The easiest thing in the world to do with the Bible is to take one or two verses from it to prove a point. Ironically, I am about to do exactly that to show why you need to be careful when doing it.
Individual verses have been used down the ages to prevent women in leadership, justify slavery, condemn homosexuality, allow anti-semitism, support apartheid, encourage gun ownership and many other thing which have been or have started to be challenged and overcome within the Church.
We all do it. Whenever you read the Bible you can latch onto small parts which justify our own world-view, beliefs and prejudices and claim that this means that your thoughts and actions are “biblical”. I’ll confess that I probably do it and have probably done it in this blog. We’re all human and prone to make mistakes and look to ourselves rather than to God when we form our beliefs.
It’s easy, but it’s dangerous. If we pick individual parts from scripture to make decisions then we are missing out on a huge, centuries long narrative which is still on going today. The Bible isn’t a book, it’s 66 books telling the story of God’s developing relationship with humanity. Some is meant to be literal, some parts are just stories which illustrate the nature of God. It shows how he has gradually shown himself to us as humanity has developed and become more and more ready to see him as he really is, finally culminating in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent actions of his followers.
But it doesn’t end there. We’ve had 2000 years since that time, during which humanity has developed further. And God still reveals himself. He carried on his revelations to people after Jesus resurrection, just look at Acts onwards, and still does so today, always pointing to Jesus as the way.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40 NIV)
Jesus is warning us here about looking exclusively to scripture for eternal life. I think, in part, it’s because it’s easy to get it badly wrong when we read it and to read it through our own eyes, rather than through the lens of Jesus. I would never claim to be right about everything and I’d always be wary of those who do.
What I think Jesus wants is to come to him. Not the words about him, they tell us so much and really enrich our lives, but he wants an actual, real, living relationship. He wants to speak to us today, for us to know him, learn from him, listen to him and look to him. He wants us to read and understand scripture, but in order to have life we need to come to him.
He is still with us, within each of us if we just open ourselves to what he want with our lives. If we really want to be with God, then we need to ask, openly and honestly. I think we need to stop thinking in terms of whether something is “biblical” and starts asking God if it is his will.
The Bible is wonderful. It tells us so much about us, about God and about life. It is not, however, God. We cannot and should not worship it. We should use it to try to discern God’s will, but we need to actually ask God and listen to his response.
Then we may get more things right than we do at the moment.