Growing In Your Faith - Are You Doing It Wrong?
I was reading an article this week about how a prominent Christian leader, who had (until now) wisely eschewed all of the culture wars rhetoric, made the mistake of getting embroiled in a controversy on social media because of some ill-worded tweets.
As he began to be backed into a corner, this Christian leader doubled down on his poor theological choices, and simply declared that since the Bible was his ultimate authority, he couldn't possibly be wrong about what he said.
And he also assumes that his interpretation of the Bible is the right one, of course.
This whole thing got me thinking about how so many of us Christian-types seem to use the Bible for our own purposes---to prop our arguments, to bolster our own world view, and even to weaponize our words to further divisions or even to create them.
You see, the Christian leader in question has the idea that the Bible is immutable, unmoving, and unyielding in the face of cultural change and transformation. He believes that if he can just line himself up with that immutability, he'll always be on the side of the angels.
He couldn't be more wrong.
Let me explain it like this. Have you ever read a verse from the Bible or heard some preach on a passage or story from Scripture, and you said to yourself, "I never saw that before!" or "Now I understand what that verse means!"
You can even read the same verse at different times in your life, and it can mean two different things to you because of what you've experienced.
This is called growing up in your faith. As we grow and change, and experience more of life--the Bible often takes on new meaning for us, and some of the ways we used to interpret stories and verses can seem... not all that helpful anymore.
In his book on the intersections between Christianity and Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hahn writes about this concept, and why it's so important to make room in our theology for growth and experience:
We have so many wrong notions and ideas; it is dangerous to believe in them, because someday we may find out that that idea is a wrong idea, that notion is a wrong notion, that perception is a wrong perception. People live with a lot of wrong perceptions, ideas, and notions, and when they invest their life in them it is dangerous.
When people refuse to grow and to let the Spirit work in their hearts and minds to draw closer to God and to others, they will often use the Bible to justify why they won't. Sadly, the way they choose instead can lead to bigotry, hatred, racism, and even violence.
Anything that hinders or prohibits human flourishing... Or is not loving, grace-filled, kind, and merciful... Or leads to lies, slander, selfishness, and pride... No matter how it might be propped up by an interpretation of the Bible, it's not of God.
And it does nothing to promote spiritual growth and maturity.
The Bible isn't a weapon it's a wonder. The Bible isn't the foundation of our faith (Resurrection is). The Bible is the story of how our faith can take flight when we begin to wake up to the reality of God.
When we read the Bible expecting to hear how the Spirit is speaking to us now, we honor the idea that the Bible is inspired and inspiring.
We also can be more open to becoming the people God longs for us to be, rather than remaining staid and stuck in our own ways.
May this be so for you today and every day, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.