How literally should we take the Bible?
Fortunately, even those who believe that every word of Scripture is pure and holy decide what to take literally. So, what should we do? Although the Bible is the guide for my life, I confess that I wore clothes of more than one fabric to church last Sunday and recently had a barber trim the hair on the sides of my head, the only place it grows.
According to the God’s Word, those are abominations to the Lord.
A couple of years ago, I grew both tomatoes and green beans in the same garden plot. I’ve also held the hand of a blind woman as I prayed with her, which the Bible tells me I must not do.
If my wife and I have a son and he is rebellious to us, we are to properly admonish him. I agree. But if the admonishment doesn’t work and he continues to rebel, we are to grab hold of him, take him to the church elders and tell them about this stubborn behavior. It’s their job to stone him to death.
We each choose the heart of Christian belief and behavior, and calling Jesus the Lord of my life can be daunting. We cannot be judgmental, must faithfully love our enemies, and give away our possessions to the poor. It would be much easier to simply call ourselves Christians and not actually read what’s in the Bible, especially the New Testament.
Recently, the Scripture verses flowing through my mind are found in the 25th chapter of Matthew — the final judgement of the nations. Must we support our country’s leaders or obey God’s word?
Jesus is forthright as he speaks the familiar words of the final judgment, and these are words I do take literally. He refers to God as the King who speaks against those who follow man’s fears instead of God’s commandments — “The Son of Man will come in his glory with all of his angels,” says Jesus, “and sit on his royal throne…”
“Get away from me! You are under God’s curse,” the King will say. “Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear.”
The requirement we struggle with now is Jesus’s command to welcome the stranger, even if it requires self-sacrifice. The Bible and Jesus always come first. He never spoke of walls and banishments, and it is he we follow.
The Rev. Richard Ploch is a retired Methodist minister.