzzy edges, and they bleed into other subjects like ink spilled across an artist’s table. It bleeds into hate and into indifference, into action and inaction, into feelings and decisions. No topic is so critical to our survival, but we spend next to no time truly considering it, talking about it, revering it. Of course this matters to me because God is Love, but it also matters because Love is at the heart of empathy, and empathy is something I see so precious little of in our world. My goal for these posts is to create dialog. I am purposely neglecting some proofs, some arguments, some opportunities to expand because I want to stimulate response in you, even if only internally. I want to stir the hearts of many because I ache for the lost, the barbaric tearing at each other. I want to see it stop.
I will try literally anything to accomplish that goal, because I do not believe He put in in my heart for vainglory. With that let’s move into verse 5…
God is not rude
I like the NLT phrasing here. The King James says “does not behave unseemly” and the Aramaic says “does not do what is shameful”. The Greek word is ἀσχημονέω, aschemoneo, and its root means “deformed” or, more accurately, “hard to look at”. All 4 renditions get across that we’re talking about being offensive, but “unseemly” makes us think more of etiquette, like using the wrong fork. The Aramaic “shameful” makes it seem more an internal offense. The Greek “hard to look at” makes it seem too reactionary, like it’s just something a person is naturally. “Rude”, however, fits nicely in our understanding today; calling someone rude makes it instantly understood that person is being a jerk. But more than just being the kind of person who doesn’t hold the door for you, this speaks of the kind of person who abuses women or beats animals. This is talking about all manner of crude or abusive behavior.
It’s pretty easy to walk away from the Bible saying God fits this definition of rude. He turned the Pharoah’s heart to ensure Egypt had to suffer. He got mad and flooded the entire world, killing basically everyone. He permitted Job’s family to be slaughtered to prove a point about Job. He told Abraham to kill Isaac. He made Mary an outcast. He sent His kid to get viciously beaten and murdered. He struck two people dead for a fairly banal lie. He struck another dude dead for touching a box. He turned a 2-month trek through the desert into a 40-year trip because He didn’t like the attitude of a million people. He called Pharisees names and generally berated them. These are d*** moves; there’s just no way around that. If a person did half of these you’d call them a monster and ostracize them. These things are offensive.
So then isn’t it true that God is, in fact, rude? Well, not so fast.
Help me help you help me
The thing about offense is that it’s a social construct, a learned behavior. There were thousands of years on earth that beating animals was not only fine, but encouraged. What is considered offensive or rude changes definition as time goes on. We old folk consider it rude when we’re talking to someone who is lost in staring at their phone, but it’s not even a thought among the youth. Even murder has changed over the millenia; it used to be fine to own a slave and to kill them if they were rebellious. When we’re born the only things offensive to us are things that directly impinge on our freedom, our life, our desires. The rest are all learned behaviors.
So the question is not if these moves of God are offensive, but rather if they were offensive at the time and if He is offensive or rude today. Most of the incidents I cited are ambiguously offensive at best because the prevailing stigma at the time was against anything that didn’t meet the letter of God’s Law for man. “Don’t touch the ark.” Uzzah touched it, Uzzah dies, fair’s fair. The rest are only offensive from a certain group’s point of view. So was He offensive? No. Is He offensive? Harder answer.
Today we are offended by everything. Literally everything. We’re offended by people saying we’re easily offended. We’re offended by other people being offended, we’re offended by other people not being offended. We’re offended by people who agree with us or who don’t. We’re offended when people don’t do what we want and when they do. We get offended so rapidly and so frequently it’s like it’s our job. Rude being a subjective measure makes it tough to objectively measure if God is rude because literally anything can be considered rude today. We have to decide what metric to use, so maybe let’s examine a few.
Head like a hole
Is He politically offensive? Well, He’s not participating despite His name getting thrown out a lot. His plan raises up leaders, but He’s not overtly steering us; we vote these atrocious leaders into office, so if we’re offended by politics we’re offended by us, not God.
Is He physically offensive? He doesn’t have body odor and He doesn’t wear a speedo to the beach. In fact, in the Bible Moses suggests He’s very modestly adorned. Plus He doesn’t really do a lot of in-person these days on account of the whole “if you saw My face you’d die” thing. So this one’s a “no”.
Is He financially offensive? Maybe you consider it offensive He asks for yours, but He also pays it back in triplicate (or more) so that’s not really offensive unless you have a greed problem.
Is He verbally offensive? He does tell us a lot of crap we don’t want to hear and that’s pretty rude! But if we’re honest He tells us in Love, and quite gently, so it’s not really rude as much as unexpected.
Is He spiritually offensive? He says His is the only path and that is pretty fantastically rude to other religions. Unless it’s true. There’s the crux: if God is rude then He is a liar. If He is truly the Way then He isn’t rude.
He never says anything to offend you, never makes idle or catty comments. He never tells you anything you don’t already know in your heart. But does that prove He isn’t rude? I can’t answer that one for you. I can only show you my view and pray you see it. I hope you do; it gets more important as we move through the remaining qualities…