The Hard Stuff in Scripture
Recently a friend sent a text suggesting that I do a podcast highlighting the ‘hard stuff’ in Scripture.
I responded back, “What hard stuff?”
Rarely a week goes by where I am not faced with some physical, emotional, or spiritual injustice; cancer, miscarriages, broken marriages, betrayal, poverty, racism and all the other “isms,” disappointment, sorrow, loss, rejection, sickness, loneliness – living in this fallen world while grappling with our often broken and limited understanding of God, and love, and sovereignty, that’s the “hard stuff.”
But, when it comes to the Bible, there is no “hard stuff” in the scriptures, there is just broken understanding.
The Bible is a book.
Yes, an inspired book, but still, just words on a page.
Scripture is not God. It does not have the capacity to love us, save us, heal us, restore us, redeem us, or make us whole. It’s not kind or generous, patient or righteous, it doesn’t work all things for our good.
Neither does scripture have the power to condemn, destroy, shame, accuse, or kill us.
Scripture is a book meant to reveal and empower a relationship with the Word made Flesh – Jesus, Love. (John 1:14)
If scripture doesn’t lead us to our reconciliation through Christ crucified and risen, we’re reading it wrong. If scripture doesn’t empower us to love, we have missed the whole point.
The more confident I become in Christ crucified and risen, the more I realize there is no “hard stuff” in the book; The hard stuff is what we bring to the book.
It’s our approach to scripture that is hard. It’s our understanding, our punitive belief system, our experience with abandonment, our conviction that God participates in the knowledge of good and evil, our faith in the idolatry of separation; it’s our religious certainty that scripture is a god in-and-of-itself, inerrant; it’s the lens through which we interpret the book, that’s the “hard stuff.”
The hard stuff is when we determine the words of scripture outside of Grace, outside of Jesus on a cross reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our broken interpretations against us, outside of resurrected Jesus telling his followers “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” (see Luke 24:47)
This is a Hard Teaching?
“Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’” (John 6:53)
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
But it wasn’t a hard teaching, it wasn’t “hard stuff;” they just didn’t understand.
Because of the cross, because we are further along in the story, we understand “eat my flesh and drink my blood” is a beautiful invitation to enter into our union, our reconciliation.
What if all the “hard stuff” we read in scripture is connected to our broken experiences and understanding? What if God is actually working all things to our good, what if the world is already reconciled to Christ and we are simply awakening to this beautiful gospel?
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:66-69)
How had Peter come to believe?
Peter, in the context of a relationship, in the context of following Christ, in the context of surrendering his will to an always good LOVE, was not put off by the “hard stuff.”
Instead, he had “come to believe.”
Peter’s growing intimacy could be trusted to recognize the “words of eternal life,” even when his mind misunderstood Jesus to be preaching cannibalism.
Peter was discovering his hermeneutic was the Word made Flesh. Peter was discovering a communion that his mind couldn’t fully fathom but his heart recognized as true; the reconciliation of the world through Christ crucified and risen.
There were many folks that day who, stumbling over the “hard stuff,” missed the Word of eternal life; many who wrestled with their punitive belief system, their experience with abandonment, their conviction that God participates in the knowledge of good and evil and their faith in the idolatry of separation.
But the gospel is such good news that even though they left, Jesus never leaves.
I pray we grow confident in love, trust, and intimacy. And I pray that Grace would guide our hermeneutic.
Jason Clark is a writer, producer, speaker, and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.
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