Editor's Note: Rachel Held Evans is a popular blogger from Dayton, Tennessee, and author of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”
By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN
On "The Daily Show" recently, Jon Stewart grilled Mike Huckabee about a TV ad in which Huckabee urged voters to support “biblical values” at the voting box.
When Huckabee said that he supported the “biblical model of marriage,” Stewart shot back that “the biblical model of marriage is polygamy.”
And there’s a big problem, Stewart went on, with reducing “biblical values” to one or two social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, while ignoring issues such as poverty and immigration reform.
It may come as some surprise that as an evangelical Christian, I cheered Stewart on from my living room couch.
As someone who loves the Bible and believes it to be the inspired word of God, I hate seeing it reduced to an adjective like Huckabee did. I hate seeing my sacred text flattened out, edited down and used as a prop to support a select few political positions and platforms.
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And yet evangelicals have grown so accustomed to talking about the Bible this way that we hardly realize we’re doing it anymore. We talk about “biblical families,” “biblical marriage,” “biblical economics,” “biblical politics,” “biblical values,” “biblical stewardship,” “biblical voting,” “biblical manhood,” “biblical womanhood,” even “biblical dating” to create the impression that the Bible has just one thing to say on each of these topics - that it offers a single prescriptive formula for how people of faith ought to respond to them.
But the Bible is not a position paper. The Bible is an ancient collection of letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories spanning multiple genres and assembled over thousands of years in cultures very different from our own.
When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.
Nowhere is this more evident than in conversations surrounding “biblical womanhood.”
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Growing up in the Bible Belt, I received a lot of mixed messages about the appropriate roles of women in the home, the church and society, each punctuated with the claim that this or that lifestyle represented true “biblical womanhood.”
In my faith community, popular women pastors such as Joyce Meyer were considered unbiblical for preaching from the pulpit in violation of the apostle Paul's restriction in 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent"), while Amish women were considered legalistic for covering their heads in compliance with his instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5 ("Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head").
Pastors told wives to submit to their husbands as the apostle Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:1, but rarely told them to avoid wearing nice jewelry as the apostle instructs them just one sentence later in 1 Peter 3:3. Despite the fact that being single was praised by both Jesus and Paul, I learned early on that marriage and motherhood were my highest callings, and that Proverbs 31 required I keep a home as tidy as June Cleaver's.
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This didn’t really trouble me until adulthood, when I found myself in a childless egalitarian marriage with a blossoming career and an interest in church leadership and biblical studies. As I wrestled with what it meant to be a woman of faith, I realized that, despite insistent claims that we don’t “pick and choose” from the Bible, any claim to a “biblical” lifestyle requires some serious selectivity.
After all, technically speaking, it is “biblical” for a woman to be sold by her father to pay off debt, “biblical” for a woman to be required to marry her rapist, “biblical” for her to be one of many wives.
So why are some Bible passages lifted out and declared “biblical,” while others are explained away or simply ignored? Does the Bible really present a single prescriptive lifestyle for all women?
These were the questions that inspired me to take a page from A.J. Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Biblically", and try true biblical womanhood on for size—literally, no “picking and choosing."
This meant, among other things, growing out my hair, making my own clothes, covering my head whenever I prayed, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church (unless I was “prophesying,” of course), calling my husband "master,” even camping out in my front yard during my period to observe the Levitical purity laws that rendered me unclean.
During my yearlong experiment, I interviewed a variety of women practicing biblical womanhood in different ways — an Orthodox Jew, an Amish housewife, even a polygamist family - and I combed through every commentary I could find, reexamining the stories of biblical women such as Deborah, Ruth, Hagar, Tamar, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia.
My goal was to playfully challenge this idea that the Bible prescribes a single lifestyle for how to be a woman of faith, and in so doing, playfully challenge our overuse of the term “biblical.” I did this not out of disdain for Scripture, but out of love for it, out of respect for the fact that interpreting and applying the Bible is a messy, imperfect and - at times - frustrating process that requires humility and grace as we wrestle the text together.
