On January 1, 2010 I began reading through the Bible again. This year my wife and I are revisiting the NIV. I really like this translation and am excited for a new beginning at the very first of the year. I just finished reading through the English Standard Version and it took a little over two years I think.
Now, let me get to – “How could he say that?”
Once upon a time I believed that Christians, especially Bible-believing Christians as so many of us proclaim ourselves to be, really wanted to know what God says in his holy book, the Bible.
However I have discovered sadly from several years of teaching the truth of the Bible that the reality is that this is not true in many instances. You are skeptical. “Say it ain’t so, Amos.” And I can understand the skepticism as I was once there. But sadly many simply refuse to believe.
I did not want to believe this in fact, but I do after having so many instances where people became very angry because their Sunday School story met the reality of the truth of God’s word. I once had a Bible teacher from a Bible institute very angry after a Sunday evening service because as I taught through 1 Peter and came to 1 Peter 4.8, I shared: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
“How could I dare teach that?”
This wasn’t “agree to disagree” or “I can see your point but. . .” No, this was outspoken, public anger. He was quite vocal, “How could I say that, teach that?” Probably considered this righteous indignation. 🙂
We are afraid of what God writes.
I was somewhat incredulous but not shocked. I had seen way too much of this and had come to expect it from some. God chose to write it down for us, but we are afraid of what God writes, or more technically, has written for him for us.
Cognitive dissonance – that is our problem. We see it, but it is too hard to accept, or receive. One way we resolve this dissonance is to discredit the messenger. We can’t even think about disagreeing with God so we have to change the venue to argue our case. But we know. We really do. And I think that is why this man was so mad, and why I had such peace. Both of us professed loyalty to the written word, but only one of us accepted the words on the page.
In fact, some of God’s teaching on love, we are so afraid and feel such a need to control that we take what God calls the greatest (Matthew 22.37) and the best (1 Corinthians 12.31) and label it “broad road” theology (Matthew 7.13-14), as in liberal, as in displeasing to God, except, dude, that God wrote it down.
Okay, so back to my latest example of a text that may evoke – “How could he say that?”
I was reading through the account of Abraham and his early journey of faith. Abraham was called the friend of God, but he encouraged Sarai to lie about their relationship and it seems from the text that this put her in Pharoah’s bed for an extended time -“he accumulated sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, men and women servants, and camels.”
Genesis 12:10-20 (The Message)
10-13 Then a famine came to the land. Abram went down to Egypt to live; it was a hard famine. As he drew near to Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “Look. We both know that you’re a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you they’re going to say, ‘Aha! That’s his wife!’ and kill me. But they’ll let you live. Do me a favor: tell them you’re my sister. Because of you, they’ll welcome me and let me live.”
14-15 When Abram arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians took one look and saw that his wife was stunningly beautiful. Pharaoh’s princes raved over her to Pharaoh. She was taken to live with Pharaoh.
16-17 Because of her, Abram got along very well: he accumulated sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, men and women servants, and camels. But God hit Pharaoh hard because of Abram’s wife Sarai; everybody in the palace got seriously sick.
18-19 Pharaoh called for Abram, “What’s this that you’ve done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she’s your wife? Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister’ so that I’d take her as my wife? Here’s your wife back—take her and get out!”
20 Pharaoh ordered his men to get Abram out of the country. They sent him and his wife and everything he owned on their way.
“What a shame!”
As I read this and began thinking about it a few days ago, I knew people would be upset and critical if I shared these thoughts.
And then I thought –
Instead of exclaiming “How could he say (or write) that?” Maybe we could ask ourselves – “Why am I so upset with someone who pointed out what God has so clearly written in his word, the Bible?”
Do you see the irony? We get so angry and uncomfortable with these words, and we can’t bring ourselves to face the black and white, this is what God had written. And God doesn’t waste words. He doesn’t tell us everything; he tells us what we need to know.
We profess to embrace the whole counsel of God but reality is that we insist that our pastors preach “the Word of God” that is acceptable to us.
Here is a link that further discusses the life and faith of Abraham per the word of God, sans the Sunday School story.
We must realize that if we continue to manipulate God’s intent with his written instruction that one day all we have left is what we say, the word of God through our grid, our highlight reel, our version of life complete with biblical footnotes.
But no longer God’s words.