Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bible Verses that Can Be Conversation Killers

There are people that may misread what I'm writing saying that I'm trying to be disparaging to the Bible. Not at all. I'm trying to open channels of dialogue and there are particular interpretations of these verses (interpretation and original intent are different, as you well know) that can be walls to crucial conversations between ideologies/religions.  Some of the below is largely straw man, but nevertheless I've felt the influence in a number of conversations.

Let's keep the dialogue open.

Let's learn from each other.

And, "Come now, and let us reason together." --Isaiah 1:18a

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25,  "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
    • The dangerous interpretation/application: "You won't get it. So, why bother talking?"
    • Better possible interpretation/application: The foolishness isn't that we should be illogical.  It's that power humbled itself (Phil 2).  It's that our mind, wisdom, faculties are finite and that there's a bigger, grander truth outside of ourselves.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14, "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit."
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "You can't get it.  You don't have the ability."
    • Better possible interpretation/application: We can't do it alone.  We need others to understand.

  • 2 Timothy 4:3, "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "You only believe what you want,anyway.  So why bother discussing?"
    • Possible better interpretation/application: Examine your own itching ears, not others.  And as the later context admonishes, "Always be sober-minded."

  • Romans 9:20-21, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?"
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "Don't ask questions."
    • Possible better interpretation/application: Have intellectual humility.  In light of the nature/nurture debate, recognize much of people's weaknesses are not their fault and be patient with them.

  • Job 40:2,7-8, "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it...Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.  Will you even put me in the wrong?  Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?"
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "I'm a bug.  I can't get it.  I shouldn't question."
    • Possible better interpretation/application:  The universe doesn't always need to make sense to be true.  It doesn't need our approval.  It stands outside of us.  Don't condemn the universe just to be right.  Don't set yourself above reality as its judge.

  • Jude 1: 18b-19, “'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.'  These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit."
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "Everyone else is lost and incapable of being reasoned with.  Their god is their stomach."
    • Possible better interpretation/application: Watch your own desires.  Consider your own motivations for believing what you do. Do as the later context says, "Have mercy on those who doubt."

  • 2 Peter 3:3-4, "Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "Your not getting it was predicted.  No point in talking."
    • Possible better interpretation/application:  Not everyone has to agree with you.  That's okay.  Peace is still possible.

  • Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "I can't even get it.  You certainly can't.  No point in trying."
    • Better possible interpretation/application: Don't follow the example of others who do not forgive and are not faithful (based on context).

  • Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
    • Dangerous interpretation/application: "Don't think.  Just blindly trust."
    • Better possible interpretation/application: As the later context says, "Be not wise in your own eyes."

Thoughts? Reactions?  Other scriptures?  Where did I go wrong in interpretation/application?


    1. I think it takes someone with an Open mind to read the Bible, Christian or non- Christian. The conversation killer was the entire bible for me. When defenses are already up about any given subject, it’s bound to create tension and lead to misunderstanding.
      A perfect example was yesterday. I was sitting at my parents’ bar sippin’ some coffee while I glazed over to see 2 leaflets on the counter from the church they have been attending. Of course as you well know, there was an outline that took the verse from Philippians 2:1-11 that broke down the sermon.
      Having the Mind of Christ
      "If [there be] therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind."
      Where did my mind immediately go?
      Why do our minds have to be like Christ? I don’t want my mind to be like John’s or Joe’s or Sally’s…I want it to be like mine. Why do they believe this? Why won’t they visit my church?!

      My defense was already up BEFORE I even looked at what the leaflet read.
      So I took a moment to stop and breathe and Re-think my way through this.
      If I allow myself to see this from a different perspective, perhaps there is something I can learn.
      My new interpretation:
      Having the mind of something Divine, whatever that represents for whomever.
      Noticing something divine about someone and cultivating that in me.
      Allowing myself to be open to that which I do not understand…
      Understand that disagreement does not have to kill a conversation…
      the agreement to move forward in difference instead of ignorance.
      Now, can I get my parents to think this way? Eehh. I’ve tried so hard but I’m left with me. I can’t be responsible for how others believe. Thank the stars!

    2. Lovely thoughts, Mel. You do a wonderful job recognizing your emotions to deal with them rather than not noticing they're there and letting them control your reaction.

      Yesterday I was listening to this talk on listening (ha) and he was talking about listening empathically versus critically. What a great point. I need to try to do that more. I force myself to listen to Christian talk radio (to keep a door open to my past) and my m.o. had been to translate into Lee-nese, but I think this is such a better way of looking at it. I don't need to translate it into something I believe--I need to empathize. I need to get in another person's shoes and feel, react to it first hand. I will try to do this this upcoming week. I'll let you know how it goes!


    Please comment! You can comment anonymously! Please send ideas and topics to research and post on!!!