The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text. The better question to ask one another is why we pick and choose the way that we do, why we emphasis some passages and not others. This, I believe, will elevate the conversation so that we’re using the Bible, not as a blunt weapon, but as a starting point for dialogue.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rachel Held Evans.
"As someone who loves the Bible and believes it to be the inspired word of God..." All credibility lost.
You da man Satan! Although you are imaginary you are much more polite and fun to hang with than that mean old nasty baby killing god.
satan was the cool character, I agree. In fact I find it interesting that christians bash him since he never had a chance to write his side of the story. Then again, christians love to judge others.
Satan you are sure to get all the support you needs from atheists. They just adore you.
hey doomed,, there is no satan..
doomed,, satan..is imaginary
Right on, Sister!
The writer seems ignorant of the fact that the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus were meant to supplant and sweep away the morality of the old testament. The Golden Rule instead of "eye for an eye." That is the key, if you are not following the Golden Rule, then your interpetations are false.
it is good people who do good deeds, not religions. Religions steal the good work of good people and claim it as their own. Even jesus could have learned from good people.
So, God got it wrong the first time?
Bruce – you realize what you just posted is (a) simply your opinion and (b) a huge rationalization and twisting. Which is fine – believe what you want to believe. But please don't post is s the absolute truth. Rather arrogant to do so.
So what? The bible both OT and NT is a pack of mean spirited lies and fairy tales. In the NT Jesus says to:
Luke 14: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.
He also says he came to turn brother against brother. Only a jerk would do this. We have proton that Jesus is the jerk on of an imaginary god.
Yeah, that outdated Old Testament morality, like the Ten Commandments. Do away with them, yeah right!
man created the ten commandments, just as we create secular laws. Silly to think a magical all powerful being who took 6 days to create a universe and was tired on the 7th day. <– all man in that writing
man is so simple, we create gods for what we don't understand.
And you are hind, lost in hind, darkness of hinduism, ignorance.
I know right? Is that so hard to admit? Apparently.
Seems man has created a god THAT he can't understand.
@ Be Honest
"man is so simple, we create gods for what we don't understand."
I think this works both ways. Man can also create atheism when God doesn't play by his rules.
-Permission to Doubt
The problem is Denominational Theology! Baptist, Methodist, SDA, COG, etc. These fundamental churches are the main root of all problems. Their Theology is erroneous! Their spirit is erroneous! Their understanding is erroneous! There Biblical knowledge is corrupt!. This is "When Religion becomes the problem".
You are also the problem Pastor Mike.
THEOLOGY IS NOTHING BUT THEORY, A HYPOTHESIS, ANY ONE CAN SPEW HIS hINDUISM BS AS HE LIKE.
All biblical knowledge is corrupt. This is because the bible is written by men to control people. The uninspired word of an imaginary god. Grow up and stop believing in a make believe monster.
fear = religion. It robs children of their spirit. Religion is child abuse.
It's all religion, Pastor Mike, even if you're a Christian who doesn't belong to a denomination.
Religion = Child Abuse ?
That is rediculous. Having morals and teaching your children morals is child abuse? OMG! Get real!
I never fealt abused growing up and my children deffinately don't feal abused practicing our faith.
Can religion be abusive? Absolutely. They are called cults.
A true and real faith in God is not a cult nor abuse. A Real religion and real faith is about love for your children and love for others. Real love is not abuse. Using religion for personal green and power over people is where the abuse is.
Simple truth- god is imaginary and the bible is a book of myths and lies. If god were real and the bible true god would be evil and the bible a horror story.
A few examples of how mean this mythical god is:
1. Murdering innocent children during the flood
2. Murdering Job's family
3. Telling Abraham is kill his son
4. Killing the innocent first born children in Egypt
5. Requiring a human sacrifice for the salvation of mankind
proof of one perishing is that the bible seems foolish.
You have it all wrong.
