Jehoshaphat said, “Isn’t there any other prophet of the Lord whom we could ask?” “There is one other man who could ask the Lord for us,” Israel’s king told Jehoshaphat, “but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad.” – 1 Kings 22:7-8
The problem with the Bible isn’t the Bible but how people use it. Like Israel’s king, people want to hear the good from it, not the bad.
It’s human nature to read into the Bible what we want. The temptation is looking for things that make us feel happy or justify what we already believe.
The most glaring example of this is how Southern Christians took what they wanted from it to condone slavery. Really, how could you be Christian and justify owning another human being? Yet, where the pocketbook and tradition were concerned, they only read what they wanted to read.
Approaching the Bible openly and honestly allows God to tailor us, not vice-versa. Reading it with both mind and heart, Scripture opens up and points in new directions at critical times in our lives. Sometimes it points to a sunny road and sometimes a scary one. Regardless, it points ahead. To a new insight. To a heartfelt repentance. To a new path of service. To a new stand to take in the name of justice and compassion.
I’m greatly concerned when preachers, or presidents, hold up a Bible as a prop. It’s not a prop, condoning some baptized human prejudice. Rather it is the Word of God that confronts us just when we become comfortable with it. It should be too hot to handle so carelessly.
The Episcopal priest and writer Barbara Brown Taylor stated it beautifully:
“The Bible won’t let me set up house in its pages…[The Bible] keeps evicting me, to go embody the word by living in peace and justice with my neighbors on this earth, whatever that may involve.” (Christian Century, 10/18/03)