Remind them of these things and warn them in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. – 2 Timothy 2:14
Not only can the Bible be confusing, but it can be used to justify things that are truly cringe-worthy. When you give people a book that’s called the word of God, some delight in finding divine justification for racism, sexism, homophobia, and other assorted evils.
Such misuse often is prefaced by the words, “The Bible says…” Verses are surgically snipped and pasted together to form something that would bear little resemblance to Good News.
When someone starts by quoting Scripture, it’s helpful to remember three things.
LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. The Bible is a huge book written over the span of ten or so centuries. Lots of things change. A few important things don’t. Look for the unchanging stuff.
HOW YOU INTERPRET IT SAYS A LOT ABOUT YOU. When I was a teen, things were black or white, right or wrong, heaven or hell. Now that I’m retired, I see a lot more gracious-gray in Scripture. Usually that comes from looking at the big picture.
LISTEN TO YOUR HEART. Pharisees, ancient and modern, started with rules. Jesus started with love–of God and neighbor–and shaped rules accordingly. Love resides in the heart and should guide the mind. Filter everything through Jesus, since his heart was always being “moved by compassion.”
And that’s it. I’ve found that reading the Bible with these guidelines keeps it from becoming a paper pope. It enables Scripture to be the living Word of God that confronts and overcomes evil instead of promoting it.