Instead of looking at a particular Bible passage today, I want to consider an observation and a general principle.
Even people who love the Bible don’t love all of it.
Some people deny that some aspects of Scripture could possibly be God’s will. I know a preacher who says that the Bible is a very flawed book. What are we to make of that?
Let’s look at some examples of scriptures we don’t like much before I express the principle.
My Sunday school class is studying the Ten Commandments. Everyone wanted to hurry through “You shall not commit adultery.” They found the topic embarrassing. No one confessed to having committed adultery, but some had painful memories of parents’ or former spouses’ adultery.
Years ago, as I listened to J. Vernon McGee’s Through the Bible radio program, he skipped a chapter in Genesis. He said he never taught on that one. I think it was the one where Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar posed as a prostitute to become pregnant by him. It’s not the most disgusting incident in the Bible, but it might be the most disgusting that takes a whole chapter.
Some in the church dislike the prohibition against homosexuality so much that they go through all kinds of contortions to claim that God never really meant it. They favor gay marriage and ordaining gay clergy in the name of compassion.
And who really likes the thought of the Israelites slaughtering entire Canaanite cities in obedience to God’s commands? Some people, even Christians, recoil and can’t reconcile it with a loving God.
For that matter, what about the whole idea of anyone burning eternally in hell?
I have some of my own personal struggles. I get less than five hours of sleep as often as I get more than six. Experts say we need seven or eight hours, and I never get that much. So the verse that says God gives his beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2) seems to mock me.
The next verses talk about children being like arrows in the hands of a warrior. The man whose quiver is full of them will not be ashamed to contend with his enemies. More mockery to a childless man. I don’t like that psalm!
Here’s the principle that we sometimes find hard to grasp
Every syllable in the Bible perfectly expresses God’s love and goodness.
- Even the command to destroy the Canaanites
- Even hell
- Even the obscure practices that puzzle our very different culture
- Even what we find boring
- Even the begats!
- Even the promises that seem to mock us in our circumstances
- Even—maybe especially—the parts that clash with our beliefs, habits, and preferences
Do people who reject parts of Scripture in the name of compassion think they’re more compassionate than God? By what standard can they possibly judge which parts of the Bible reflect God’s character and which don’t? Scriptures we don’t like are still Scripture.
All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
Sin is the devil’s work, and Jesus came to destroy it. But we like our sins, don’t we? When the Bible points a finger at our sins, it makes us uncomfortable.
And we really have only two choices.
We can repent and turn away from them, which is difficult and emotionally wrenching. Or we can find some reason to keep doing them and reject what the Bible tells us.
But the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
In other words, sin is a kind of work, and the person who works deserves wages for it. When we do a job, we expect payment from our employer in money. When we do sin, though, we work for the devil. And he pays us in death.
It’s worth wrestling with the scriptures we don’t like and looking for the love. It’s always there even if it’s not immediately apparent. Understanding the love helps us leave our old employer and go to work for God. He pays in grace and mercy, not death.