No Foreign Kings
Deuteronomy 17:14-17 When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ĎI will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,í 15you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as a king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. 16Moreover he shall not multiply horses for himself horses, since the Lord has said to you, ĎYou shall never again return that way.í 17Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he greatly increase sliver and gold for himself.
As I read the verses, one phrase leapt off the page. That phrase resonates. You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. You may not put a foreigner over yourselves.
Context is important. This passage comes from a portion of the Hebrew Scripture that Rabbi Harvey Fields believes has two major themes. The first theme is justice in society, and the second theme is ecology.1 This sermon will focus on the first theme, justice among all leaders - political, spiritual, and business leaders.
In the verses that follow, we are told that the king should have the Word and should study it. Those who are not versed in the Word of God are not fit leaders. The rationale is simple. Justice is best seen in the Word. Any king must know and understand the principles of godly justice to be a good leader.
The same principal applies to business, and congregational leadership. When a person understands the stories of the Bible, and the themes of the Bible, a person can be a better leader in spiritual, business, or political circles. The Biblical themes of social justice take root in our lives, when we read the stories over and over again. A passion for justice is important, because where there is a passion for social justice, the seeds for Kingdom are being planted.
In these verses, God points out that a king should not be distant from the people. Any king that cannot relate to his subjects cannot be just. That is one reason why the king was to be one of the children of Israel - not a foreigner.2 You may not put a foreigner over yourselves.
The kings in our society, the power-brokers in society are foreigners to the queer community. In many cases, they are not aware of the realities of life as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified, intersex, and queer people. The needs of the queer community are not understood, so little is done to address the unique needs of GLBT people. Human rights of queer people are used as political pawns. Protection of sexual minority groups is neglected. Justice for hate crimes is often denied.
You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. Perhaps, this is a call to gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified, intersex, and queer individuals to make sure nobody in government, business or church circles is not informed of the needs of the queer community. This might be a spiritual call to lobby government, business, and church leaders so that the leaders of business, government, and church organizations are not foreigners. Some queer and straight Christians feel a spiritual call to peaceful protests against churches, Christian ministries, and Christian colleges that oppress gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified people.
You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. When pastors are foreigners in the queer community, sexual minority groups are not well looked after in church. At best, their spiritual needs tend to be neglected, and at worst, sexual minorities are abused, rejected, condemned, and treated with total contempt.
You are a child of God, a God carrier. You value is established, because you were created by God, and delivered from slavery by God. Any time a pastor or church leader disrespects you because you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified, or queer that spiritual leader has disrespected God.
Only those who are foreigners to Godís grace, and to the queer community, condemn gay, bisexual, and trans people. Good theology, theology that is focused clearly where it belongs, on the cross of Christ, on grace understands that Godís radical grace is an inclusive grace.
You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. You do not have to put up with abuse. God made you a spiritual consumer, with the power to decide where and when to worship, and with whom you will worship. Start being a wise consumer. You would not keep purchasing crappy merchandise or crappy cars. Well, stop buying crap at church. Do no buy into the message. Do not donate to churches that abuse you. Stop attending churches that abuse. There is good news. You have choices. On the spiritual front, there are more and more choices. Each year, more congregations are becoming affirming, accepting, and welcoming. As more sexual minorities come out, people are starting to understand they can no longer persecute, oppress, or discriminate against Godís queer tribe. And more and more of those people who just get it are church people.
You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. A king should not be distant, because of wealth. That might be part of the reason why the Lord did not want the king to have many horses and wives. The people might have doubts about how honest a kingís business dealings were, if he had a lot of horses. I have always wondered about pastors who appeared to have a lot of money. We know they did not get the money from pastoral ministry. One pastor had a personal airplane and expensive cars. He seemed like an excellent man to me, but there was a nagging doubt - about money - in the minds of some people. Judging from the lives of some famous media pastors, I wonder if the men took vows of opulence and fertility, instead of poverty and chastity. When pastors have a life style that places is far above the life style of their congregants, it can be a very real barrier. Godís ideal of leadership appears to be one where there are few barriers.
Barriers are present when managers of companies receive millions of dollars a year in bonuses, while the company suffers, while employees are are laid off, and while some employees take wage and salary reductions. Employees become alienated from the managers, because managers are perceived to be from mars, not earth. Managers who are foreigners to the experiences of rank and file employees are not likely to promote social justice in the work place.
You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. There was, however, a more important reason for not having many horses and many wives. A king who had many horses might be tempted to take the people back to Egypt, back to slavery. And many wives might change his priorities, making a king turn his back on God.3 There are times when hard-won freedom from slavery is compromised by wealth. We trade one task-master, one slave-owner for another. And we become slaves to the very thing we thought would give us freedom, our wealth.
You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. Foreign ideas, planted in your heart and mind by those who are foreigners to the queer community, have been hurting you. You may not put a foreigner over yourselves. Nobody is born hating themselves. Self-hate, self-condemnation, and self-loathing are learned. Your teachers were a homophobic society, including some homophobic pastors and churches. You learned the message that only heterosexual, male-dominant views were right.
For Godís sake stop putting a foreigner over yourself. Stop hating yourself, disssing yourself, and treating yourself as if you are evil and horrible. Stop accepting second best because you are queer. That behavior is an insult to yourself, and to God, your Creator. Remember, you may not put a foreigner over yourselves.