Do You Cherry-Pick the Bible?

A really short story with a big moral…
 
 
Some church people used the Bible in a well-meaning attempt to show non-church people where they were missing the mark and thus disobeying God.
 
The non-church people got offended and said, “That must not be what the Bible really means.”
 
The church people replied, “It is The Word of God and it means what it says!”
 
Then, someone else attempted to use the Bible to show the church people where they were missing the mark and thus also disobeying God.
 
The church people got offended and said, “That must not be what the Bible really means…”
 
The End
 
True story…
 
 
Recently, we have been writing about the 4 principles of discipleship that His Words His Ways Fellowship has adopted over the last year. The principles are nothing in and of themselves, they are simply an outline used to organize the Biblical information that we have found is useful (I would argue necessary) in order to teach the people in our immediate culture and context what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
 
I would also argue that our immediate culture and context is perhaps one of the most complex places to attempt to make disciples of Jesus. This is because of some of the particulars of the area create specific presuppositions that must be addressed and/or answered in order to present someone with what it actually means to be, follow, and imitate Jesus as His disciple (including the cultural Christianity that once dominated it, the specific economics of the area, and the current rapid shift into a post-Christian culture).
 
We have previously written about addressing several of the different types of people in or culture and context. In this article, we would like to address one specific group; those who say that they believe the Bible is true and should be obeyed.
 
Among those people who come out of, or are still apart of, the cultural Christianity that was once predominant in our area; many of them believe that the Bible is completely true and should be obeyed. Interestingly, this not only includes true believers; but also, church-going false believers who accept the truth of Scripture but are not willing to completely submit their lives in order to imitate Jesus as His disciple.
 
So, when someone in our immediate culture and context says, “I believe that the Bible is true and must be obeyed” it doesn’t necessarily mean what you would hope it means.
 
What they probably mean is, “I believe that the Bible says what I believe is true, and therefore it should be obeyed.”
 
Did you catch the difference?
 
Often in our culture and context, when someone says that they believe the Bible is true and should be obeyed; they don’t actually know what the Bible says and what it requires them to do.
 
And conversely, some of the things that they believe that the Bible does say, it doesn’t actually say.
 
In other words, they believe that the Bible is true and should be obeyed based on what they already believe it says; or based on what someone has told them it says.
 
And even if they read the Bible on a regular basis, they read it only looking for conformation of what they already believe and gloss over anything that would disagree with what they believe to be true.
 
You may think this incredulous, but I have observed it for my entire life. It still blows my mind when I have a conversation with someone who obviously reads and knows their Bible, but still harbors opinions that are contrary to Scripture.
 
The easiest example is the prosperity gospel. Everyone who is caught in the prosperity gospel will tell you that they believe that the Bible is completely true and should be obeyed; but their beliefs obviously do not line up with what Scripture actually says. Instead, they cherry-pick Scripture to fit what they already believe.
 
Another example that is common in our immediate culture and context is racism. There are people who know and read their Bible on a regular basis; who believe that it is completely true and should be obeyed; who are still incredibly racist. And like those who believe in the prosperity gospel, they cherry-pick Scripture to fit what they already believe.
 
You can also see this in people who discriminate against and hate the poor. And there are plenty more examples of this phenomenon.
 
The specific discrepancy that we choose to primarily deal with in our ministry is when people say they believe the Bible, but do not realize that the Bible teaches that you must be a disciple of Jesus, and therefore, you must obey and imitate Him. In fact, we would argue that following and imitating Jesus as His disciple is the reason that we exist and the reason that Jesus came to rescue and redeem us.
 
One of the verses that we often set before people to see if they really believe the Bible is true and should be obeyed is 1 John 2:3-6…
 
“We know that we have come to know [Jesus] if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
 
If you believe the Bible is true and must be obeyed, look at that verse again and ask yourself some questions:
 
“Do you even know everything Jesus commanded?”
 
“How can you keep His commands if you don’t know them?”
 
“Do you live as Jesus lived?”
 
“Do you even know how Jesus lived?”
 
Again, “Do you believe that Scripture is true and must be obeyed?”
 
One of the things that you possibly do to say that you keep this verse is to reduce Jesus commands down to “love God and love others.” You can read a longer article on that here. But in brief, look again at 1 John 3:5, “But if anyone obeys [Jesus’] word, love for God is truly made complete in them.”
 
In other words, you love God by keeping Jesus’ commands. It is circular reasoning to say that you love God by keeping Jesus’ command to love God.

 

And if you try to reduce Jesus’ commands to “love others,” Jesus was very specific about HOW we love others:
 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-47).
 
Ultimately, you will need to know all of Jesus’ commands in order know exactly HOW to “love God and love others” correctly.
 
Now be honest, did you find yourself saying, “That must not be what the Bible really means…”
 
Are you sure you believe the Bible is true and that it should be obeyed?
 
…or do you only believe the Bible if it agrees with what you already believed?
 
 
To learn more about The 4 Principles of Discipleship, start here:
 
 
 
Photo by Macu ic on Unsplash