Why You Might Be A Bible Shredding, Gospel Contorting Christian: A Few Key Ideas on Reading the Scripture Well
With fine precision and delicate care, the paper of this ancient tome gently separates. Slivers of verses are stripped from those which it is surrounded by, robing them from the context in which they were written. And while few would intentionally dissect the scripture, putting scissor to paper and creating a confetti of spiritual insights, we do just that.
What young Christian hasn’t played popcorn Bible reading. Someone calls out a page and another a verse number and we wait to see what God has to say to us. And while we certainly can trust the Spirit to teach us in all things through any means, nevertheless, it would behoove us to take the scripture as a whole rather than highlighted clips and key plays. The scripture is not Sports Center, getting just commentary and distilled highlights. The Word of God is raw, real, transcendent, other worldly, always having a new word, and resists editing.
But we, in our arrogance, try to control, contain, and edit that which by nature is uncontrollable, uncontainable, and resists our human effort of editing God.
We all pick and choose, pluck and discard verses, concepts, and commands in the scripture. Either we don’t understand them, don’t like them, or down-right don’t want to obey them.
Contorting, interpreting, and refashioning the scripture in our image rather than us being fashioned in His, we seek—by nature—to edit God. He needs no editing, formatting, or contorting.
The Radical Gospel of Christ
The teaching of Christ is radical and down-right offensive. It was then and it is even more so now. While Christ’s words are sweeter than honey to those marginalized, hungry, poor, suffering, and weak, those same utterances and concepts are hot, searing, pokers boring into the souls of cushion-leaning, grape-munching, elite Americans. The Gospel is uncomfortable. Christ’s words are not palatable to the tastes of the American consciousness.
One key, controversial, and contorted concept is Christ’s declarations dubbed the “Sermon on the Mount.” While beloved by so many scholars who claim Jesus was a wonderful, liberal hippie who was grossly misunderstood by his followers and other early Christians, his words are some-what ridiculous.
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven….really?
But even more egregious is Christ’s claim and command toward pacifism. Turn the other cheek. This was no mild command. It is vogue to soften Christ’s words, claiming that he only meant to instruct us to not let our anger control our lives. We can still wield our guns, kill people who enter our homes and nations, and protect what possessions we have hoarded and collected over the years.
No. That is a contortion. A snipping away at the context of Christ’s teaching and life.
If we want to see what Christ meant by this “turn the other cheek” business, we must look at his life.
Christ held all the power of the universe, of the creator God himself whom he was a part. And though he could have brought proper justice to the world, something we can never fully hope for in our own lives, he did not lift a finger against the political occupiers and oppressors of his home. He never spoke out against the Roman Empire. But of one of their soldiers, he spoke the highest praise. Jesus declared this Roman to have the greatest faith he had ever met—quite an offensive and radical statement to the religious zealots around him.
And for this, among many other hatreds, Christ was beaten, the flesh ripped from his body, tortured, and brutally killed—and perfectly innocent. He never resisted, never harmed, and never stuck back—although he would have been perfectly within his right and perfectly powerful to do so.
He obeyed his own teaching—perfectly.
And while we find this teaching nearly impossible to follow, Christ himself demonstrated what such a life looks like.
We must not confuse our voice with God’s. We must conform to his image, not God to our own.
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