(photo from www.chrisrusso.xanga.com)
I love hearing that. I absolutely love it when someone, passionately and in the context of what is usually a heated discussion on what is usually a hot button topic, throws it out there; "But the bible says!" Ok, actually I don't love it. Actually, it makes me cringe.
Paul is usually the go to. Much of the time we skip over all of that Jesus stuff because Jesus says "love your neighbor...", "take care of the poor...", (yada, yada, yada) and we'd much rather use Paul in our arguments because he can be a little vague sometimes. Or, and I love this one, we'll jump back to the Old Testament (which I love, by the way. I don't always like what it says, but I love it as a whole.) because the person we are talking to or about really isn't worthy of the grace we see so much in the New Testament. We'd much rather they be on God's "smite" list.
Over the past year I have really been watching scripture, probably more than I have at any other time in my life. I have also been watching what's going on around me more than I have at any time in my life, and what I see is that the two are sometimes, many times, worlds apart.
What I see is that conversations between Jesus followers are many times filled with passion, but are lacking in love. What I see is that we, as Jesus followers, will love our neighbors...as long as they're not Muslim, South American immigrants, homeless, or poor (and there are several other groups I could add to the list). What I have seen is that we are quick to call someone out about what we think they should be doing if we can hide behind anonymity. What I am seeing is that we in the church will be glad to follow the rules in the bible, as long as we can pick and choose which ones...and for the love of all that's good and holy don't ask us to mess with the Samaritans of today. But, what I'm not seeing, is how any of that is scriptural.
This morning's readings are from Exodus 21 and 22. There are a whole lot of rules in there. I've even used one that I didn't realize was found in Exodus also. I knew it was in Deuteronomy, but not Exodus: "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,' then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or door post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life." (Exodus 21:5-6)
See? Even I do it. The bible says it's ok for me to have a pierced ear because I'm a servant for life. My uncle, whom I love, disagrees vehemently and tells me that I'm interpreting that passage poorly.
So, for me, and this is just Jamie, I'm going to try to limit my use of "But the bible says..." As a pastor, that's going to be a little tough, since part of my job is interpreting for my folks what the bible says to us today. I think that I, and again this is just me, will try to not pick out the scriptures that I can use as a weapon. Really, that's what we're doing when we say, "But the bible says...we're just using it as a weapon so that we can get what we want...the concession of the other person. I think, instead, I will take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
"The Bible says" in Genesis that I am created in the image of God, loved by God, and accountable to God. The prophets say that God really does care about how we treat each other, and how we respond to God's call. The gospels say that God realized that we were in a world of hurt, things weren't going to get better on their own, and that God needed to step in. Acts says something about how we live in community and gives us all kinds of examples of what a disciple looks like...and it all says something about hope, grace, faith, and love.
So, my prayer is that we no longer use "but the bible says" as a weapon against each other, but that we use the grace and love we read about to do all we can to bring God's kingdom right here.