What If Scripture Is A Participation Sport?

god talkHave you ever questioned an expert’s version of “what the bible says”?

Yesterday I compared church to a football game: a lot of people who desperately need exercise sit around and watch a small group of people who desperately need rest.

We’re especially in that mode when it comes to interpreting scripture. We often accept without question or research some expert’s spoon-fed scripture interpretation.

I decided a while ago to be responsible for my own theology. For me, here’s what that means.

I know several pastors from a variety of backgrounds. They all love Jesus, and if they gathered in a room they’d agree on many theological principles: the trinity, we’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus, we’re called to love our neighbor, and lots of other stuff.

For me, those are the core principles, those on which virtually all followers of Jesus concur. They’re the “majors,” the principles that define what it means to follow Jesus.

My friends would also disagree on some issues. Honest, prayerful scholarship can lead people of faith and good will to different conclusions on certain matters. When I’ve discussed these points, my friends frequently (not always) say things like “here’s the best conclusion I can reach right now” or “this is how it seems to me at this point.”

To me these are important but less essential issues. They’re the “minors.” They do not in any way separate me from other followers of Jesus. And since my pastor friends disagree, it’s my job to either let these issues go or figure out where I stand.

I want to major in the majors and minor in the minors. In the words of Augustine:

In the essentials, unity.
In the non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

You and I can disagree about a particular issue, even if we both believe the bible and love Jesus. In the context of a relationship we can discuss and learn without arguing, but no positive purpose is served by name-calling or labeling. Disagreement doesn’t make either of us wrong.

We’ve seen recently (in the World Vision fiasco) the devastation and division that results when one side of an issue is labeled “bible-believing.” Whenever you see two people who seem to love Jesus and hold different views, I challenge you to transform scripture interpretation into a participation sport.

Instead of accepting what you’ve always heard, do some research on other perspectives. Don’t read opinions, but find responsible scholarship that looks at biblical interpretation at deeper levels. Remember that scripture is God-inspired, but understanding scripture is an imperfect human activity. Beware of anyone—not named Jesus—who claims to have THE answer.

Occasionally Jesus’ answers are kind of surprising, but you almost always have to ask questions first.

Oh, and you have to listen.

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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