In Continual Conversation

O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true.
2 Samuel 7:28
The Bible witnesses to its own truth. And yet there is much in the Bible that we ignore, or even explicitly reject. We enthusiastically embrace those passages that speak to us of God's love for us, or tell us to love and serve one another. We memorize verses and entire chapters that speak to us of God's care for us. And we study prophecies that seem to point us to Jesus, or debate doctrines that we don't completely understand.

But what about those passages that seem contrary to what we believe is expected of us as disciples? There are verses that dictate the kinds of fabrics our clothes can be made of, the way we should wear our hair, or what we can eat. There are laws that require the death penalty for disrespectful children, or that a woman be forced to marry her rapist. There are slaughters that seem to be sanctioned, or men who are allowed to engage in the trafficking of women. Slavery is endorsed in the Old Testament, and spoken of by Jesus as though it's an acceptable condition. Are these words as true as the ones about loving God and neighbor?

My attitude toward the scriptures is that they are the only scriptures we have or ever will have. Though the UCC says that "God is still speaking," we do not thereby mean that we can expect new books of the Bible, but that God has "more truth yet to break forth out of his holy word" (quoting John Robinson's 1620 letter to the Mayflower Pilgrims). We owe it to our faith and to the word we say we espouse to give time to the entirety of the scriptures. If we find some passages encouraging, we should be challenged to make them a part of our lives, and to confess to God the ways that we neglect them. If we find other passages objectionable, we should prayerfully study their context, and try to more deeply understand those to whom they were speaking. We may still find them objectionable after delving more deeply into them, but at least we will better understand the Spirit's rôle in our relationship to the Bible.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews uses the symbol of the sword to help us grasp what's going on when we read the word. The sword isn't here a symbol of war or violence, but a symbol of discernment: It helps us divide that which strengthens our spirit from that which pleases us in the flesh. It also helps us order our thoughts and direct our prayers. Let us therefore view the Bible not as a static document, but the living word with which we're in continual conversation.

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
 Hebrews 4:12
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me, O God. May they bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.
 Psalm 43:3
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.
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