Wednesday, March 4, 2015
The Bible Tells Me So
"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to him belongs, they are weak but he is strong."
We have sung this hymn in church circles in every church I have ever attended in my life. It is a very pleasing and pleasant song with the underlying meaning that we can trust that Jesus loves us because the Bible tells us that truth. Jesus does say that he calls the little children to come to him and older folks should not prevent them from doing so, which in his day was a revolutionary thing to say because children were considered to be worthless until they were old enough to earn a living. They were treated as objects or property, the same as women, because in the ancient world only men had rights, property rights and personal rights. So, when Jesus ordered his disciples not to forbid the children to come to him and for him to hold them and talk to them, his words were in complete contradiction to what society in his day believed about children.
The Bible tells me so....that is what many of us base our beliefs upon and say we believe certain things because we believe that the Bible says something about our beliefs, but how many of us actually believe what the Bible says and really consider the teachings of Jesus and of the Bible as valid for daily life? Yes, many of us say we believe the Bible and its teachings but when they run contradictory to what we have been taught by others in our lives or by society or by people or organizations whose opinions we value, we may discount what the Bible says and consider its teachings to be secondary.
Our Bible study group this morning discussed the Old Testament reading for this week's lectionary, Exodus 20: 1-17. That is where one can find "The Ten Commandments" in case you are ever asked where to locate them. We read the passage aloud and then discussed it in light of our understanding of the world today in comparison to the ancient world. Most of the commandments found there can be taken literally but a few are ones that few people take literally or they would live their lives in a different manner than they do.
The first two commandments blend into one idea--not to have an idol or god in your life other than the God we worship. That sounds pretty commonsense in that few of us have a statue of some kind to which we pay homage regularly. But when one looks at our modern life in the United States, we can see that many of us elevate persons or things to the place of idols in life. If we were to meet a movie star or celebrity or sports figure that we see on television or in the movies, we would immediately consider that person to be better than we are and we may even idolize them. If we value money or possessions to the place where it holds first place in life then it has become an idol. So, we do not need to worship a statue of a cow as the Canaanites did in order for us to have an idol in life. We only need to examine what is important to us in order to know whether or not we have an idol in our life.
Then, there is that whole idea about keeping the Sabbath day holy. Since Sabbath literally means "seventh" then Saturday is the Sabbath from scripture so perhaps as Christians we are not obeying that commandment literally unless we rest on Saturday as our Jewish friends and Seventh Day Adventist friends do. So, even if we allow that Sunday is our "Christian Sabbath" then how do we live on Sunday if we keep it "holy"? Does that mean that we do nothing on Sunday except go to church and eat lunch and then take a nap? Does keeping it holy mean that we live entirely differently than the rest of the week or does it mean that we try to slow down a bit and enjoy the day rather than rushing around as we do the other 6 days? That question is open for debate so perhaps we do not believe it literally, just as the words say.
Taking the name of God in an improper way.....Oh My God--OMG--has saturated our culture. People say that phrase so much that it has little meaning. If I say it, does it mean I have taken God's Name in vain or is it just an expression? Do I have to not say God's name at all to keep it holy as my Jewish friends practice? Does it mean I do not say G-D (you know the word I mean)? Again, not a literal meaning to consider.
The list goes on when one considers the Bible and all contained in it. So, why then, do some insist to elevate certain verses so as to castigate or condemn some in society? Perhaps the words they are saying are not truly from the Bible but from a human who has used the Bible to promote his or her own agenda. Perhaps the Bible is being misused by that individual and that misuse needs to be called out by those of us who believe in a sacred reading of God's Word. Perhaps that person who is misusing the words of scripture has an agenda that needs to be revealed to others so that the power they gain from its misuse will lessen or disappear.
I grew up in a very restrictive religious community which forbade almost everything in society based upon their reading of scripture. Very few ideas they promoted were truly in the Bible but they taught they as if they had received the commandments from the mountain rather than Moses. Those people are no longer even involved in a church or religious movement. Their ideas have faded even as their influence is gone.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so....maybe that is one of the few things I can take literally from the words of Scripture. It may not say those words literally, but I believe them because that is my experience.