Lord, what a question.
Well, I believe Bible texts are given to us, in all their conflicting, puzzling and contradictory beauty and ugliness, so that we can understand ourselves, in relation to God, better. And we do that more often by struggling with the Bible passages we don’t like, than by sticking exclusively to the ones we do.
So whichever Bible passages you like the most, ignore them for a while – they tell you more about what you want God to be than what God is like. Then, read the bits you find problematic; the violence, bigotry, the androcentrism, edicts, exhortations or poetry; that’s where to start.
I believe that the more selective we are about what we read in the Bible, the warier we need to be. It’s a bit like denying that the Sunday Sport exists. (Or the Telegraph or the Independent, depending on what views you can’t stomach).
It’s easy to choose our Bible passages the way we choose a newspaper – to correspond to what we already think… But, if we do that we’re creating a canon of texts in our own image – and that’s not the Word of God, more a touchy-feely Word of Us; discerned without effort and, perhaps, in the wrong spirit.
We have been given a hugely varied bible. Is it right to turn again and again only to those passages which mirror us? I don’t think so. We can’t expect, (as individual Christians or as churches), to discern the Word of God by reading only what we already like and ‘know’.
It’s usually when we face the parts of the Bible which depart from our routine – and from our sympathy – that each of us stands singly and responsibly at the brink of potential revelation.
So, now, let’s see:
Is Abraham’s God your God?
Might David and Jonathan have been in love?
Is it okay to overlook the ninth verse of Psalm 137?
Did Jesus learn from the Syrophoenician woman?
What is your problematic piece of Bible?
The Bible is not manual, map, or mandate.
It’s for confronting our own comfort and discomfort, with the Holy Spirit.
©Lucy Berry 2013
Commissioned by REFORM Magazine