The Bible is the foundation of our faith, a collection of stories, letters and songs written over thousands of years. The Bible tells us about God, and about Jesus. Or perhaps we should say: it tells us about other people’s experiences of God and Jesus. What was written is situated in the social and cultural context of very different times. Scientific understanding was so very different thousands of years ago! Social arrangements and societal expectations were so very different thousands of years ago!
So we read the Bible for the truths it contains, while using the lens of our modern understanding.
For example, we can find passages in the Bible to support a whole lot of things: Stoning to death disobedient children. Designating special chairs for those who are menstruating. R efraining from wearing garments of mixed fiber. Prohibiting women from speaking in church. Condemning homosexuality. Husbands ruling their wives. Enslaving people.
And so we bring to the Bible our modern understanding of the world, rejecting or disregarding those passages that are clearly outdated, especially if they do harm. (Of course, the problem in our country today is that what is "outdated" is up for debate...)
We can find in the Bible what we want to find. I f we look for love, welcome and compassion – we can find that in abundance. I f we want to find condemnation, judgment and exclusion - we can find that. So perhaps it comes down to what we believe about the nature of God and Jesus. Is God a loving God, yearning for safety and wholeness for all of creation? Is God a God of justice, wanting equity and welcome for ALL of humanity? Did Jesus come to "save" just a few, or did he come to show the world a way of love?
We are in the midst of a frightening divide in our country. Our monumental differences over life and death issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights, antisemitism, racism, and "religious freedom" is quite frightening. But that some of my fellow Americans who call themselves Christian would turn to Bible passages to condemn, exclude, and control other citizens, can send me into a hot rage. How dare you take Jesus and use him for hate?! How dare you take his words of love and twist them into exclusion?! Jesus said to love your neighbor!!
God have mercy on us. God grant us compassion and patience. God grant us the courage to speak truth to power. God grant us strength for this journey. God, grant us your kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven.