Chapter and Verse.
There is something that really gets up my nose. I know maybe it shouldn’t but it does. It is that art that Christians have of throwing Bible verses around to support their argument, as if it gives it total weight and therefore there cannot be any other opinion or interpretation. It is like those prophetic moments when we say ‘God says to you today’ or when we are preaching and we say ‘God gave me this message especially for you’, we think the whole weight of heaven is behind our statements and therefore to argue otherwise is to argue against God Himself. All of this just stinks of control and manipulation to me. The prophetic should be to encourage people to hear God for themselves and even if we do have what we believe is a personal prophecy for somebody it is not ‘thus saith the Lord’ or binding them to do it or else! Time and time again I get back to the point of we all only see in part. Preaching is realising that what we bring is a perspective, an interpretation of the text, there may be others sides to this. That is why in the synagogue more than one Rabbi would share from a Scripture what they saw in the text so a bigger picture or different perspective was seen. This gets me back to my gripe, as long as some people can quote a chapter and verse at you they are happy. They may know the original languages or read someone else’s interpretation of the text on the Internet and this makes it a thus saith the Lord, the only point of view, the only way this passage can be seen and used. And if this is what it says you better believe that too or you will seen to be a heretic. These verses are used to make me look like a person walking in error, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing (yes I had that thrown at me before Rob Bell stood on a platform), a teacher of terrible doctrine. Surely when we are making a point throwing verses around from the Bible we are missing the point of the Bible. I am not devaluing this precious Book that many have given their lives for. I lived in Lutterworth where John Wycliffe was murdered for translating the Bible into English. He did it to get the Word into ordinary people’s hands to stop those in the pulpit having dominion and authority over people who could not see and think for themselves. We have Bibles in our hands but still those of training and position can feel they have greater authority to wield this sword around. Surely the point of the Word (logos) is to reveal the Word (rhema), Jesus. If it does not point us to Jesus and reveal His character then surely it is nothing but a dangerous weapon even in my hand if used without love and grace. If I feel someone is walking in error the last thing I need to do is throw a Bible verse at them (there seems to be one exception to that, will come to that later), but point them lovingly to Jesus, the Word of God, now that seems to be more what the Word is revealing. Yes I read it to mirror it into my own life and walk, and be inspired by the accounts and stories, I hear others accounts and interpretations to encourage my faith and to keep on going, but to throw it in the face of someone! It is time for grace and wisdom, and let our walk and outworking of the Word do the speaking.
It is Written…
There were occasions when Jesus threw the Scriptures out there and used the phrase, ‘it is written’, but it was never as He was sharing Words of life to the people or His disciples. He threw the Word at the enemy during His time in the wilderness. There may be a place for this, but again I think the link with the wilderness experience is important. To just shout Bible verses at the devil randomly to try to get your way seems like a wasted breath to me. Then Jesus used this phrase in the Synagogues but only when confronting control freaks like the Pharisees and Sadducee, and then it is interesting there are times when He says ‘is it not written in your word’. It is like He is out to make a point that all they have is an interpretation. To use that interpretation to usurp authority over another was error and Jesus plainly told them so. Jesus lived and spoke a new interpretation, this is what you say, this is what I say. This is what it says, this is what I do with the spirit of the law not he letter. Jesus always is uncomfortable with those who position themselves over someone, especially with Scriptures. Then Jesus uses the Word to reveal Himself. From the books of Moses onwards Jesus revealed Himself. The Scriptures were not the be all and end all but a shadow of what was to come. Yes I believe God’s breath is all over it, that it is full of inspiration of and from the Holy Spirit, but to throw around as a final Word of authority in a debate or argument, something seems amiss there to me.
The Holy Scalpel
Interesting reading the context of the verses about it being a two edges sword, or scalpel, it is in context of entering into His rest. It is here as we enter with boldness that the Holy Surgeon seems to do the work within our lives, not some mad preacher or teacher with a Book in their hands. A scalpel in the hands of a surgeon can be a magical instrument bringing life and healing, a scalpel in the hands of a madman or someone wanting to yield authority can become a dangerous weapon. I know who I would much rather deal with the disease of my life. And then only at that place of rest.
I close this week with this quote I read in a great book for those on the journey from Barbara Brown Taylor in ‘Leaving Church’;