1. Murdering innocent children during the flood-none are good, no not one. All are evil and perishing and deserve death, including children. However, God is good and gracious. There is much evidence that the children who died in the flood wee the offspring of fallen angels and were not redeemable. For those who were fullly human, they would have gone to paradise. They died in the flood because they were under the authority of their evil parents who refused to believe Noah that a flood was coming. They would have died anyway, just as all of us die.
2. Murdering Job's family-get your facts straight.Satan did this. Go back and read Job
3. Telling Abraham is kill his son. Go back and read your bible, He stopped Abraham from killikng his son. But, even if He had not, He is God and He can do what He wishes. Just because you dont understand it, how are you able to judge the One who made you and all the rest of us and can what He wishes? your very breath is in His hands. You dont know how vulnerable you are. Why should He allow you or anyone else to live? Yet, He is merciful and has given you time to repent and come to Him
4. Killing the innocent first born children in Egypt. God warned them through Moses if they did not let His people Israel go. The children were under the authority of their parents who were under the authority of the Pharoah. They chose not to let Israel go, so the punishment came and the children died because the parents refused to listen to God. Plus, the Egyptians got what they deserved since they murder millions of the first born of the Israelists on the orders of their Pharoah. God uses what man does back at him.
5. Requiring a human sacrifice for the salvation of mankind- Jesus was God and man. He chose to die. He gave His life willingly. What have you done for humanity? Have you given your life or are you living selfishly? Who is going to pay for your sins? Why did you put Jesus on the Cross by sinning against God? You put Him there and so did all of humanity with their sins. Only the death of God could pay for these sins. God could only die if He became a man. Thus, the death of Jesus and HIs resurrection. You left out that last part.
1. Sorry, but a 3 month old is NOT evil. A 2-year old isn't even evil. Nor are fetuses in the womb. All of which god slaughtered in the millions.
2. Satan did the act, but with the blessing of allowance of god's oversight. God protected Job until Satan asked him not to SO that Satan could torment him in some sort of cosmic bet. God's hands are not clean.
3. He did stop Abraham from killing his son AFTER telling him to do so and putting him through extreme emotional distress as some sort of petty loyalty test. God is not only insecure, but being omniscient had no reason to question Abraham's loyalty or know what he would have done without having to put him through it anyway.
4. Nope. Again, excusing the slaughter of innocents because they are affiliated–through NO choice of their own–with others who are in turn affiliated with others who have done wrong is sick and perverse in the extreme. The murder of children for sins they didn't commit to punish people who did is pure, unadulterated evil.
5. Doesn't matter what I or others have done for humanity. That has NOTHING to do with the point being made. God demanded a blood sacrifice. That's a trait we associate with false gods today.
Jason, you've got to know what kind of people you're facing here. Most of them are reprobates. Why do they reject the truth and do not come to Christ?
Christ Himself said why...
" And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
In my mind, the reprobate is the one who defends the murdering of children during a cosmic temper tantrum. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.
@Get Real & Nathan
Since you two obviously know what a 'God' couldn't do in order to be real and loving, I'm wondering what would make the cut?
@Prism: Well, in case you've missed it, NOT killing millions of innocents in a hissy fit might be a good start to "making the cut." Not prescribing INfinite punishments for finite crimes would be another. Do you really need me to go on?
Atheism is truly the saddest and most hopeless form of Religion.
Praise Lucifer, the bringer of truth, light and reason! Hail Satan, the imaginary adversary to an imaginary god, who has the balls to fight against god's evil ways! Glory be to the mythical beings of Lucifer and Satan who shall slay the evil mythical God of Abraham!!!!
Atheism is life with no religion. You are dumb.
@ Pravda – you are clearly an uneducated twit. Seriously, where did you go to school, and how far did you get?
Listen – we understand – it's not your fault – you were clearly raised in a staggeringly deficient, twisted system. Fortunately for you, it is easier than ever to access the resources necessary to free your brain!
the proof God exist is because people hate Him. you reject God you belong to Satan by default..so lets GET REAL and see the facts
The ONLY people who can hate God are believers. It's people like you that you are trashing.
