certainty. i miss the days where i was certain, where things were black and white, where i knew the answer “because the Bible says so” and that felt like enough. i can’t tell you the number of times i pulled the card “this is what the Bible says about x, y, or z and so that’s that.” (it has been an awfully long time since i’ve done that so i hope i get some extra credit for increasing the “number of years i have been a nicer Christian”).
i also can’t tell you the number of times it’s been pulled on me. 100% certainty on the biblical interpretation of a passage. “this is precisely what this means and i will die on a hill i am so sure of it.” i had a friend who became ultra-conservative about the Bible and boy did it get ugly between us years ago when i started at seminary for a counseling degree. she said that it was “unbiblical and worldly” and that the only thing she believed in was “biblical counseling,” applying scripture to people’s problems. the biblical counseling course she was taking at her church was grounded in “truth”. i challenged her saying ” i hate to tell you but you are only learning what the author of the class you are taking says about certain passages. it’s just his interpretation, his best shot, and there are other people out there who see that exact scripture totally different from him and believe just as emphatically that they are right, too” she could not for the life of her budge on this thought.
i think this is what has gotten Christians into so much trouble with the world. they rarely, if ever, add one little simple parenthetical phrase that i believe would dramatically change the perception of christians. i am talking about just a simple few words here and there that implied a bit of uncertainty since the truth is that we don’t know 100% without a doubt that this unequivocally positively what it means anyway.
what if we were just a little more honest and prefaced some of what we said with: “here’s how i see this passage”, or “this is what i think this passage could possibly mean,” or “i am not sure exactly what this means, but i’ve heard some people interpret it as,” “i could be wrong but,” “i don’t truly know, but….” “yeah, it doesn’t really make sense, but…” all’s i am talking about is taking ownership ourselves instead of pulling the God card as a cover. i mean how hard is that? why is it so hard for us to admit that anything we pass on about the bible is truly just our interpretation of what we think it means? biblical “truth” isn’t quite as objective as people make it sound. i know i can get in all kinds of trouble here with lots of people, but i gladly take the risk. i love the bible. i love its intricacies, how i can see a passage one way one day and the next day it speaks to me from a totally different angle. i believe its power to heal and change and move a person and God speaks to me through it now and then.
but i am so utterly sick and tired of the bible getting thrown around like people own the rights to exactly precisely what God means by every word in it. they hide behind “biblical truth” when in fact they have just heard or read someone else’s interpretation of what it means and assume that is 100% right. i don’t care how much biblical scholarship goes into a passage (although it’s helpful) we will never be 100% certain what God meant this side of heaven and honestly, i don’t think it even matters all that much to try to figure it out. why not spend just a little more time loving and applying Jesus’ ways in our lives instead of trying to prove a point about what a word supposedly means??
why is a simple parenthetical phrase that softens the know-it-all-ness so hard to do? if we gave it a try, i really believe our reputation in the world would greatly increase, but i am also realistic enough to know that there are far too many people out there terrified to think that if you add a phrase of doubt you are heading down a slippery slope and the whole damn thing might fall apart.
when we take our grip off the bible we actually have to trust there’s something bigger at work: aka God’s Spirit alive and well, unexplainable and mysterious and superseding black and white words on pages. now for some, that’s scary. for me, i’ll take it any day.