“One thing is for sure, if anyone is going to be rejecting me, condemning me for my sin, and saying I have no place in the community of faith, it’s not going to be Jesus. You see, Jesus has already talked to his Father about me, and we’re going to be all right.”
OK, friends. Here we go. This is Derek Maul standing back from the computer and thinking (standing back and shaking my head), having eavesdropped on several more antagonistic, sometimes mean-spirited “discussions,” that centered around religion/politics/culture.
What the topic is/was/will be really doesn’t matter (there are several “hot-button” issues floating around at any given moment); what does matter is how often people exploit scripture to support their own point of view… or to clobber someone else… or to prove how right they are – or how wrong you are.
FAITH? I selected my words carefully in the first paragraph. Religion. Politics. Culture. Notice I didn’t use the word faith, or the idea of following Jesus, or the practice of discipleship. Why? Because the arguments, and the rantings, and the judgments, and the declarations have little or nothing to do with faith, with Jesus, or with being a disciple… and they have everything to do with religion/politics/culture.
the arguments, and the rantings, and the judgments, and the declarations have little or nothing to do with faith, with Jesus, or with being a disciple…
The fancy word that describes using small fragments of scripture to defend or advance one’s own position is “proof-texting.” I do it – we all do. I tend to find just the right Bible verse to fit neatly with my opinions. And I’m sure sometimes I skip right past prayer, ignore context, and forego allowing the scriptures to teach me; and I suspect that I often use the Bible to prop up my own ideas.
So, then, what is the alternative?
GREAT ARC OF THE STORY: Well, I’ve started thinking that I need to take a greater interest in understanding The Great Themes of scripture, and to humbly ask God to use the “great arc of the scriptural narrative” as a lens to look through, to test how I read, how I listen, and how I understand the smaller pieces.
If, for example, I hear verses from different parts of the Bible that support a variety of viewpoints vis-a-vis the same question, then how should I proceed?
It’s possible to argue pretty-much any position on any subject and find some Bible-verse to back it up. But that’s not the point of scripture; the point of scripture is to tell the story of God’s great love, to understand the history of the struggle to be reconciled to God, to introduce people to hope, to heal the broken places, and to pave the way for a restored relationship with our Creator.
IT’S AN ONGOING STORY: It makes good sense, then, to become serious students of the Bible, to know the historical background and the cultural context, and to understand the consistent witness of scripture rather than proof-texting our way from argument to argument. Or, as my favorite preacher likes to ask, “What else does the Bible say?”
- Does the great arc of the story tip the scales in favor of ideas such as reconciliation with God? Or is the Bible a rule-book we must follow, A-Z without fail, in order to be saved?
- Are God’s great initiatives – culminating in the gift of Jesus – designed to restore the relationship of God’s creation to the Creator? Or is the Lord’s big idea to catch us in error, to keep us off-balance and defeated, and to force us to slavishly follow the law?
- Does God – when all is said and done – favor relationships defined by love and service… or does God defer to meticulous rule-keeping, and call for more finger-pointing by those who have appointed themselves as keepers of the rules?
MY SIN: This morning, another beautiful Sunday in North Carolina, I will take my imperfect self to Wake Forest Presbyterian Church, where I plan to thank God for forgiving my multitudinous shortcomings, and I will offer praise and worship to the one who knows every detail of my sin and who loves me anyway.
It is quite possible that I am not exactly on the same page as God when it comes to what is sin and what is not; in fact it’s a safe bet to say that I’m wrong quite often. But my God – the God who became flesh so that I might live – can handle that. Fortunately, God knows my heart, knows my sincerity, knows my weaknesses, and knows my foolish pride; God has forgiven me, God is forgiving me, and God will forgive me again.
One thing is for sure, if anyone is going to be rejecting me, condemning me for my sin, and saying I have no place in the community of faith, it’s not going to be Jesus. You see, Jesus has already talked to his Father about me, and we’re going to be all right.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there's always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men's Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.