I went through a phase where things I learned and subsequently wrote about did not include scripture. I figured by doing so, I’m alienating several readers.
Because when reading other people’s posts that include scripture, my eyes glaze over and I skip it all. The last thing I want is my readers to walk away glassy-eyed.
My first question that I had to ask was why I would want to snooze when reading scripture posted by others? Am I ashamed of the Bible, and as such ashamed of being a follower of Jesus?
Now that’s a scary thought. Jesus even said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and the glory of the Father and the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26).
I got a twofer, being ashamed of both Jesus and his Word? I’m going to Hell.
A few months ago, I was reading a photography forum, and one person posted about how a person shouldn’t judge the photographic works of others with too critical of an eye if the person doesn’t have the expertise him/herself to back up their criticism. The poster then added Matthew 7:3:
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
I actually cringed when I read that, no glazed eyes that time. Now I’m really going to Hell, I thought.
After thinking about it for a while, at 3am one morning I finally figured it out.
Context is everything.
In the photography post instance, the poster used scripture not to edify or help the other members, but to show off, and to prove the person who knew the passage was somehow better or more moral than the rest. To use scriptural passages on subjective matter (such as photography) isn’t helpful. I doubt I was the only one who cringed, and the responses were not nice.
Not long after that, someone posted a video of a pastor spouting a line in Hosea to “explain” why a woman’s baby was cut out of her; she survived, but the baby didn’t (if memory serves). The pastor’s reasoning behind reciting the passage was to show how godless America has become, and such instances like what happened to the woman and baby was proof of God’s judgement against us.
He cited specifically Hosea 13:26: “The people of Samaria must bear the consequences of their guilt because they rebelled against their God. They will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords.”
The premise of Hosea is not only to warn and convict Israel of her sin of rebelling against God and worshipping idols, but also to show God’s ultimate grace, mercy and love. The pastor completely ignored chapter 14 of Hosea which highlighted his forgiveness and rewards once Israel returned to him. Chapter 13 was a warning if Israel continued on their rebellious path. Chapter 14 focused on God’s mercy if they turned from their sinful ways.
Again, it’s all about context.
It’s a knee-jerk reaction on my part when someone recites scripture – especially a single passage – to prove a point. I’m always ready to take exception, because far too often, people misuse said passage, like the pastor and poster on the photography forum.
It’s not always a fair or reasonable reaction, because many also recite scripture appropriately (as if – in my infinite wisdom – I am qualified to judge said appropriateness [rolls eyes]).
There’s also the element of preaching. People don’t like to be preached to or at. When I use scripture, I always try to stay away from preaching, and instead use it as a teaching tool. Do I always succeed? Nope. I hope readers understand that, even when I come across as preachy, that’s not my intent. I want to instead highlight lessons I’ve learned – however painfully – and write about it in the hope people don’t make the same mistakes I did.
So am I truly ashamed of God’s Word? Am I really going to Hell?
No. I am actually quite protective of scripture, ready to defend it when it’s misused. Nor am I going to Hell. God loves me no more or less than everyone else, and he is ready to show me his love, mercy and grace even when I stray, just as he was ready for Israel as described in Hosea.