Oh, BS, trav. If one doesn't believe God exists, one doesn't believe Satan does, either.
People who do not believe in God don't hate him; they don't believe, therefore there's nothing TO hate.
I think the sort of ignorance displayed by Pravda is sad.
Pravda, you've got that right!
Atheism in and of itself is not a religion. Please do get your facts straight.
Nathan, man is created by God, and is a physical AND spiritual being. We are that whether we believe it or do not believe it. When we believe in God our Creator and give Him honour due acknowledging His lordship in our lives, we are complete and fully alive. When we deny Him and walk away on our own rejecting Him, we are separated from life in Him and are spiritually dead, therefore we only know and understand earthly things, and are blind to all else. So, when you say, atheism is not a religion, in a natural sense you are right, but since you can not separate yourself from the fact that God is the one who created you and gave you life, by your rejection of Him and choosing your own ways, you have become your own god. So in a sense, every man is religious... because if he is not putting his faith and trust in his Creator, and honoring Him, he has filled the place reserved for Him in his heart with something or someone else, making it/him/self his god! There is much more to be said about this subject, but not at this time...
@Prism: "Nathan, man is created by God, and is a physical AND spiritual being. We are that whether we believe it or do not believe it."
Unfortunately, things are not true just because you insist they are. Please provide one single shred of empirical evidence for your statement. And then once you've "proven" a "spiritual" aspect to the nature of man, please provide one single shred of empirical evidence for the existence of a god being. Any god being. Then, please provide even one single shred of empirical evidence for the specific god being you are pushing as the real one. Until then, I will continue to reject your claims.
Nathan, here is something which can be very well applied to you...
"Now when He (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for HE KNEW WHAT WAS IN MAN"
Those who seek to know God will find Him , when they seek Him with THEIR WHOLE HEART. God does not stoop the the level of man, nor does He operate in the ways of man. He is not the One subjected to our judgment, yet we are totally subjected to His! He is the LORD. Those like you, who in pride of their hearts sneer and insult those who speak on God's behalf, will never have God reveal Himself to them, until the day when they appear before Him to answer for their lives. That's just how it is, friend! Christ came into this world as a lowly babe, in swaddling clothes, yet He was a King. He came to His own, but His own did not recognize Him. But He came this way so that He would sift the motives and intents of human hearts. Those who truly sought Him,, they recognized Him. Those who didn't, even though HE fed them with the mul/ti/tudes, joined the mob yelling, crucify Him! So it is even today! Ponder this , friend, search your own heart, and see in which group you are fi/tting!
"Those who didn't, even though HE fed them with the mul/ti/tudes, joined the mob yelling, crucify Him!"
It's sure hard to believe that none of those 'ingrates' who were fed with the 'miracle' fish did not save any of the bones to hawk as relics and magic souvenirs! Jews? Really?
@Prism: Grow up and don't presume to know the hearts and minds and histories of others. I DID seek god, for a long time. I was a Christian for 30 years before I finally freed myself from it all. Searched with all my heart, oh how I searched. And in the end, no one ever answered anything that couldn't be ascribed to chance. Period.
Sadly, your Period got you cut of from God!
Sadly, god was never there to begin with. Your sad and belittling presumption about others and their relationships with god or their path and history seeking god is petty and misplaced.
Wouldn't "biblical" marriage be incest?
What is other word for hinduism, corruption of truth absolute? BIBLE.
..thanks to secular laws in this country or christians would behave much worse than they do.
Christianity is fear based. Without fear it couldn't exist. Deny its fear and you could be the next terrorist.
You know, Be Honest,I have been a Christian since I was 14. That is 54 years. And I have never felt fear of God or of what others might say. I think, to the contrary, Christianity is love based.
God loves me enough to forgive. And I respond to him out of love, just as a son who loves his father and wants to please him.
