I read it. You read it. He reads it. We all read Scripture. In our own language, in the translation(s) of our choice. We quote it. We excerpt it. We print it and project it on screens in sanctuaries.
Scripture is both beautiful and dangerous. A gem with 70 faces and a sword that cuts people asunder. Slavery. Sexism. Homophobia. Racism. Anti-Semitism. Violence. The Bible is used to justify them all and more. Just set a piece of scripture on a plate and let it speak for itself. “Sticky scriptures” encompass way more than seven seemingly anti-LGBTQ+ passages.
And much of the time, we don’t even realize it. Our particular privilege blinds us to what this scripture seems to say about those people. Because it doesn’t apply to us. Or that issue was theologically resolved by others before us, so we dismiss some scriptures, but get stuck on others.
I speak as someone who just completely missed it. Who printed a piece of scripture on the bulletin cover that would only later be contextualized. The painful irony was that the message reminded us of the danger of Luther’s anti-Semitism, while the text of Acts 14:1-4 reinforced the division that led to that very hatred.*
How did that happen? It happens because each of us has blind spots. Because scripture has always been meant to be heard, studied, interpreted, discussed, and wrestled with in community. Because only together, in our widest range of diversity, do we reflect the fullness of the image of Elohim. Alone, we project our individual image onto God, and then turn that narrow lens onto scripture. And miss things.
As a community, how do we respond to these unintentional hurts? In our quest to “get it right”, to not make “mistakes”, do we become discouraged—either at the obtusity of the dominant culture or at our own repeated “failures”?
I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. Romans 7:15 (CEB)
Or do we embrace each other in these opportunities to learn and grow? I am grateful for friends who gently point out what I did not see. How we can make our meetings more accessible, so that everyone can have a voice. How to read and interpret scripture in a way that reveals beauty, turning it as a gem and not as a sword.
Because the metaphor of scripture as sword was not for use against our fellow humans created in God’s image, but to defend against the Accuser. And to help us cut through to the heart of the truth, revealing our thoughts and intentions. Remembering that Jesus is human; he understands.
Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help. Hebrews 4:16 (CEB)
Favor. Confidence. Through Jesus before God. As we receive mercy and grace, may we have many opportunities to extend that to our fellow travelers on this road, embracing the image of God reflected in each other.