Polygamy begins early in Genesis 4:19 with Lamech having two wives. Nothing good is associated with Lamech as he thumbs his nose at God and boasts of murdering another man some time after Cain killed Abel. While this does not automatically make polygamy wrong, it is worth noting that our first instance of it comes from a very evil man.
Several Bible characters of note had multiple wives including Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Despite this, we don’t get the impression that this was ever the norm and was never expressed as ideal. There is one instance in which God calls for multiple wives – the kinsman redeemer. If a man’s brother dies that man is to marry his brother’s widow, to take care of her, and to father children in his brother’s name in order to keep his family line going. The story of Ruth is about a kinsman redeemer. Closer relatives refused to do their duty so Boaz took Ruth as his wife. While Boaz is not noted as being married previously the law of the kinsman redeemer allowed for multiple wives in this case.
There is no official end to polygamy in the Bible. There is little mention of it after Solomon and his son Rehoboam however. While Solomon’s sin did not lie with having multiple wives but in marrying foreign women and worshipping foreign gods, it seems that Israel took note of the problem. Multiple wives brought about trouble and if even the wisest man on earth, Solomon, could not keep from sinning the rest of Israel stood no chance.
In the New Testament polygamy was not an issue in the Roman world. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:2 that a requirement for spiritual leadership was to be the “husband of one wife.” Some take this to imply that church leaders should only be men while others imply that it is in reference to divorce. In either case, it seems clear that polygamy was not accepted within the church.
The difficulty with the Christian life is that despite being Christians we aren’t perfect. This means that at times we may hold grudges and not be willing to forgive just the same as a Christian may continue to struggle with issues such as lust, lying, or anger.
Just because we are not perfect does not mean that we stop striving for perfection though. We must constantly be working to better ourselves and forgiveness is a big area. In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” People who pray that pray are asking that God forgive them on the basis that they have forgiven others. Anyone who prays that prayer and who has not forgiven someone else is essentially asking God not to forgive them. This is obviously a serious issue.
There are two kinds of forgiveness in Christianity. The first is the forgiveness of our sins at the time of salvation. Our sins are erased on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross. Every Christian has this and it can’t be undone. What some Christians don’t have is the daily forgiveness of their sins. As mentioned earlier we are not perfect and continue to sin even after we become Christians. As before we were saved sin affects our relationship with God. The more we sin, the worse our relationship with God.
Daily asking forgiveness of our sins not only keeps our relationship right with God, it keeps our focus on Him. It reminds us that our forgiveness is from God and has nothing to do with how “holy” we are. A person who won’t forgive others has no right to ask God to continue to forgive them however and their relationship with God suffers.
In Matthew 18 Jesus told a parable about a man who was forgiven a debt that he could never repay by the king. However that man went and held another man to a much smaller debt that was owed to him. When the king heard about this he was furious and had the man thrown into prison for his inability to forgive a debt despite the fact that he had a much greater one forgiven. Some believe that this passage warns of a loss of salvation while others hold that salvation can never truly be lost. Whatever one’s interpretation is, everyone can agree upon the fact that the situation is not good and the man should have forgiven the small debt as he had been forgiven a great one.
Christians should be forgiving, plain and simple. It may not affect one’s salvation but it definitely affects one’s relationship with God.
What is a Christian is one of the simplest and most complex questions that can be asked. Within Christianity there is a definite divide between Protestantism and Catholicism. There is also Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal which started as a branch off of Catholicism that allowed divorce and is now somewhere between Protestant and Catholic. Add in the hundreds if not thousands of denominations that have differing views on the Bible and its interpretation and the question, “What is a Christian?” become very complex.
It’s best to remain simple and basic on this question. Once things start getting adding it gets difficult and ugly and ultimately that’s how the divisions came about in the first place. A Christian is anyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. This means that they have acknowledged that they are a sinner. They believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins. They have asked God to forgive them of their sins on this basis. I fully believe that anyone who does this is a Christian and is saved.
What most people mean when they ask “What is a Christian?” is really “What does a good Christian look like?” If a person commits such and such a sin, are they really a Christian? If a person doesn’t go to church every Sunday or isn’t forgiving, are they really a Christian? Christians are not perfect and they are going to slip up and sin. Some Christians slip up more than others and some are much more mature than others.
The mark of a mature Christian is best seen in the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Mature Christians are going to demonstrate these things consistently. Immature Christians are going to be lacking them as they take time to develop. Showing possession of the fruit of the Spirit is a good indication that a person is a genuine Christian. The reverse is not true however. Just because they don’t show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives does not mean that they are not a Christian, it may just mean that they are an immature Christian. There are many immature Christians in the world and they should be striving to be better Christians.