Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How We Read the Bible - Part 7

My third hermeneutical bias is to read Scripture with a bias of love.

Now, that might sound sentimental or nice, but it's not a goal that everyone sets out to accomplish.

I've heard it before from segments of Churches of Christ. "Of course we're supposed to love people. I love people...enough to tell them what's going to send them to hell."

That's one perspective on love. And it's a true question that gets at part of what love is about. But there's more to love than just letting people know when they're well on their way to burn in hell eternally.

One thing I've noticed in my life is that knowledge doesn't necessarily make people more loving. Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 8:1b: "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." Spend a day attending classes in any theological seminary and you'll see how relevant Paul's words are. I've been there.

Shane Claiborne says it this way: "I've learned that people can be right and still be mean!"

And to that I'd like to add: "You can be correct, yet if you have not love, you are wrong."

Because the aim of Scripture isn't for us to know more about the Bible. The aim of Scripture is for us to look more like the God behind the Bible, who just happens to be described as a God of love.

Later in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes a wedding homily for all of us in the 21st century. Paul says,

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

Ouch! On second thought, I don't think that's the preamble to Paul's wedding sermon. It's a stinging critique of people who are using God-given gifts without the required Christian ingredient: love.

And we might not have musical instruments on stage in many Churches of Christ, but I'm certain Paul would be much more concerned about the "clanging cymbals" of ministers and members who condone hate and division under the banner of "speaking the truth in love."

John puts it plainly in 1 John 4:7-8: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

Our reading of Scripture ought to produce a certain kind of person. What kind of fruit is our hermeneutic producing? The more we spend time with Scripture, the more loving we ought to be.


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