Sunday, May 21, 2006

Love does not act Unseemly: Part 1

The Greek word translated as rude, unbecoming, and unseemly is aschemoneo. This interesting word is used only one other time in the New Testament, in a strange passage referencing a father’s relationship to his unwed virgin daughter. “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry.” (1 Corinthians 7:36) This word is also used five times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) where four times it is translated as “be naked”.

The cognate noun of aschemoneo is aschemosune and is used twice in the New Testament. Once in reference to male homosexual behavior, “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.” (Romans 1:27) It is also used a second time in reference to being naked, “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.” (Revelation 16:15) This word also appears in the Septuagint and often with reference to being naked, specifically with reference to genitalia.

The adjective form of aschemoneo is aschemon and also appears in the Septuagint when describing the rape of Dinah, “Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.” (Genesis 34:7)

So what does it mean to act rudely or in an unseemly or unbecomingly manner? Consistent with the use of these words throughout the scriptures is the idea of uncovering someone else’s nakedness, often to their shame. Paul, in teaching on the Body of Christ, tells us that there are things that are meant to be covered, there are part of the body that are not meant to be exposed. “And those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked.” (Corinthians 12:23-24) While Paul was writing this in regard to the Body of Christ, the same is true in the natural. Not only do we cloth the parts of our body that are “less presentable”, but even spiritually and emotionally, there are things that are so intimately personal that we do not expose them for public viewing.

So what does it mean to be rude? Rude is when we expose another’s “nakedness” and bring upon them shame, disgrace, and ridicule. This could be a physical nakedness, in reference to inappropriate sexual contact, or an emotional or spiritual nakedness. As we grow in fellowship with one another we get to know each other’s “stuff”; their sins, difficulties, and weaknesses. When we expose someone else’s “stuff”, we are acting rudely, unseemly, and unbecomingly. Love does not do this. Instead of exposing, love covers. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8) Love does not go around exposing other people’s sins; rather love covers a multitude of sins with forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

In the coming posts, we will look at some ways that we can become rude to others.

David Robison

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