Today’s post is from Chaplain Mike.
Ok. So, let’s get real about the Bible.
A lot of folks have a mistaken and inadequate understanding of what the Bible is like and what it contains.
I agree with author Frederick Buechner, who says:
When a minister reads out of the Bible, I am sure that at least nine times out of ten the people who happen to be listening at all hear not what is really being said but only what they expect to hear read. And I think that what most people expect to hear read from the Bible is an edifying story, an uplifting thought, a moral lesson — something elevating, obvious, and boring. So that is exactly what very often they do hear. Only that is too bad because if you really listen, there is no telling what you might hear.
He’s exactly right. Most of us have the idea that the Bible is a nice book for nice people about nice folks who said and did nice things, where everything leads to a nice and happy ending.
Take the first book in the Bible, the book of Genesis, for example. It’s likely that many people have Sunday School images in their minds when they think of Genesis — they picture God creating the world, Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden, Noah gathering cute little animals onto the ark and God putting a beautiful rainbow in the sky, Abraham and Sarah having a baby in their old age, and Joseph wearing his coat of many colors. Nice.
But here’s what’s in the real, unedited version:
- A man and woman stand in nakedness and shame, blaming each other for what they did wrong.
- An angry and envious man, lures his brother into a field, brutally murders him, and then tries to cover it up.
- The world becomes so corrupt and violent that God decides to virtually wipe out the human population and start over.
- Noah gets drunk, and one of his son dishonors him by committing an immoral act in his father’s bedroom.
- Abraham twice tries to pass his wife off to another man to save his own skin. Later, his son Isaac does the same thing.
- Abraham sleeps with one of the household servants so he can have an heir. This was his wife’s idea, but she becomes so jealous after it happens, that she angrily throws the woman and her son out of house to live in poverty and shame.
- Abraham’s nephew Lot offers to let a violent mob gang rape his daughters. Lot’s daughters later get their own father drunk and sleep with him so that they can have children.
- Jacob, Isaac’s son, is a deceitful mama’s boy who tricks his father and brother out of important family legal rights. He has to run away from home so his brother won’t kill him.
- He goes to work for his ruthless uncle, who keeps him in virtual slavery for decades. Jacob escapes by tricking him and running away.
- Jacob’s wives live in constant jealousy and competition, continually tricking Jacob and each other in an ongoing battle for supremacy in the family.
- Jacob’s sons loathe one of their brothers, sell him into slavery, then lie to their father and tell him he died.
- Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped. Her brothers exact revenge by deceiving and then murdering the perpetrator, destroying and looting his city, and taking all his family members captive.
- Judah refuses to find a husband for his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. So she disguises herself as a prostitute, tricks her father-in-law into sleeping with her, and becomes pregnant.
And that’s just the first book in the Bible.
I had a pastor friend who once told me he was planning to do a family teaching series from Genesis. I’m afraid I wasn’t very kind. In fact, I laughed out loud and said, “What are you going to talk about, how to be a complete bum and still have God bless your family?”
He didn’t think it was funny. He had a overly pious view of the Bible that didn’t allow for the ugly stuff. However, that is what Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) is like! It should be rated “R” — raw, realistic, and in some instances, even repulsive. It couldn’t be further from “nice.”
However, there is this too: the Bible insists that, even in the midst of all the muck and mire of the reality of human sin, brokenness, ugliness and strife, a God of grace is present and working to fulfill a plan and ultimately make something new and good. The Bible is also rated “R” because its main theme is “redemption,” a story of grace that reaches into the miry pit and pulls muddy sinners out, kicking and screaming.
In one of his lesser known plays, Eugene O’Neill wrote:
“This is Daddy’s bedtime secret for today: Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue!
I encourage you to read the Bible for what it really is and says. It’s not very nice, but it’s real. And through it, God puts broken things back together.