Have you ever meet people who said something like this, “Well it’s in the Bible and that’s good enough for me. Yes, if it’s in the Bible that should be good enough for all of us.” But is that really the truth? A lot of well intended Christians are bad to do something that is a no-no. Its called proof texting. Theopidia, the online resource for all things theological defines proof texting in the following manner, “It is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological positions without regard for the context of the passage they are citing.” In my humble opinion, proof texting is done by some people in the Christian church, and quite frankly it can, wreak havoc in the lives of individuals. Let me give you an example that we find in Klauss Isler’s book, Living into the Life of Jesus: The Formation of Christian Character. Issler calls these the, “absolutist statements” “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also, (Matthew 5:39). What about this one, “If your right eye causes you to stumble gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell, (Matthew 5:29). Then here one that deals with guest lists for dinner: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do; they might invite you back and you’ll be repaid, (Luke 14:12). Finally, When you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one that has invited you comes, he may say to you, friend move up higher; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are the table with you, (Luke 14:10).
At first glance all of these “absolutist statements” seem to be commandments that are to be followed. We are fine with then until you get to that verse where it talks about, “Gouging your eyes out.” It is here that we begin to back up a bit, and realize that they are not to be taken at face value, as rules. Christianity is not based on a certain number of rules. Let’s be honest, many people like having rules to follow. Rules are a means of keeping order. After all America is a nation based on laws (rules). The trouble in Christianity is that law in many people’s lives trumps grace. No make up, Long hair for women, men must wear beards and long sleeve shirts. Some folks in the Christian church actually believe this, and that’s fine. However, don’t say that I’m a sinner simply because I don’t adhere to your list of standards.
Please understand what I’m saying. There are some essentials that we must believe in order to call ourselves Christian. What I wear, drink, eat, or who I hang around with does not say that I am or not a Christian. You see Christianity is about knowing Jesus. It’s about a relationship with God as revealed through Jesus Christ. Law trumping grace is drilled into many of us as children. We have pastor’s in every denomination that always are harping on judgement and Hell. Some people never hear; love, grace, and mercy. This starts in childhood and goes on for many until they die, that’s all they’ve heard. As my former district superintendent, Guss Shelly says, “It’s easier to preach against something than for something.” I laughed as I heard the latest viral sermon from North Carolina, “God’s again it I’m again it and if you got any sense you will be again it.” It’s hard to preach love and grace in the face of popular opinion. It’s a lot easier to preach that God’s, “again it.” Issler reminds us, Our tendency to interpret Jesus’ illustrations as absolute rules will hinder us from learning to follow him.” Be careful what you read in the Bible, if you take it all literally you may gouge your eyes out.