On honesty – far too often we come to church and act like the Bible is an easy book to read. It’s not. There are places that are easy, and nice, and comforting. But there are just as many places that are difficult, or boring, and or even plain disturbing. When we pretend that the Bible is otherwise, we can create lots of frustration in those who are picking up the Bible for the first time (or who are trying to pick it up again for the umpteenth time). Our ignoring of the hard parts also allows us regular readers to dodge some things that might be good for us, even if they’re not easy or comforting.
That leads us to the second point Patrick makes – the need for humility. We need the humility to admit that we don’t understand everything in the Bible (Beware of preachers who claim they do!). We also need humility to admit that often we find the Bible difficult because through its verses God asks us to do things we would rather not do. Patrick puts it well:
To paraphrase F.F. Bruce in "Hard Sayings of Jesus", some verses are difficult because we don't know what they mean, and some are difficult because we know exactly what they mean.
As an experiment, I read through the Sermon on the Mount with the youth group, and asked them to mentally keep track of how many times they thought to themselves, "Golly, I hope Jesus doesn't mean that exactly like it sounded." We came up with about 20 - in just three chapters.
We all have our favorite Bible verses that bring comfort and meaning to our lives. But I think that it is a healthy exercise to confront those parts of scripture that make us distinctly uncomfortable.
I think Patrick’s right, and after reading his words I immediately thought of John 14:12. There Jesus was speaking to his disciples and said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Really? I’m supposed to be doing even greater things than Jesus? How can that be? What would it look like? Why am I not? Not the easiest of verses. Not one I completely understand. Not the only one I don't understand, but heaven forbid I ignore Christ’s words. For the time being, let me rest uncomfortably in my lack of understanding trusting that to know God I don't have to understand everything about him. But let me be uncomfortable enough to continue to seek God's wisdom by his grace.
So what Bible verses have you squirming in your seat or scratching your head?
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near . . . “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6, 8-9.