and sometimes passages of the bible suck. Because they are ripped out of context, and applied haphazardly to whatever we think they should apply to.
Take for example Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
All nice and warm gooey feeling, right? The context of what Jeremiah is saying to the captives in Babylon though is lost, because he’s just got done telling them: “make yourselves comfy, you’ll never see your home again. Get settled in this apostate region, because it your home for a while, and for your kids and maybe your grandkids. But realize that it is part of God’s plan, after 70 or so years, I’ll make it right, and bring you back home.”
I read on the internet today that someone doesn’t agree with Paul. Well boy howdy, that’s a pretty broad generalization, all of Paul’s writings? The ones wear he hopes that those that require circumcision as a prelude to believing in Christ slip and castrate themselves? The ones where he lists all the nasty sins we all do, just about daily, like slander and gossip along side sexual immorality? The ones where he shows that there is no condemnation in Christ? The one where he list the ways that we’ll never be separated from Christ?
Look, I’m with Peter (2 Peter 3:16), who a couple thousand years ago wrote about Paul:
He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.
He is hard to understand, it takes a bit more than the discounted 10 second sound bite that gets tossed up in the middle of a “news” story to understand Paul’s words. I’m sure that the words of a grace healed red-neck paraphrasing those greek words translated into southern twanged English are even harder to understand.
Perhaps, a few more moments dwelling on what Paul meant, and what his whole corpus means, might be a good exercise.
Try this, read Romans 7, then stop. Don’t turn the page, don’t read past the last verse and skip on to chapter 8. It’s not a happy ending.
The first letters and gospels that were penned in greek didn’t have paragraphs, didn’t have numbers for easy reference. People passed around whole letters, copying letter by letter, and sending it to another congregation. These people found hope in Paul’s words, in Peter’s words, in John’s and James. They developed the Gospels, to share the story of the God that saw our lost world in such disarray that he lowered himself, to be made all man, while continuing to be entirely divine. To provide the perfect sacrifice for the slanders, the gossips, the liars and the thieves, even for those that commit the lesser sins listed as they live in their flesh. As I live in my flesh.
This Christmas in the turmoil of the latest, loudest, if not ugliest kerfluffle over Paul’s words, take a moment, and read. Read Matthew and the scandal that surrounds the line of the baby born in Jerusalem, that includes a incestuous daughter, a prostitute and an adulteress (and murderer too). Read Luke and marvel that the first announcement of his miracle of God with us, was not to royalty, but to dirty stinky shepherds.
Read on to realize that Jesus didn’t come to save the well, and the upright, but came to heal the sick and seek out that one sheep out of ninety-nine that has gotten ensnared by life.
Then realize, that you… the ones that read Paul’s words, and understand them, you are the ones… no … I am the one, that he bids to wash the others feet.
Bible verses suck.