“Hey, do you want some ice cream?” my childhood friend would say.
“Sure!” I’d reply.
A few seconds later, when he’d find his mom, I’d invariably overhear him say, “ Kevin wants some ice cream. Can he have some?” Of course, he’d follow up by asking for his own bowl, too.
It is common for us to ask questions “for a friend” when we don’t want to appear to be the one who is asking. It’s one thing when we’re craving a bowl of ice cream. It’s another when the question is uncomfortable or delicate. When we ask a question for a friend, we avoid emotions like shame (to admit a need), embarrassment (about looking foolish), or fear (of being rejected).
Such is the case with this question. None of us would overtly claim that we disagree with the Bible. No; we’re far too concerned with saving face. For that reason—and because I must also personally relate with this question—I’m using the first person. I’m not as concerned about why he, she, or they struggle to agree with the Bible. I’m concerned with why I struggle. If you can relate, join me.
There are so many reasons I might struggle to agree with the Bible. I’ve narrowed the list to four.
I’VE BOUGHT INTO THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE.
According to our post-Christian culture, the worst sin is to fail to live according to one’s own truth or to presume to in any way contradict someone else’s personal truth. Is it any wonder that we would struggle to agree with a book that claims to be utterly authoritative (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that frequently confronts us with the claim that there is a greater Truth (see John 14:6), one that transcends and overrules all other truth claims (see Deuteronomy 4:35)? What we believe is not popular in our culture.
We must all remain on guard so the spirit of the age doesn’t invade our own thinking. Here’s what I mean. Sadly, I still see the residue of this sinful thinking in my own life. It’s tempting to believe what I want to believe, what’s best for me, what I think would be expedient, or that with which I’m most comfortable. This might be difficult to admit, but this mindset and attitude are more common than you’d think among those of us who say we agree with the Bible.
I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT IT SAYS.
If I don’t truly understand the Bible, if I don’t really know what it says, it stands to reason that I would struggle to agree with the Bible.
One reason I don’t know what the Bible says is that I haven’t read it. I may have read about the Bible. I may have seen pretty pictures in the Christian bookstore with inspirational verses inscribed on them. I may have memorized the books of the Bible or a few verses when I was a kid. Another reason I may not know what the Bible says is that I’ve been relying on someone else—a favorite preacher, an author, or a Bible school teacher—to read it for me and to tell me what it says. While I appreciate the men and women who have taught me the Bible, it wasn’t until I learned to read it for myself that I began to truly understand and agree with what it says.
I’M READING IT INCORRECTLY.
I might also struggle to read the Bible if I’m reading it incorrectly. Scripture is God’s ultimate revelation to us. But, He conveyed it to us through dozens of human authors over a few thousand years, in three separate languages, on three continents, and in a huge variety of contexts. What does this mean? It means that I have to take great care as I read the Bible. I must have an understanding of the genre I’m reading (e.g., poetry, narrative, or prophecy), who is writing, the identity of the intended audience, what situations the author is addressing, the context and culture surrounding the author and audience, and more. I don’t mean to imply that we cannot read the Bible devotionally. But, if we’re going to truly agree with it in our heart of hearts, we have to be sure we’re reading it correctly.
It stands to reason that I’m going to disagree with the Bible if I’m reading it incorrectly or I am trying to get it to say something it was never intended to say.
I’VE NOT GENUINELY ATTEMPTED TO OBEY IT.
This is where this post gets really personal and uncomfortable. Finally, if I’m being honest, I might disagree with what the Bible says because I’ve never genuinely attempted to obey it.
We’re familiar with the Great Commission. But, let’s take a look at it again.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20, emphasis added)
What did Jesus command his disciples to do? To make disciples, people who are learning to live life the way Jesus had taught and modeled it. What did Jesus command His disciples to teach? Did He command him to teach them the Bible, verse by verse? No! He instructed His disciples to teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded.
Far too many of us know exactly what the Bible says. But, we will never be transformed by God’s Word until we sincere attempt to obey it. And, that’s infinitely more important than simply agreeing with the Bible.
AM I WILLING TO OBEY GOD’S WORD?
The irony of this article is that it’s really not about agreeing with God’s Word. Agreement alone is not enough. It’s not the point. Obedience is the point. I may know God’s Word back and forth. I may be able to explain it to others. I may be able to defend it in a hostile setting. But, if I am not cooperating with the Spirit as I grow in obedience, I will never experience the transformation that God wills for me.
The good news here is that there is grace, grace that comes in the form of an invitation. Here’s what Jesus says to those us who struggle, not with knowledge of or agreement with the Word, but with obedience:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:27-30)
Fellow strugglers, by all means, let’s remain unconvinced by the spirit of the age, let’s read the Bible regularly, and let’s read it carefully. Let’s also obey what it says. When we commit to obedience—when we take Jesus’ yoke upon us—God will help us agree with the difficult parts. Most importantly, He’ll transform us into the likeness of His Son in the process.