Numbers 35 says:

33 ” ‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.’ ”

Lots of interesting stuff here.  I’d always been intruiged by the passage where Cain slew Able, and God talks about how the ground cries out with the blood.    I’d never notice this passage.  And while I suppose somebody could claim it’s all metaphorical, I think there’s something quite literally true and fascinating about the idea that our moral decisions somehow poison the physical world itself.

It’s tempting to veer into an NT Wright-inspired diversion about the physicality of the afterlife, and about the idea that our afterlife seems like it’ll be a redemption of this world, rather than a journey to some other one.  But I think I’ll take a pass on that and instead go back to the Cain and Abel thing.

According to the passage in Numbers, The slaying of Abel was never atoned for.   Unless there’s some tremendous story we’re never told, where somebody ignores the mark of Cain and kills him, then Cain’s blood never atones for the land.

I suppose somebody might suggest that this is some new rule for Israel.  But there’s nothing that I can see in the text to imply this.

The question this leads to is “What does this pollution mean?  Why is it bad?”

I’m not sure I’ve got an answer to that question.

And I’ve got this whole other thought.

Jesus tells us, ultimately, that wanting a thing isn’t morally different than doing it.  Lust is the same as adultery.  Hatred is the same as murder.  Therefore, really, we’re all murderers.

And therefore, the land is polluted.

And it can only be atoned for through our blood.

We’re familiar with the general concept, that Jesus  blood pays a price that we owe.  I’d submit the same general formula is at work here.  Jesus’ sacrifice cleared us of this debt, if we’ve allowed him to.

Yet we haven’t all let him.  So the ground is polluted, still.  Because all of us haven’t atoned.

And perhaps this is a part of the meaning of the kingdom of God.  When every knee bows, when every tongue confesses, thorough atonement will finally have been achieved.   The pollution will be cleaned away.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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