My first experience reading the Bible was quite a shock. I was challenged by a youth leader, while in high school, to read through the gospel of John. One one page it was talking about the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us and on the next there was Jesus making a whip and driving out money changers from the temple. My view of God had been formed mostly by popular tv shows and books at the time and my concept of God was one of love and grace so the thought of Jesus doing something violent like that was ludicrous to me. Now flash forward 15 years and I understand that the money changers were systematically oppressing people and they had put in place a system of injustice so God had every right to be angry and remove the barriers they put in place to worship. My initial reaction could have been a barrier to growing in faith, yet over time I was able to ask questions and dig into the culture and context of the scripture; and that changed everything. You see the Bible is a book that is both deep and wide. The message of scripture is something a child can understand, and yet there is always more to learn.
Have you read portions of the Bible that have shocked you? If not, I invite you to pick up the Old Testament and give it a read. We live in a very different world than the people of the Old Testament and a lot of what we read can shock us:
- laws around slavery that seem to promote the practice
- long lists of prohibited foods
- God promoting military conquest
- followers of God being commanded to sacrifice his son
- God often commands worship and comes across as arrogant and egomaniacal.
How do you reconcile these things that seems confusing to us? Well, you can ignore them, dig in and try to understand them or use them as a barrier to faith.
Atheists have had a lot of fun with these passages of scripture and love bringing them up to unsuspecting Christians who may be unaware of their existence, let along equipped to explain them. It could be that you’ve come across these and have had questions but haven’t felt safe to ask or explore them. Or maybe you just haven’t read enough of the Bible to be confronted with the shocking stuff.
Let’s take this next quarter in our Adult Equipping to take some steps forward in our biblical literacy and seek to understand the culture of the time period the Bible was written and see how God’s majesty, justice and grace shine through the pages of scripture, especially as you contrast it with the cultures surrounding the people of Israel.
Craig Friske will be teaching a class based on the book “Is God a Moral Monster?” by Paul Copan. This class will explore some of those shocking passages and will seek to help us to understand God in the Old Testament. Join us in the green portable at 10:45 on Jan 14. We’ll have some copies of the book available for $10 if you’d like to dig deeper and explore these topics and passages further.