The God We Cannot Hear

CC BY-NC, davidgsteadman, Flickr

CC BY-NC, davidgsteadman, Flickr

I drew comparison between a parable of Jesus and an idea being debated in a group discussion. A person quickly replied, “You can easily use a scripture to justify your own point.” It was the last statement of the session before we all dispersed; however, I left a little irritated.

The comment offended me for a few reasons. First, it came from a person who knows me very well, my love of the scriptures and diligence with them. So it peeved me that he could think that I should be guilty of sloppy study and a sleazy hermeneutic. His comment was a slap in the face that charged, “You’re like the rest of ‘em, twisting God’s words to prove your own point.”

Second, I recognized how that attitude renders Holy Scripture an abstruse, even esoteric, text irrelevant to 21st century life and modern thought. For either we believe as Solomon said—“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”—and accept that moral and ethical values have been fairly consistent throughout history, making the wisdom of the Bible very much relevant for us today; or we deem life now and ourselves to be exceptional and devalue the Bible and all historical wisdom since they cannot make sense of our experience.

In that case, my only advice to my friend would be, “Okay, just make sure you never use the Bible or some ancient proverb to make a point”—or to live by. We cannot have it both ways, or feel that God’s words comport with any measure of moral relativism.

The truly frightening thing is the possibility that some of us have made the scriptures to say only what we’ve cared to hear. Yet in so doing, we would have merely elucidated falsehoods, which is something Jesus tackles in his Sermon on the Mount.

“You have heard it said”—because oral tradition, reinterpretation, and commentary had altered and appended God’s own words to claim something he had not said—“but I say unto you…” Jesus’s point stands: don’t misconstrue God’s sentiments. And don’t use him to push your own program but chafe when the Word finally judges you.

The real issue here, in the remark made to me, is certainly not my agenda with scripture, but rather the glaring admission of a poor spiritual foundation and lack of deep study.

Friends, we are not charmers or peddlers of a religious snake oil. We haven’t died to sin and reckoned ourselves ready to die for Christ’s sake for a false hope. No, God’s words are true and powerful, very relevant to life, and will forever stand.