Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, January 23rd
It’s been cold lately, maybe you’ve noticed. The spring-like weather that lasted into December, and the daily highs in the 70’s the week of Christmas, stand in stark contrast to the upper teens we had earlier this week. Enjoy the weekend while it lasts, this should be the exception for a while and not the rule.
I remember my grandmother making a comment about the weather many years ago, mentioning how the Bible says that someday you won’t be able to tell summer from winter. She didn’t cite a verse of scripture as much as vaguely stating “it says in the Bible… “ before dispensing her prophetic wisdom. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turns out the Bible says quite the opposite. When God made his covenant with Noah to never again strike down every living thing, he went on to say “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) God has actually promised that the seasons will always keep changing!
I have worked with church youth in one capacity or another for nearly 25 years. My wife and I led BCM (Baptist Campus Ministry) together with high school and middle grades children, and I taught Bible for a few years in a Christian school setting. Some students walk in with preconceived notions about doctrine or the scriptural narrative that came from their home church or even their literal homes. To be fair, I was sometimes impressed with a student’s level of understanding. But others were victims of parents, grandparents, youth leaders, pastors, etc. that repeated things they had heard or loosely quoted scripture without going to the actual text. Sometimes I had to, in the gentlest way possible, say “I’m sorry, Grandma was wrong.”
I try to make a habit of never claiming “The Bible says…” even when I know for certain that I’m quoting it correctly. No matter where I’m speaking – or what I’m writing – I like to give scripture references that include a book, chapter and verse number. Never take my word for it. Any Bible teacher, from seminary professors to church nursery workers, should be able to back up their teaching with scripture. You should never have to take someone’s word at face value when it comes to the Word of God. There’s just too much at stake and it is vital that we get it right.
Sometimes it’s hard to let go of things we have always been taught even if we discover later those things may be wrong. I grew up in small churches in the rural South and have heard entire sermons preached against interracial marriage. I’m running the risk of making some folks mad here, but if those are your beliefs you don’t have any Bible to stand on. Paul wrote in Galatians 3 that all the distinctions break down and there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male or female, slave or free because we are one in the faith. He tells the Ephesians (in chapter 4 of his letter) that there is one Spirit, one Lord, one faith and one baptism. When John beheld the kingdom of God (Revelation 7:9) he saw people from every nation, representing every tribe and every language. Racism may be part of history and heritage in the deep South, but not on the basis of scripture.
The Bible does not say “Money is the root of all evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The Bible does say “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” but we have to consider the context. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:32 that we should eat, drink and merry if there is no resurrection; which there is. And sometimes people have wild ideas or collect wisdom sayings they imagine came from the Bible that simply did not. The defense against such misunderstanding is to spend time reading and studying scripture. Don’t base what you know about God on what you’ve heard other people say your whole life.
And to the preacher, Sunday school teacher, or parent reading bedtime stories: be careful. Some people will trust you no matter what. Put extra thought and care into being true to the Word you are teaching, not less. Because most people will not look it up for themselves, that’s all the more reason to give it to them right the first time.