During the controversial fight in 2008 for Proposition 8, which banned homosexual marriages in California, Jack Black humorously raised a question about Christian’s selective use of the Bible. Playing Jesus in a skit Prop 8: the Musical, Black recognized the Bible condemned homosexuality but it also condemned the shrimp cocktail. Popping a shrimp into his mouth he sang, “Friend, it seems to me you pick and choose. Well, please choose love instead of hate.”1
In the previous blog post, we considered some of the reasons for confusion regarding the use of the Mosaic Law in the Bible and its application to our lives today. Most importantly, we consider Jesus’ use and relationship to the Old Testament Law. In this second part, we will look more deeply into the difficulty of understanding and interpreting the Old Testament Law.
To understand the Law and its relevance for today we must note that the law had three distinct parts. The Ceremonial, the Civil, and the Moral Law.
The Ceremonial Law gave instructions on the Feasts (Passover, First-Fruits, Pentecost), the Sacrificial Offerings (Burnt, Grain, Peace, Sin, Trespass), Priestly rituals, cleansing rituals, Dietary Laws regarding food that is clean or unclean. To violate the Ceremonial Law would render a person unclean.
To be in the presence of the Holy God, a person needed to be in a clean state. When a person was unclean they were not pleasing to God and could not approach God’s presence in worship. To be unclean wasn’t necessarily equal to being sinful, it meant one was unfit/unqualified for worship. For example, when Moses approached the burning bush, God had him remove his sandal because the ground he was walking on was holy ground. Even the priests in the Tabernacle, served God in the Tabernacle while being barefoot. It wasn’t that wearing shoes was sinful or made one unclean, but they were a sign to remind them of the need to be careful as they approached the God’s presence.
Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law perfectly in his life, death, and resurrection. The purpose of the Ceremonial Law is seen most clearly in Hebrews 10:1. “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”2
Jesus made it clear the obeying the ceremonial law, regarding clean hand or eating certain foods did not make them holy. “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11).3
Since the Ceremonial Law was fulfilled in Jesus it is no longer necessary to make one clean before God. Only trusting in Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection can make one clean before God. This is further clarified to Peter when God tells him to no longer be bound by the dietary laws. “What God has made, do not call common” (Acts 10:15).4 This is why Jack Black is free to eat all the shrimp he desires while wearing a polyester-cotton blend shirt, without concern of disobeying God.
The second division of the Law is known as the Civil Law, also referred to as the Judicial Law. Like all nations, Israel was governed by laws and rules. The Civil Law gave guidance for civil leaders on issues relating to justice or the support of less fortunate like gleaning wheat. The Civil Law revealed how God wanted authority to be exercised, executed, and maintained. These laws also prescribed the punishments that should be given depending on the crimes.
While these laws still give helpful insight on moral and civil issues Christians are not part of a distinct nation-state. In the NT, the church does not “bear the sword of authority” to execute judgment. That authority is with the government. When churches deal with violations considered sin they are to confront the sin and encourage the person to repent or they could be excluded from membership. In 1 Corinthians 5, a man is guilty of incest and they cut him off from fellowship but there is no attempt to stone him to death.
The third part of the Law is identified as the Moral Law. The moral law deals with how we relate to our fellow man in society. Contained within are the commandments: Do not murder, steal, lie, don’t be angry, do not commit adultery, or any form of immorality. Under the Civil Law, the consequence of violating the Moral Law was often death. For a person who was found to be unclean according to the ceremonial law the consequence was a cleansing ritual, like a bath or a few days of separation.
“The moral law forever requires obedience of everyone, both those who are justified as well as others. This obligation arises not only because of its content but also because of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Nor does Christ in any way dissolve this obligation in the Gospel; instead he greatly strengthens it.”5
The moral laws are mostly self-evident to all people throughout all civilizations. Some have referred to them as natural laws, is commonly understood to be bad for humanity to thrive. Jesus not only affirmed the moral law but He strengthened it to include not just actions, like murder or adultery, but the thoughts and motives behind them, condemning also anger and lust.
It is within the moral law we find Leviticus 18. “And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is a perversion. Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” Leviticus 18:20-25.6
Within this chapter, we find adultery, child sacrifice, homosexual practice, Beastiality, and incest all condemned. To make the argument that Christians “pick and choose” homosexuality, condemned in the moral law, and ignore laws against shellfish or mixing threads, which were part of the ceremonial law—is not remotely accurate to any clear understanding of the scriptures.
Would those who call for ignoring the moral law warning against homosexual practice also support the need for society to embrace adultery, child sacrifice, Beastiality, and incest? The “pick and choose” argument goes both ways.
As Jack Black’s character admonished the audience to “choose love and not hate,” is it really loving for Christians to ignore a clear warning in scripture because it no longer jives with the greater society? “Whereas the more liberal attitude found in some modern Christian circles is possibly due to the exaggerated importance Christians have traditionally accorded to the term “love,” Jewish law holds that no hedonistic ethic, even if called “love,” can justify the morality of homosexuality any more than it can legitimize adultery, incest, or polygamy, however genuinely such acts may be performed out of love and by mutual consent.”7
Follow this link for PART 1 on “Do Christians Love Shrimp more than Homosexuals?”
Written by David Anglin / August 6, 2020
1 https://www.funnyordie.com/2008/12/2/17706942/prop-8-the-musical-starring-jack-black-john-c-reilly-and-many-more. By Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris, Craig Robinson, and Kathy Najimy. Dec 2, 2008
2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Hebrews 10:1.
3 Ibid, Matt 15:11.
4 Ibid, Acts 10:15.
5 Stan, Reeves, ed. The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English. Chapter 19.
6 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Leviticus 18:20–25.
7 Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 247.).