I am not a Morality Policeman

The Talmud speaks of 7 different types of Pharisee. One of which was called the ‘bruised Pharisee’ who walked into walls to avoid looking at women. Ridiculous but true.

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5 v11

Set apart yourself from the world.

Come out from among from them.

I have heard these mentioned so much in church over my whole life. But what did they mean? They were often said within the context of some prophetic utterance by people I didn’t necessarily want to become.

Last night I watched a repeat BBC documentary Inside the Bruderhof. Founded in Germany in 1920 there are over 23 communities scattered around the world which members move between them throughout their lives. These communities seek to live like the early Church in the sense of sharing all their possessions and not owning anything. What is interesting is their approach to separating from the world. “To avoid clothing that indicates status or wealth as well as anything provocative or sexualised.”

Yesterday I also watched a video posted on Twitter by Masih Alinejad an Iranian who in 2013 started a movement which has thousands of women following who are protesting against the compulsory wearing of the hijab. The morality police in Tehran are regularly filmed slapping or arresting women who are exposing their faces. Part of the commentary of the video I watched has this:

Man: If my son rapes you, then it’s your fault because you’re not wearing proper hijab.

Woman: I am Christian.

Man: It doesn’t matter. You still have to wear Islamic dress-code.

So what determines a provocative piece of clothing? Do women have to wear dresses to their ankles? Where does the darkness truly lie, in a women’s face or in the desire of a man to abuse her?

What are the deeds of darkness the Apostle mentions? What needs to be exposed? Perhaps what was dark in the 1st century is not dark in the 21st? Or is it we get used to the darkness?

I’ve often eaten food outside in the dark in Africa. I don’t like it. I am always concerned about what has jumped onto my plate without being introduced to me! I don’t like going into restaurants when I can hardly see what the menu says. I like to see my food, I like to see the table cloth and I like to see who I am eating with. But in both settings I know that if I stay in the dark after a while my eyes will become accustomed and I will be able to see.

Has the Church become accustomed to the darkness?

Yes we may shout! But before we start painting our placards with catchy slogans think about this. What if the most religiously observant Christian denies love and mercy to those who clearly have broken the ‘rules’? Who is actually in darkness then? The religiously observant Christian will believe it is the rule-breaker. What do you think?

The Apostle has already told us in this prison letter that the Gentiles are darkened in their understanding and that we should live as Children of the Light. But are we meant to be like the Morality Police of Tehran?

Paul says ‘expose them’. That’s not to follow any religious governance whether done in the name of Mohammed or Jesus of denouncing the shameful deeds committed or burning witches at the stake as the Church still does figuratively. But it is definitely to allow the Light of Christ to shine through our lives. To be different not with a new darkness. But to allow the glory of Christ, His love, His beautiful, selfless, sacrificial life to settle into the darkness of people’s lives. To treat people as human beings. To see them not as sexual objects but as people created in the image of God. To love so that God is seen and to live so that we are not seen.

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