Warning: Below you’ll find a genuine rant. Proceed with caution and an open mind.
I’ve had about enough of people claiming as Gospel Truth ideas and lifestyles they think the Bible might be saying. And let me tell you why. There is a Truth in the Word of God that exists outside of language, culture, geography, or time. It is not subject to our ideas or societal changes or any kind of laws.
And that Truth does not dictate one specific set of choices that every person should make.
Because the Spirit of the Living God is not contained in ink and paper, waiting there to be discovered. Nope. That Spirit abides with each of us, moving us, teaching us, guiding us, helping us to synchronize our lives with the heart of God, whispering Truth to our hearts in quiet and desperate moments. That Spirit breathes life into the empty words and makes them incarnate in the lives of individuals, making the Word dynamic and open. God speaks to us each differently though scriptures and discernment through the Spirit.
Moreover, we all approach any given text, and especially scripture, encumbered by our own experiences, biases, understanding of the world, and cultural prejudices, all of which have an astronomical impact on how we understand what we read. No matter how much we try to empty ourselves and let scripture pour into us, our terministic screens act as a filter. Beyond that problem, however, our knowledge about the history, culture, society, and understanding of the original audience of scripture is so limited that we can only really make educated guesses about the intended meaning of the text. And surely those conjectures are worth making, but suggesting that anyone’s speculation is the only way to understand the text is tantamount to heresy. It denies the dynamic, living nature of scripture.
One of the most seemingly bizarre moves in scripture is Peter’s vision about what animals were clean to eat (Acts 10). There were clearly-stated laws on this that were suddenly changed. This would be a contradiction if the Word were stagnant. But the meaning of Living Word, thanks to grace, changed to meet the needs of the time. After this experience and learning of God’s encounter with Cornelius, Peter learns that “that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (v. 34). Previously, Peter would not have believed that God would show favor to a Gentile–his upbringing and understanding of the Word indicated otherwise–but he accepts the new, Spirit-led understanding.
My point is this: if God accepts people from every nation (or culture), doesn’t that account for shifts over time as well? If Christ could make even pork clean, isn’t it possible that His grace is big enough to cover a multitude of other choices as well?
It’s everyday clearer to me that we can’t focus on all the little things we should do or pick apart each other’s choices. And we should be careful about what we decide the Bible mandates. Jesus fulfilled the law, saved us from the death therein, and freed us from it’s oppression. Of all the commandments given in the Bible, two stand out the most: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. These, Jesus tells us, sum up the law and the prophets. That’s all we have to get right.
Humans have a terrible tendency to create the Word in our own image to support our choices or prejudices, rather than allowing the Word to be created within us. We attempt to write our choices into law and set that as the standard with which we judge others. But I shout along with Paul, “I’m free from the law!” Do you hear me? I’m free from your law and the law of the Old Testament! And so are you.
So I’ll wrestle with scripture and work out what is acceptable for my life in fear and trembling, aided by the Spirit of the Living God which indwells me and incarnates the Word, and trusting the friends of my soul to help me discern the Truth. I’ll trust God, who is able to keep me from falling and not willing that I should perish, to direct my path and work all of my choices–good, bad, or indifferent–together for the good. And I’ll trust you to do the same. So please check you judgement at the door, and I’ll keep mine to myself as well. As the writer of Hebrews proclaims, “[T]he word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of of the heart.” Let me be judged by it.