@ Don – and what exactly is it that you have done that is so bad that you require an all-powerful god to forgive you?
"So why are some Bible passages lifted out and declared “biblical,” while others are explained away or simply ignored?"
Because religion is used by the powerful or those that want power to control the masses through the guise of "religion". Its cherry, picking pure and simple, passages that you can use to manipulate people to retain that power. It is all too often coupled with hatred for the people you are using the passages against. Take slavery for example, it's right there in the bible and the bible was always used to defend slavery.
Try to tell one of the religious types what real biblical marriage was all about and they argue that it isn't in the bible and they continue to deny it even when you point it out, multiple times...
All this tells me that people are being manipulated.
Religions are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute, by hindu Jew's crook seculars to make human their gentile, slaves.
Hindu, please learn English. What you are saying doesn't even make any sense at all.
hinduism, excuses, hinduism excuses, hindu excuses.
thanks to secular laws in this country or christians would behave much worse than they do.
I am afraid you are right, Jessica; people do use the Bible for their own purposes. But I'm puzzled. Are you going to throw out the Bible because some abuse it? Somehow that doesn't make sense.
One of the principles of the Reformation was sola scripture. That means that you and I and everyone else has the right and the responsibility to read and seek the truth found in the scripture. So read it yourself. Ask God to give you direction in understanding it. I am confident he will.
Wow, nothing like taking the Bible out of context. But this is the type of material that CNN and atheists like... God never condoned polygamy, even in the garden of Eden, one man, one woman. God was very consistent about this, but man married several woman. Not God's plan. And that is just the first thing she mentions....
It seems no Christian can read the bible correctly. You have millions of interpretations of what your god has to say. Your god has failed miserable when it comes to conveying what it wants from its subservient creations. Your god is a joke who holds no power whatsoever, and is completely imaginary.
You are a hindu, complainer, If no woman wants you, their must be something wrong with you, hindu looser.
Sorry but you can not deny what is clearly in your religious text.
LOL, someone needs to take their pet meds....
God gives specific orders not eat shrimp, not to eat cheeseburger, not to wear a cotton/poly shirt, not to trim sideburns, etc. But he just didn't get around to saying "Thou shalt not own another human being" or "Thou shalt not marry more than one person.
Right. Got it.
The Old Testament law was given to a nation that just had come out of 100's of years of slavery with Egypt. Many rules were about sanitation and avoiding food poisoning and sesual diseases. They had no clue how to take care of themselves... Like I said before CONTEXT....
The Bible presented King Solomon as possibly the wisest of men. He had over 1,000 wives and concubines.
2 Samuel 12:8,
@ Pravda – accept it. You are simply jumping through your own hoops trying to explain and rationalize that which cannot be rationalized. The reason for this is simple: the Bible is not internally consistent, but is simply a collection of a large number of writings, collected over hundreds of years, translated and retranslated, and twisted and tweaked continuously, by people. It is NOT the word of god. You fundamentally know, in your heart, that is true – you simply can't emotionally let go of the fairy tale you were raised with that the bible is the word of god.
Internet, even accepting the fact that you are using hyperbole, there are not many different interpretations. There is pretty much a consensus about the core truth statements of the Bible, at least among those who accept the Bible as God's word. Yes, there are differences on the non-essentials. (BTW the issues raised by the author of the article are pretty much non-essentials.) But I wonder if this is just an evasion of personal responsibility.
The essentials are: 1) God is. 2) God created everything including us. We therefore have a responsibility to him. 3) God loves the world; that is everyone. 5) We are all separated from God because of our rebelliousness. 6) God offers forgiveness to all, thought we must accept the forgiveness offered. 7) Those who do accept God's forgiveness and return to him have eternal life.
There is very little disagreement about those things.
This is an article written by someone who does not know how to separate the First and Second Testaments and who does not understand which "rules" and "guidelines" were nixed due to Christ's Passion. "The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose." is just about the only statement in the article I agree with – and it is apparent that the author picks and chooses which passages she wants to understand.
