A People Set Apart
Parasha: Acharei MotTags: conduct, culture, different, distinctions, sensuality, sexuality, society
Acharei Mot - אחרי מות : "After the death"
Torah : Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Haftarah : Ezekiel 22:1-19
Gospel : John 7:1-52
Thought for the Week
In Leviticus 18, the Lord warns the Israelites, "You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes." (Leviticus 18:3) We are not to imitate the ways of the Egyptians. This means that we are not to turn back to the evil ways of our past. He tells them not to do as the Canaanites do. This means that we are not to allow ourselves to be seduced by new temptations.
The Torah this week warns us against the sexual deviancies of the larger culture. We are to be easily distinguishable from the secular/pagan context around us, and one of the most obvious ways in which we are to be different is in the area of sexuality.
The way we express our sexuality should draw a clean line of distinction between us and the rest of the world. As believers, we are still in the midst of the modern equivalent of Egyptians and Canaanites. Modern society is obsessed with sensuality. Fed by the media, advertising images, fashion industry and entertainment industry, the appetite for sexual display and deviance grows ever hungrier and more twisted. Free access to pornography, whether through internet, television or print, has seared the conscience and sensibility of our culture. Immodest dress is the standard wardrobe for men and women even within churches and liberal synagogues.
Believers are supposed to look different. According to the Bible's standards, it should be fairly obvious whether a person is one of faith or not simply on the basis of the way they dress and conduct themselves.
In the First Century, sexual immorality was intrinsically connected to the popular worship systems. Devotees to the gods followed their sexual exploits and imitated their base behavior in temple rituals which incorporated sanctified prostitution. Roman culture, for all its austere talk of moderation, was one of perversity, indulgence and depredation. In the midst of the sexually charged atmosphere of the First Century, the believers stood out as a people quite set apart.
Unfortunately, believers within our modern Egypt and Canaan have adopted the dress and behavior of the sexually depraved culture around us. This has created an unbearable contradiction. We dress our women like Canaanite women and tell our men not lust. We send our children on dates, little practice-run love affairs, and tell them to remain pure. We tell our singles that it is all right to kiss and touch here but not there, and the arbitrary lines keep moving. It's not kosher. We attend sensual movies and tell ourselves to close our eyes in the naughty bits, but we are peeking. We enjoy an endless supply of drama and comedy premised upon sexual deviancy. We shake our heads at the immoral culture around us, but we are voyeurs feeding off of it. It is self-defeating and psychologically harmful to simultaneously feed the wayward desire of the flesh and fight against it. We have lost the fight before we have begun.
God's solution is a total break from this culture. We are to be completely different. We should look different, act different and be different.
That is the meaning of holiness.
Source : First Fruits of Zion