Today's post has 2 Parts.
Part 1: Paul's "Flesh"
When I was a kid, my parents and my other evangelical Christian teachers used to warn me about The World, The Flesh, and The Devil. The World included tv where one could watch Flip Wilson's character Geraldine confirm "The Devil made me do it." And The Flesh was one of a three-parter in The World, as in the Bible (the leather-bound thin-paper red-letter NRSV I was made to read and memorize):
Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever. I John 2:15-16
But God was ironic if I wasn't to love The World or to have the desire of The Flesh. He was as ironic as Geraldine in The World talking like a Christian blaming The Devil. (Here's how I got that as the kid of missionaries in a war zone, Việt Nam, where I was made to go to Vietnamese church every Sunday where I'd hear this: "Đức Chúa Trời yêu thương thế gian" and "Ngôi Lời ở thế gian" and "Ngôi Lời đã trở nên xác thịt.") In other words, God got to love The World, and Jesus was in The World, and Jesus became Flesh. That's what John (aka Giaêng) also said about God and Jesus in my NRSV (John 3:16, John 1:10, and John 1:14).
God loves The World; but we must not. Jesus was in The World in The Flesh; but we must avoid the desires of The Flesh. But of course, we are not God or Jesus. So John comes along to make that crystal clear. He comes along, after Paul, to keep us from doing what God and Jesus did. Don't love The World and especially don't have the desire of The Flesh. John (in I John) was listening more precisely and more carefully to Paul; and Paul (as the NRSV and the Vietnamese Bible arranged it) had already written a few books and chapters and pages earlier to confirm with precision and with sense, this very sense:
"For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it." (Romans 7:18)
Nobody yet had the (New) Living Bible or (Today's) New International Version (2011) to flesh out the understanding that "thịt" and "flesh" mean "sinful nature." And that's what Paul may mean, and may mean exactly by "sarx." So Douglas Moo is making decisions -- now with bibliobloggers and translationbloggers making decisions about his decisions.
What are the consequences of Paul's "Sarx"? What's the sense you make of it?
Part 2: Making sense of a "Pound of Flesh"
The terrorism of Malik Nidal Hasan is arresting to so many of us, directly injurious to thirty of us and murderous to thirteen of us. How do we make sense of it?
Top biblioblogger Dr. Jim West jumps in early asking for "the faithful to pray for all involved" and wondering about "a war without an end in sight and being waged for no clear objective" and saying that Hasan "snapped" and that that does "show just how much pressure our military personnel are under."
And Polycarp, at his blog "The Church of Jesus Christ," responds to the early reports that Hasan was killed (although now we know he was shot by a female officer but now is alive, stable, and refusing to answer questions). Polycarp says "let us remember the example of the Amish and while we pray for those afflicted by this tragedy, the families left behind, let us too remember his family"; and the example of the Amish that Watts links to is this: to forgive the dead terrorist with concern for "the welfare of the killer's family."
Feminist blogger Phyllis Chesler says "Call me 'Islamophobic,' call me 'psychic,' call me what you will." And she says that most may call Hasan the victim. She says that in her post entitled "The Jihadist Is Always the Victim."
And a blogger who calls himself "Improvable" asks a rhetorical question with respect to Hasan. The blogger says: "So he decides to take out as many infidels as he could to get his pound of flesh for the jehad?"
Now we in the West hear Shakespeare, and we hear Shylock saying of Antonio: "The pound of flesh which I demand of him Is deerely bought, 'tis mine, and I will haue it."
The Bible, the Koran, the words of William Shakespeare. These are texts that demand interpretation, texts and interpretations that we may use for hope and healing and for terror and death. What does it matter exactly what "sarx" and what "pound of flesh" mean if they're mostly tools of terror?
What are the consequences of Malik Nidal Hasan's "Pound of Flesh"? What's the sense you make of it?