Back when I was learning how to lead a Bible study (before I was married), I remember a little booklet my father-in-law wrote called “Too Many Opinions.” It’s been a while since I read it, but you can read it on his blog (as I linked above). It discusses how easy it is to get off the point in a Bible study, and rather than looking at the clear meaning of the text before us, we can lurch into “Well, I think it is saying….” or “I think it means….” etc. The point was to not ask, “What do you think this means?” but rather to ask a question that could be answered by looking at the text.
The important point is not really what we think it means. The point is always what God thinks it means. And though there are, granted, some difficult passages in the Bible that theologians wrestle with, most of it is plain as daylight.
I think it was Mark Twain who said something like, “It’s not the passages in the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me; it’s the passages that I do.” He was honest about his quarrels with God’s Word.
When a text rubs our fur wrong, it is tempting to explain it away some how or other or try to get it to mean something else. “Have you looked at the original Greek? ” we say in a lofty tone. “If you did, you would see clearly that what this really means is…..” Or we establish our authority in disagreeing with the text by telling everyone that we read a book once about this very thing. Aha! Brilliant!
This is one of those age-old temptations; it’s nothing new. Pagans and atheists do it, and even genuine Christians can do it. We ought to decide to have no problem passages. If the Bible says it, then I go on the record as giving it a hearty Amen. If I don’t understand it, then I should assume that the problem is not in the passage, but in my understanding or in my heart.
No doubt we can find some troubling bits in the Bible that are hard to understand. But let’s just focus on obeying the ones that are crystal clear!