MONDAY MEDITATION: Literally? (March 4)

Once the apostles and other believers heard this, they calmed down. They praised God and concluded, “So then God has enabled Gentiles to change their hearts and lives so that they might have new life.” — Acts 11:18

A lot is packed into the above verse. The setting is when the church leaders in Jerusalem called in Peter to find out why he had been talking with Gentiles then, after they believed, had actually baptized them. This was shocking. The Bible maintained strict purity laws, including dietary laws, and Gentiles broke a lot of them. But now here these non-clean people hear the gospel, believe, and are baptized–without having to give up ham?

No wonder the righteous church leaders needed to be “calmed down.” After hearing Peter’s story, though, their eyes were opened. “God has enabled…” is the operative phrase. God is doing something much bigger and greater than what’s confined by letters on a page, even when that page is in Scripture.

Why do we continually force God into a box of literalism? If Jesus has taught us anything it’s that you have to read the Bible as if it were a fluid document, interpreted by how it informs what’s happening today. In the light of “love God and love your neighbor,” and against the backdrop of Jesus’ ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection, the Bible comes alive in its relevancy for today.

Fundamentalism is based on literalism, because it’s easy and can stir up emotions. In religion–“The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it” or in politics–“Make America great again,” literalism sets up a right/wrong, good/bad mentality.

Churches schism and politics divides. And God always reacts by enabling grace to spring up in the most unexpected places. Especially among us Gentiles.