“I don’t like that part of the Bible.”
That’s what a community group leader I work with told me about a passage of Scripture they had studied in their group that week. I smirked when he told me this and thought about all of the times I had come across something in the Bible that I initially bristled at. All of us have had those moments when reading the Bible where what we read is not just hard to understand, but hard for us to like.
The Bible is God’s Word and confronts every culture and person at different points of our brokenness and sin. These are huge moments for our spiritual growth, though. They allow us to really grow in what we love and worship if we don’t waste them by deciding to just ignore that part of the Bible or minimize it. Don’t be a Christian who thinks you can just give weight to the “red letters” of Jesus and brush off the Holy Spirit inspired words of Paul.
So what should we do when we come up against those passages and parts of the Bible that just seem to be hard for us to embrace? Here are a few things I talked with my friend about:
If you come across something you don’t like, it probably means you are reading the Bible rightly. If you read the Bible and you never find anything that rubs you the wrong way, then something is wrong.
I had a professor once who broached a controversial topic, then said that that he wished the Bible said something different about it. While this appears to be a conciliatory attitude, it actually reveals an unwillingness to want to conform to what God loves and tells us in his word. We are all prone to this and need to remember that the Bible is not just a book to be studied but to transform us so that we love what God loves and hate what he hates (Ps. 97:10).
Make sure that you are reading and interpreting that passage of Scripture correctly. Does it really say what you think it does? Get a good study Bible, too, and dig in. The more we study the Bible and understand the whole story of the Bible, the more we learn to see that the parts that seem hard to understand on their own make much more sense within the context of the whole Bible.
Sometimes we forget that our culture and lives are not normal, that things are not the way they are supposed to be and God’s intended design for creation is what is actually, truly normal and good. Be willing to look at your worldview, culture, and the values around you and understand that just because they are what you are familiar with, this does not make them right or good. Be willing to see that those who call parts of the Bible antiquated, outdated, old-fashioned—or some other pejorative that tries to minimize its relevance—do so from a culture that, like ours in the USA, is not that old or even that historically credible.
C.S. Lewis warned about how many in our day and age suffer from “chronological snobbery,” the belief that just because something is newer or modern it must be better than what came in the past. Keep your eyes open to this as you study your Bible.
4. ASK IN COMMUNITY
Why do you not like this particular command or teaching? Is there something in your past, culture, or current actions that might be keeping you from wanting to embrace that teaching? Who has ultimate authority in your life? The Bible? Or are there other authority sources to which you give equal weight?
Many of these questions can be life changing if we ask them with a humble heart before God and in community. When we do this, we are giving access for God’s Word to deal with the parts of our life that will really help us grow and change. Don’t be afraid to do this. No matter what the Holy Spirit convicts us of or confronts us on through his Word, he also richly supplies the grace and power for us to change through the life and death of Jesus.
Ask God to change your heart and desires. He might be in the process of freeing you from a false idol, addiction, or attitude that needs to be adjusted. God will give you the faith you need to change (2 Thess. 1:3).