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Scripture is Not a Salad Bar
by Alan Allegra
2/20/2017 / Christian Apologetics
We have just completed another episode of that great American pastime. Not the Super Bowl; that is mercifully brief. I’m talking about the bruising presidential election cycle.
Although this one was particularly fetid, it contained all the elements of the usual contest: promises, lies, slander, confrontation, begging, hope, and, most disgraceful of all, the conjuring up of “God” and the Bible.
Although America is referred to as either a Christian nation or a post-Christian nation, it is neither. There is no such thing as a Christian nation, although our country was founded upon biblical precedents and precepts. Only people can be Christians, although, at one time, this nation’s majority population identified themselves as such. It was once de rigueur to identify as Christian, but that is fast fading.
Asides aside, the point I am making is that, when appealing to matters of morals, especially when appealing for votes, people tend to turn to their favorite Bible verses for support, whether or not they believe them, understand them, or the “verses” are even in the Bible.
Life may be like a box of chocolates, where you can pick and choose the pieces you like and not unwrap the others, but the Bible is not so. This book is not a salad bar, where you can mix and match the items you like and season it to taste. Moreover, unlike the spinach leaves and yellowing potato salad, the books of the Bible never wilt or go sour.
The Bible, although composed of what are commonly called sixty-six books and, unfortunately, divided into an Old and New Testament, is one organic, living, multidimensional whole. It is divinely inspired and, therefore, as alive as its Author and just as unique and complete. It has one theme, one author, and one purpose. According to the apostle Paul, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Psalm 119, the one passage Martin Luther said he would take with him in exile had he the choice, says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (v.160). There are no exceptions to the veracity of God’s Word.
Common misinterpretations of Bible verses include references to the cities of refuge in Numbers 35 to justify sanctuary cities in the U.S. What is commonly overlooked is the fact that, first, the commands are for Israel. Second, the purpose of the cities was “that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there” (v.11). Those cities were to protect the innocent.
“Judge not that you be not judged” is another commonly misused verse, used to persuade us to not point out people’s sins. However, that verse’s poor forgotten neighbor says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:1, 5).
One final example: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” I’d like to cite the chapter and verse, but there are none.
Both sides of the aisle, and those in the aisle, are guilty of the misuse of Scripture. Jesus warned the Pharisees, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29, KJV). Again, quoting Paul, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).
If one is going to use any part of the Scriptures, one must make sure to treat it as part of a whole, in its context, under the power of the Holy Spirit, saying what God means it to say, not what we sincerely wish it would say.
Alan is Content Coordinator for Lifestyles Over 50 (Thrive Media) and contributor to the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also an adult Sunday school teacher and Bible study leader. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology, and being a senior citizen!
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