The Sword of the Lord
When I was a kid, we used to have what we called "Sword Drills" in Sunday school or in chapel at the various Christian schools I attended.
A Sword Drill went like this: Our teacher would have us poised with our Bibles on our laps, and would give us a book of the Bible, a chapter and a verse, and then shout "Go!" The first one to turn to that passage, stand up and read it would win.
I won a lot, just for the record. I was good at Sword Drills.
At this point, you might be wondering where we got the idea to call these exercises "Sword Drills," let me explain:
There's this verse in the New Testament book of Hebrews that I memorized when I was a kid that has been improperly interpreted and misused for centuries to portray the Bible as a weapon:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)Sadly, so many of us Christian-y types pull passages out of context, warp them, twist them, misinterpret them and ham-handedly use them to bludgeon others. And we do so with a flair of superiority because we've been taught to believe the Bible is a sword.
Fr. Richard Rohr once wrote:
Just because you use Scripture in a God-affirming way, does not mean you are using Scripture for life and love, growth and wisdom--for the sake of God or others. Many of the worst genocides and atrocities in history have been supported by Scripture quotes in the mouths of selfish and scared people.But here's the fascinating thing... the author of Hebrews wasn't talking about the Bible when he/she wrote that verse. Because the Bible didn't exist then. There was no such thing as the New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures were far from canonized.
In this passage of Hebrews, the "word of God" refers to God's active "speaking" and revelation. The writer is saying that God speaks, moves, and acts in history and that word cuts us to the quick, convicts and shape us.
Now, this doesn't mean that there aren't things within the written and revealed word in Scripture that can convict us, shape us and mold us--far from it. But the fact that God is still speaking to us, is one that many Christians fail to grasp.
Think about what it would be like if those of us who claim to follow Jesus began to recognize the authority of the movement of the Spirit in the world, the revelation of God's kingdom, and all of the many ways God is still speaking and revealing Godself to us?
It might mean that we could finally lay down our use of the Bible as a weapon--one that is too-often used to harm others and drive them farther from Jesus.
It might mean that we would be free to rightly see Scripture more clearly as a part of God's loving self-revelation, and witness to Jesus Christ, and not the whole.
And it would enable us to fulfill our purpose to reflect and reveal the loving light of Christ to the world, and let God's still-speaking-voice do the good work of convicting, shaping and molding both ourselves and those around us.
May this be so for you today and ever day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.