“That’s not what it says!” That’s the phrase I say when I listen to so many radio preachers. My kids make fun of me when we scan the channels and I just have to stop to hear what non-sense these radio preachers are spouting off about. I can usually only do this for a minute or so because it’s just so frustrating.
It’s not a nice calm intellectual sentence either. No, it’s more like “Are you kidding me!?!” type of tone.
Often these spoutings end up being like what so many debates about religion and politics sounding like. One person does most of the talking. The other person who shouts back something. Neither hear what the other is saying. That really can’t be avoided on the radio of course. After a minute, I come to my senses and turn the station because no matter how much I say “That’s not what it says” is going to change anything. It will just leave me upset and shaking my head. And then I start to think about all the people who will hear what’s being spouted off and buy into it. Oy.
Typically the non-sense has to do with the preaching of the Rapture and what God must to do, “according to the bible,” in order for the end times to come about. Because, you know, God is restricted and all that. And only these people really, really understand the bible. Never mind the context in which the text was written, or the original language, or who was being addressed, or anything else. Nope, it’s all about right now and how we can read current events into ancient texts that fit some kind of pre-ordained timeline.
Except, that’s not what it says.
Yes, you can pull out random verses of scripture that sound like they point to specific things going on now. That’s the beauty and the danger of scripture. There are many timeless things stated in scripture. But the bible isn’t a book of future predictions. Promises, yes, but not predictions. Prophecy is different than predictions. Prophecy in the bible was a prophet looking at what was going on and stating what the obvious conclusion was going to be if things kept going the way they were. That’s hardly a prediction. It’s usually a warning though. But it’s hardly anything that is set in stone.
See, the bible isn’t something that you should use as a weapon against your enemies. It’s not some kind of mysterious code to be figured out. It’s not a set timeline where we can see events fall into place. It’s not any of that.
No, instead, it’s a book of books. Some are books of wisdom, some poetry, some history. It’s a book that tells the story of God’s relationship with creation. It’s a book that tells us the message of God’s unconditional love and what God is willing to do to reconcile and restore creation and humanity. It’s a book with parts that have lost some of its meaning because times have changed and culture is different. Here’s the secret though, since everyone loves secrets. The bible isn’t God. (Gasp!)
In the end, it’s not about what we want to believe about it. It is what it is. There are parts that are just plain uncomfortable. There are parts that we’d rather not deal with. There are parts that have outlived their usefulness. But then there are parts that we race to and embrace because we need them so desperately. We can sit in our uncomfortableness, without the answers. And we can hear the message of the Gospel. Or we can do something else with it. Regardless, the message will be there. Waiting for our response. And our response isn’t about what we think it is. Our response will be how we live it out.