This may come as a little shock … but I have avoided a lot of the mainstream evangelical mass produced Christian stuff over the last couple of years. I have done so because a lot of it simply leaves me feeling sad. What I interpret, read and hear as a lot of legalism of how one should act, dress, believe and behave worries me as I try to follow a God who is full of love, grace and acceptance.
Rather than being sad I smiled with delight when I came across this article in Christianity magazine by Steve Chalke. Some people will read no further because I am linking to Steve … it astounds me that a large part of the evangelical church here can, one minute hold someone like Steve up with pride and then, when he starts to challenge their thinking, dismiss him and refuse to take him seriously, even accusing him of being a heretic.
I loved reading Steve’s article as he simply asks us, ‘have we misread the bible?’ For a long time many have been saying so … but Steve is one of the first to stand up from within evangelicalism and challenge some strongly held, and in my opinion wrongly held, evangelical views. Steve challenges us to take the whole Bible seriously, and not just keep pulling out parts that support the argument we wish to represent. ‘If we fail to take the whole bible seriously including those bits we find unpalatable or inconvenient’, says Steve, ‘we only pay lip service to its authority’. Despite what some might say, Steve is not watering down the Bible, but the exact opposite – he wants it taken in complete seriousness!
One important aid to interpretation that I loved comes from a simple saying, ‘if it doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not God’. Jesus is both our guide to biblical interpretation and to life.
Last week I came into a conversation with a Christian man arguing with a young woman. He was quite foul in his attitude and language on top of extreme sexism and unpleasant racism thrown in as well. He backed his views up entirely with scripture … but my problem was … it didn’t look one iota like Jesus. The man expressed an ugly unattractive legalistic view of faith. It did not look like Jesus, so how can it of been God?
As Steve draws out the bible does not give us answers to a number of spiritual and moral issues. our task, as Christian community then, is to wrestle with the meaning of these words both honestly and humbly.
On a different, but very related note, I loved this article on Rachel’s blog. The way the bible has been misinterpreted to control and abuse woman has been something that angers rather than saddens me. Rachel’s article is cleverly written, light and humorous … but with a seriously deep challenge.
You see… this whole thing of taking stuff out of context and forgetting what Jesus is like means we become distorted to the point of ugliness in how we act as Christians. If we don’t look like the Jesus of the gospels then there is something seriously wrong … and when Christians stand outside clinics or airports with foul signs of hate and intimidation …. then something is very seriously wrong.
Then …. come back … and talk … there will be some of you that disagree!