The temptation, with a title like this page, is to seek out what the bible says about male-female relationships. I think this is a step too soon.
First of all, what is said about human relationships in general? Partnerships might be a special kind of relationship, but first of all, they are a human relationship.
We should note, too, that the New Testament makes a claim on those of us who seek to follow Jesus way. Often the church seeks exemption from certain anti-discrimination laws in our society. Yet one suspects that instead we should be setting higher standards of relationships than the general community. Galatians 3:28 is probably the definitive example of this: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." In Christ Jesus, means , in the church.
What is the accent that the Bible places upon relationships in general? I list a sample:
Matthew 7:12 "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." (Jesus)
Matthew 5:23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Jesus)
Matthew 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 5:21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Paul?) Philippians 4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Paul)
Amos 5:24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos the Prophet)
Amos 2:6 Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals - they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned. (Amos the Prophet)
There are a number of features of relationship ethics in the Bible. They concern justice and fairness. Reconciliation and forgiveness are highlighted. Fairness is to all people, not just one's chosen friends. There is also something distinctive about Jesus attitudes. He chose compassion over law. This is what brought him on such a collision course with the Jewish religious thinking of the time. It is one of the great distinctives of our faith, and critical in our relationships to others.
A fuller text of what follows is here
Micah 6:6-8 "With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Matthew 12:1-14 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, "Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?" so that they might accuse him. He said to them, "Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
We see in the reading: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Jesus says it twice in Matthew, and we can see him living out the implications of that statement all through the gospels. He is attacking with those words. the conventional wisdom of his times which said that if you kept the Law, you would be doing the right thing by God. 'Do all the right sacrifices in the temple, and keep all the right rules and regulations in life, and God will be happy.'
In fact, sinners... were not actually people who did bad things. Sinners were people who didn't do things. They didn't keep the law properly. They were the people- according to conventional wisdom- who didn't offer the sacrifices God required. They didn't keep the right rules properly.
But in Hosea, God said "I desire steadfast love, and not sacrifice, "I desire steadfast love, and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, not burnt offerings." the knowledge of God, not burnt offerings." It's this desire of God, which Jesus places before us.
The word often translated as mercy is about the kind of relationships God wishes us to have with each other. Indeed, it's the kind of relationship God has offered to have with us, too. God didn't stay lofty, on high, watching from above. God 'came down' with us, as a human being.
The word mercy might be better translated as compassion. It means not just sympathy, which might be from a distance. Com-passion literally means to feel-with. (Passion: feel and com: with.) We are to enter into the feelings of others. To feel with them. To understand- in the sense of 'standing under'.... their feelings and experience. To get into their skin almost.... as God was in Christ. That, said Jesus, is what God requires. Standing under the experience of another- compassion, not rigid keeping of the law.
(This meaning of compassion is one which we blokes do well to inject into our relationships with our partners! When it comes to relating to women in our lives we are often 'logical,' unfeeling, (or feeling only ourselves!) and stick to the law of what we think is right or should be done, not to compassion and feeling the feelings of our partner.)
I would suggest that to treat someone with less regard than what the Bible calls for is to treat them as ultimately less than human. So some serious mapping questions are:
1 How do my relationships measure up against these standards?
2 Where do I treat my partner as less than human?
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!
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