Examine the Scriptures

I’m writing over at The Glorious Table today about the importance of understanding the Bible for ourselves.

Have you ever listened to a sermon and thought, “Wait, what? That’s not what the Bible says”? Ever scroll through social media and pause to look up a quote someone has attributed to Psalms or Proverbs only to discover it’s not even in the Bible? If you’re nodding your head, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

On more than one occasion, I’ve spent a Sunday afternoon dissecting a section of Scripture to learn the “whole story” rather than the partial verse that nicely wrapped up a three-point sermon earlier in the day.

These moments are more than disappointing. One of the top-cited rationales people who deconstruct their faith give for losing trust in the capital-C Church is the misrepresentation of Scripture.

The challenge I’ve encountered personally is that Scripture is often misrepresented by both those seeking to assert authority and those who desire to paint a picture of an all-loving Jesus.

On the one hand, it’s possible to hear a lecture about Romans 13:1-3 that demands submission to a governing authority but stops short of including Romans 13:8-10, which says,

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (CSB)

However, those who push against the authoritarian view of God can miss the mark, too. I once read a passionate article asking those who felt cast aside by the Church to read the story of the adulterous woman in John 8. The author pointed out that not only did Jesus refuse to throw stones at her, but he suggested only the sinless should punish her.

This tender recounting reminded us that we, too, must welcome everyone into the body of Christ because we are all sinners. But sadly, the impassioned plea was overshadowed because the writer failed to finish the story.

John 8:10-11 says,

When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she answered.

“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (CSB, emphasis added)

Minimizing or ignoring Jesus’ instruction for the future changes the context of the story, but it doesn’t change Jesus’s love for the adulterous woman.

We will continue to encounter inaccurate presentations of the Bible for many reasons. Among them is that we are all in different places in our biblical literacy journeys, and rather than taking the time to double-check a passage, some people will rely on their memory alone when they present a point of discussion. In addition, sometimes we fail to understand the Bible because we read a passage through a modern-day lens or Western Civilization lens (or both), rather than the cultural context that it was originally written.

Jesus told the disciples that they would have the help of the Spirit to guide them. John 16:13-14 says,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. (CSB)

Read the rest of this post over on The Glorious Table.

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