“Shoot Christians Say, Part 2 -” “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It.”

holy shit 2

“The B-I-B-L-E.  Yes that’s the Book for me.

I stand alone on the Word of God.

The B-I-B-L-E”

That little song, learned and sung around snacks of Kool-Aid and Animal Crackers, flannel graph Bible stories in the Sunday School of my childhood, formed the foundation of my understanding of the Bible.  

It’s dangerous to mess with someone’s foundation. 
It’s uncomfortable.  Scary. Risky.

But that’s what I did with last Sunday’s phrase in our “Shoot Christians Say” series.  Here it is:  

“God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” 

The teaching, for some, was tantamount to messing with motherhood, the flag and apple-pie. 

A bit unsettling.  

Think it through with me:  “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”  Except it doesn’t.   Settle it, that is.  If it settled it, why do we debate it?  If it settled it, how do we explain books like Zondervan Counterpoint Series – “indispensable for understanding different views on Christianity’s vital issues” (Zondervan’s description of the series)?  

If “that settles it” why are there “different views” not just on side issues, but on “vital issues?”  

We want to be settled.  We want to be sure.  Being settled is a basic need. The two largest Christian groups have addressed the need to be settled.

Protestants, the folks that protested the Catholic Church developed the infallibility of Scripture.  

Catholics developed the infallibility of the Pope.  

“Infallibility”- the inability to be wrong.

Both the Bible and the Pope speak for God – depending on if you are Catholic or Protestant.  

And what is spoken is infallible. That is settling. 

 Both positions come from a need for security, for something strong on which to stand.  These positions give us that, “I’m secure with ‘the Bible tells me so, ‘“ or “I’m secure with ‘the Pope tells me so.’”  Standing on this foundation, I don’t have to think, wrestle, or try to figure things out.  I just go with what is said.  

This position meets our need for security, but does it meet our need for truth?  Maybe not.

The Pope “said it” but got it wrong about the sun orbiting the earth.  Ask Galileo.  The church admitted it was wrong 359 years later.

The Bible “said it” but got it wrong about slavery.  

 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5).

 “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them” (Titus 2:9).

“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate,  but also to those who are harsh” (1 Peter 2:9). 

The Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination into which I was born, raised and educated, admitted in 1995 that it got it wrong, apologizing for its support for slavery and segregation.

The Bible did not “settle it” when it came to slavery.  In fact, what the Bible says about slavery is unsettling.  

Jesus did not operate on the basis of  the “God said it, that settles it…” position.

Do you remember all of those, “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you…” verses?
Compare and contrast the following:

Deuteronomy 6:13 and Matthew 5:33-37

Deuteronomy 19:21 and Matthew 5:38-39

Numbers 15:32-36 and John 5:8-10

If  it were “settled” why did Jesus challenge and change it?

The apostles didn’t stick “God said it, that settles it” on the rump of their horse or the bumper of their chariot.  Acts 15 tells us that the apostles debated how the Bible applied to their lives and situation.  When they set aside circumcision as a requirement for following Jesus they reinterpreted the Bible for their times, recognizing that some of what “God said” was not God’s will for all time, all places, all people.

Even those today who say the phrase, don’t practice the phrase.  How many of you give other church-goers a “holy kiss” each Sunday?   You don’t? Why not?  Paul commanded it 4 times in his letters.  Try it next Sunday and see how it goes. 
“God said it”  but with that command, and others, it’s not settled.  How many other things did “God say” aren’t settled?  “Welcome interpretation.  Come on in and let’s get to know each other better.”

This post is already too long, kind of like my teaching last Sunday – 35 minutes! So, I’ll cut to the chase ( a phrase used in the movie world by directors to get past the boring dialogue and to the excitement of a chase scene).

I don’t call the Bible the Word of God.  I call Jesus the Word of God.  So does John.  A “word” is an expression of an idea.  It is my understanding that Jesus is the “exact expression” of God. 

Not the Bible.  Check out Hebrews 1:1-3 and note the phrase “exact expression.”  Does that mean that the Bible (Hebrews 1:1) is inexact?

Maybe the problem is not the Bible.  Maybe the problem is how we use the Bible – what we expect out of the Bible.  Again, let’s take our cue from Jesus.  Seems to me like a good idea.

John 5:39. No one knew the Bible better than the Pharisees.  They knew it up and down, in and out, forward and backward.  Yet they missed God in the flesh who was standing right in front of them.  

Is it possible to be so busy following the Bible that we miss Jesus?  The Bible is a sign that points to Jesus – to his life, to his way, to his values.  

Why do we settle with the sign instead of going on to the destination?  

I’ve written too much.   If you’ve stayed with me, you’ve read too much.  Let’s both stop. 

Let’s spend some time looking at Jesus. Appreciating him. Following him and his way.  

 

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“Shoot Christians Say”

holy shit 2

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” was the first statement we looked at in our new teaching series that started last week: “Shoot Christians Say.”

“Shoot” was a Southern Baptist substitute for the more colorful cuss-word.  Saying “shoot” was fine in that world.   Saying  the other word was not.   We compromised in the series by using punctuations marks: “S*@#! Christians Say.”

I ran out of time before I ran out of sermon – which is not unusual.  So, in this space, I will finish.  

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” has most often been used to refer to the LGBT community.  I first heard it some 15-20 years ago.  It was an attempt to maintain and express a strong protest against a behavior while showing a love for the individual. 

I never used it.  It didn’t ring true to me then.  It certainly does not now. 

To me, it is like saying “I love left-handers but hate their left-handedness.”  Strangely enough, being left-handed was, at one time, associated with sin and still is in some circles.   Throughout the Bible the right-hand is given higher status than the left.  People took the metaphorical use of “right-hand and left-hand” and developed a theology around it.  Left-handedness became associated with evil.  In 19th century Europe homosexuals were referred to as “left-handed.”  In Protestant-majority parts of the United Kingdom, Catholics were called “left-footers,” and vice versa in Catholic-majority parts of Ireland and Irish America.  

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is not just a statement about what someone is doing, but about who they are.  

To condemn the behavior is to condemn the orientation.  It’s like saying, “I love you, but I hate your freckles.”  “I love you, but the color of your eyes is unacceptable.”  

A friend told me that it was after he heard a preacher state “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” that he attempted to take his own life.  Certainly, his despair was not due to the pastor’s statement alone but the statement was, to him, the tipping point.   To hate the behavior was to hate him and who he is.  

Our society is split on the issue.  Our churches are too.  The position held by the church has changed over the years.  There was a day in which the church did not even recognize the possibility of sexual orientation.  Homosexuality was a choice and choice only.

There are 6 passages in the Bible, written by Moses and Paul, that address some form of same-sex behavior.  Today, a growing number of Christ-followers, myself included, wonder if these passages express God’s will for us today.  Think about it:

*Is it possible that these writers describe same-sex acts that even LBGT folks today would condemn? 

*Many scholars question whether the Biblical writers even had “sexual orientation” in their mental dictionary.

*Are these passages similar to the Bible passages that very clearly condone slavery or prohibit women from speaking in church or from teaching older boys and men – verses that reflect a cultural norm rather than God’s will?  (Am I the only one who has a problem with the Bible condoning slavery or prohibits women from teaching?) 

I have friends and members of the church I pastor, who are on different sides of the issue.  Some see me as compromising the truth.  I get that.  I would have said the same thing about me at one time in my life.  

Regardless, I want to love.  In the context of love we can understand.  We can grow.  

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look more closely at some of these phrases many of us say without thinking of what they really mean.