It’s not supposed to insult your intelligence

Recently I was asked, “How do we know what to take from the Bible and what’s not as important?”

It’s a great question. Maybe you have it too. After all, the Bible can seem huge… and confusing.

Plus, it’s easy to make the Bible “say” whatever you want it to say. I remember a friend jokingly telling me that the Bible condones suicide. “What on earth are you talking about?!” I said.

He explained: “Well, it tells us that Judas committed suicide, and it also tells us to ‘Go and do likewise.’ So there you have it!”

He was joking, of course. But he was also demonstrating what a lot of people do: Splice different parts of the Bible together out of context to make it say something it doesn’t say. In his example, he was taking the account of Judas committing suicide in Matthew 27:5 and mushing it together with the saying to “go and do likewise” about being merciful at the end of the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:37, and coming up with something new (and inaccurate).

He made his point in a strange way. The Bible can be misused.

So how do you guard against it?

On Sunday I talked about this very thing. (You can access the podcast and the 1-page download here.) I highlighted 5 principles from Heinrich Bullinger to guard against misusing the Bible.

They include better understanding the context of a passage, ensuring that your interpretation causes you to love God and your neighbours more (and not less), and ensuring that you are seeking God’s will (and not just your own).

The good news is that the more you get into God’s word, the more God’s word gets into you. Or, put another way, the more you get into God’s wisdom, the more God’s wisdom gets into you.

The deeper you go into the Bible, the more it seeps into your soul. As that happens, its teachings become a more permanent part of who you are and how you live.

Yes, it takes some work. There’s no magic pill that will make you perfectly understand everything in the Bible in one week. But things that are worthwhile take work.

As the very intelligent monk Thomas Merton writes: “The Bible may be difficult and confusing, but it is meant to challenge our intelligence, not insult it.”

By Matthew Ruttan

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