RE: "This is an article written by someone who does not know how to separate the First and Second Testaments.."
You mean the author is a Republican? ;)
Jesus said several times that his daddies bizarre sick twisted rules and laws remain in play until heaven and earth pass away. As far as I can tell, earth is still here.
There is no biblical god... medieval times are over, thank god hehe
If the author is an evangelical then she would know better than to write a serious religious paper for CNN. Now we will get 1,000 instances of fairy angels and the like. If she wants to debate she should chose a venue where the topic could be discussed seriously.
Context, context, context. If you don't understand the context of a given Biblical passage – cultural, historical, literary – you're very likely to misapply it
" I was misquoted ! " " They took my words out of context ! " When you sound like a politician who's been caught with his hand in the till, you may have a problem.
LOL, God's instructions to a nation that just came out of hundreds of years of Slavery will be a bit different than when it is prospering, but dealing with other issue. That is why context is SO important.
Context? Or not real? Hmmmmmmm..... It seems no Christian can read the bible correctly. You have millions of interpretations of what your god has to say. Your god has failed miserable when it comes to conveying what it wants from its subservient creations. Your god is a joke who holds no power whatsoever, and is completely imaginary.
But you types say that the bible is literal. Taking supposed meanings and theories goes against literalism.
Deuteronomy 22: 28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and răpes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
What is the proper way to spin these verses so that they do not mean what they say?
What was first made can never again become that which was made first for only in varying differential constructs can another thing be made to be outdone against that which was firstly made.
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Hey, lion – have you ever tried to think for yourself? Try it some time – you may surprise yourself!
The Bible is relevant because it addresses universal themes and the universal human condition. That would be true even if you considered it literature. (BTW as literature there is little in human history to compare,)
But I am convinced there is more to the Bible than that. It probes the human heart so deeply because it is God speaking to us.
If there was even a chance that were so, wouldn't it be worth a serious look?
But there's virtually no chance that it is true.
There's nothing wrong with that. Read it to see the true side of the God man created. He's not a very pleasant old chap.
Why would I take any book "seriously" that was cobbled together over thousands of years with the catholic church keeping some of it and tossing out other sections? I live in reality, you live in 200 AD.
Paul's restriction in 1 Timothy 2:12 ("I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent")
So then why do Tea-Partyiers support people like Sarah palin and Michael bachman?? Thats something that always confused me.
How do these hyper-conservative people who see women as infeior and belong to serve men supprt women polticions.It doesnt make sense.A Bunch of hyprocrites,I say!
From book of hinduism, corruption of truth, by hindu's lairs called old testament.
Fortunately, we also learn in the Bible who are the hypocrites. Turns out we all are. We can relax on that point and work on figuring out how to live the best life possible.
It would seem god is the biggest fvcking hypocrite of all. How human of him. Coincide?
One question... where in the bible does the bible teach polygamy is OK? Cause if someone can show me where it actually teaches it's OK, I'll go see if I can pick up a few more wives.
Dont you know, more the Mary. hindu ignorant, go get all you want, as long as they agree.
Ben, a child has a father and a mother, a dad and a mom, there is no other way for a child to be created-this child calls the male "dad" and the female "mom" (father and mother). In today's world, there is much "spin" put on this "natural order" of things. It is simple, we have a dad and a mom (even you do, we all do).
God's original intent was for man and woman to live in paradise in complete harmony with nature. That was destroyed when man and woman disobeyed God. Since then mankind has lived through a cyclical process of blessing, sin, judgement, blessing and on and on. There are such things as Biblical values. The attempt to confuse those values with examples of specific behavior by certain individuals in the Bible is not productive. God knows man is wicked by nature and left to his own devices will descend into depravity. The Bible is far more than what some seem to quantify as a rule book. There are real life examples of good and poor choices for us to learn from. And the life and teaching of our savior Jesus as well as His suffering and sacrifice for us.
Well said, Hope!
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