God’s Word vs. the American Bible

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As Christians, we’ve been taught to follow the commands written in the Bible, but it’s easy to pick and choose which verses we want to follow, and we tailor ‘holiness’ according to our particular comforts and cultural preferences.

For example, there are hundreds of verses, stories, and illustrations in the Bible that talk about giving abundantly to the poor, being absurdly generous with our resources, and not idolizing money, and yet we have a tendency to focus on the few verses that mention being ‘good stewards’ of our money (Prov. 10:4-5; 13:22).

1 Tim. 5:8 says: But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Phew! This verse is all we need. It provides an opportunity for us to succumb to society’s expectations under the false pretense of being righteous — it’s a Biblical escape clause.

We search for these texts and treat them like precious treasures because they accommodate our lifestyle and help us rationalize our action (or inaction) — but we often rip them out of the larger context and disregard God’s greater intention.

Much of Jesus’s ministry centers on reconciling relationships, forgiving — and loving — enemies (Matt: 5:43-48), empathizing with those who we don’t normally understand (Philippians 2:3-4, John 8:1-11; Matt. 19:14; John 4) and loving others (John 13:34; 1 John 4:19-21). It’s hard to deny these truths, but when reality hits and we encounter those we dislike, we rely on verses that warn against bad company (1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 13:20; Psalm 1:1) and spending time with evildoers. It’s easier to fall back on these verses than it is to recognize the ones calling us to wholeheartedly love others.

When we naturally don’t get along with people, instead of putting in the Christ-like effort to love them, we often point to how even Christ had an “inner circle” and “beloved disciple” (John 20:2) — so it’s OK if we devote most of our time with those we naturally like instead of trying to love those who irritate us. Jesus did it, so why can’t we?

We know that it’s wrong to judge others, assume the worst, and hatefully condemn them — so we simply do it under the guise of “spiritual accountability.” (Prov. 27:17; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).

We don’t give to the homeless because the Bible warns about putting money in a fool’s hand (Prov. 17:16).

We rationalize our addiction to work and not spending quality time with our family because the Bible warns us against laziness (Prov. 19:15; Prov. 20:13).

We craze power, authority, and control, so we use verses (Hebrews: 13:17) to manipulate people into following us — even to participate in sinful acts!

Parents use verses (1 Pet. 5:5; Eph. 6:1) to rationalize child abuse and horrendous verbal, emotional, and physical pain.

The Bible is even used to promote sexism (1 Tim. 2:11-15) and promote inequality under the mask of “biblical submission.”

The Bible is full of confusing texts and paradoxical ideas, and it’s easy to manipulate Scripture to fit our desires. We can have the appearance of righteousness — backed up by numerous Scripture verses, pastoral sermons, and theological debates — but completely misrepresent Jesus at the exact same time.

If we take the Bible as a whole, and step back to look at the big picture, God’s word centers on a theme of love and redemption and hope — brought about through sacrifice, service, humility, and following Christ’s example.

But Christians have a tendency to reject and ignore 99 percent of the content and obsess over the 1 percent. We avoid the majority and focus on the few minor texts that benefit us the most according to our pride, current needs, political agendas, social status, comforts, and desires.

Therefore, we rant about homosexuality, evolution, and the lack of prayer in public schools but often miss the big picture: loving others as Christ loved us. God help us.

 

This piece is currently being published here on Sojourner’s website

20 thoughts on “God’s Word vs. the American Bible

  1. bjcfn997

    Your honesty in this article is extreme to the point of being offensive. I like that. This is so full of truth. God has given a truly profound gift. I’m so glad you’re using to spread His word and awesome truth. God bless you, man!

  2. I love your blog so much because you take the truth and don’t sugarcoat it. That is the way it should be! I agree that many Americans tailor the way they believe to avoid feeling convicted. I think that if we are not feeling convicted that we are doing something wrong! All of us are sinful and to not feel convicted by our sins is to ignore God. Great post!

  3. I can hear/feel the frustration but also much hope that His love, truth, and grace will continue to bring hope, redemption and change in spite of our fallen human condition – because He is and remains faithful. Thank you for helping spread His truth and grace.

  4. Warren

    Jesus broke it down for us easily and simply: Our Savior said, “You must love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, hang the whole law, and the Prophets also.”

    Of course, you are correct. We all do it — look for a verse to support our actions — and I guess, that’s the really sad part. If we could only follow the 2 commandments Christ gave us, we wouldn’t need to search through 5,000 years of history.

  5. Spot on post Stephen! And I can tell you I have been one of “those” Christians who has done this in the past! Thank God for His grace and mercy with me!! Over the course of the past few months, in my restoration with my relationship with Christ, this is something that God has been revealing to me as well. It’s all about Christ, and He is grace, and we are called to extend that grace. Back to the basics.

    • Stephen Mattson

      Wow, that’s really cool! Thanks for sharing! I sort of went through the same thing a while back, and yeah, I’m SUPER thankful for God’s grace, too!

  6. Most people use the Bible to justify or excuse their own selfish actions and their own self interest. Many denominations and offshoots of Christianity are merely someone else’s version of what they think Christianity should be. And in England, especially with the organised Anglican Church, it’s hard to see where religion ends and the English class system begins, so much are the ideas of hierarchy and class and high social status inveigled into the notion of that particular brand of Christianity. Christianity and religious faith in general has been usurped by the rich and powerful, the great and good for centuries to in effect blame God for injustice or to say ‘well I am a devoutly religious person therefore I can do anything I want.’ It is faulty logic at best, but it is the way much that passes for religious belief of all kinds works in the world. But that is not Christianity, nor is changing or ignoring the Word of God because you don’t agree with this point or that point! Christianity is not an exclusive social club for the better sort, or a mutual appreciation society either, it is those who are called by Jesus to serve Him with a whole heart and who will follow Him wherever He leads. It is not the Prosperity Gospel or an extension of the social system of any particular country, and nor is God blessing one nation above another, however cosy that may feel. Individuals are Christians, not nations. We follow because He calls and we obey. Anything else is not Christianity, but religion.

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