You may recall last week as I was rethinking idols, I quoted from a book From Stone to Living Word by Debbie Blue. I copied several thoughts from her and I've shared most of them, but not quite all. In a discussion about the Bible and what it is or contains (or doesn't contain), she wrote:
"This is what the scripture of people undergoing revelation of the living God by the living God looks like. Not linear history, not science, nothing like a formula, but rather more of a struggle. The Bible isn't really at all good at being an instructional manual. It's good at leading us into a tangle of wild poetry, heartbreaking stories, contradictions, twists and turns, the concrete struggles of a vast array of unruly, disparate humans being sought after by God. It's what the scripture of humans living not with a fixed point, a master ideology, an answer, a cultural code, but with a radically alive Other looks like. The Bible isn't a cage that contains God, making God available to take out or hang in our living room, it's a witness to the fecund, ungraspable Other (and our relationship to that Other.) (pg.35)
On Bible idolatry (bibliolatry) ... "Instead of somehow inducting us into relationship with the living God, the Bible as an idol helps to uphold our ideologies, what we already know and think and believe (and provides justification for slashing* and smashing* what opposes that.)" (pg. 39)
* reference to the Bible as a sword and a rock
In the past I've heard reference to "putting God in a box" meaning we have a set way we believe He is and works, thinks and reveals Himself and we believe He doesn't work outside of those parameters. This reference to the Bible not being a cage that contains God reminded me of this.
I do believe the Bible has often been used wrongly to oppress others, justify gross sins and urge people on to wars. Why is this? Do people look for justifications for their pet sins and read verses out of context, out of cultural practices at the time those particular verses were penned and they use them to justify practices in their own times?
Because the Bible does talk about rocks...and being a firm foundation, a fortress in a world full of shifting sands and - what? maybe relativism. At least that's how I've always understood it. Not in the let-me-throw-stones-at-you way though I would be silly to argue that people do not use it to strike and crush others!
As a sword, for me it's always been in the context of the Bible's affect on me, the reader. It convicts me of sin (pierces me; makes me uncomfortable doing wrong) and shows me how to live as the Spirit of God makes it come alive and he uses it to guide me in how to treat others and abide closely with God. As a weapon the Bible is good in standing up to those temptations hurled at us. How often have verses I memorized as a child come back to me as a weapon against Satanic attacks on my mind? Struggling with irrational thoughts and fear when I really need to be sleeping? How about verses such as "God does not give me a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind" and "You will keep me in perfect peace as my mind is fixed on You...because I trust in You." and "Perfect love casts out fear" and you get the idea. So the Bible - to me - can be a sword in this way: fighting off spiritual struggles that I have. I try not to use it as a weapon to cut and hit others... too much anyway. :-)
In Matthew 22 when an expert of the Law asked Jesus
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Jesus was only asked to give the greatest commandment - which dealt with our attitude and love for God. Why then did he go ahead and include the second? Maybe because "the second is like it" and those two commands are so important that
40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Hear that? ALL the Law and all the Prophets hang - does this mean they are summarized? dependent on? what? - on these two things! They are The Big Two!
One publication I read answered it like this:
"True love for God is inseparably connected to sacrificial love for man ... Our interactions with others reveal the sincerity and genuineness of our love for God...[Therefore] it is critical that we see that Christ affirms that loving God and our neighbor are not options."
(Bob LaTour in The Beacon Beam, July 2010)
And we all remember when asked "who is my neighbor" Jesus didn't keep it as local as the family next door or the people like me in my own community when he gave the parable of the Good Samaritan and made a despised enemy as an example - to us even now - of how we are to treat others regardless of who they are and what you feel about them on a personal or national level.
Not much slashing and stoning going on when you are loving God and loving others as we love ourselves!
Why is loving our neighbor not an option, but a necessity?
7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ...
"11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
(I John 4)