But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Timothy 3:14-17)
As a Christian leader, one of the common arguments I have heard from others usually sounds like this: “How can you believe the whole Bible is the Word of God when there are so many contradictions in the Bible?” Allow me to share with you a challenging quote from Jesus.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:34-37
Isn’t Jesus the ‘Prince of Peace’? Doesn’t Jesus tell the rich young man in Matthew 19 to ‘honor your mother and father, and love your neighbor as yourself’? What is going on here? How can such contradictory statements be from the same person?
We have just come through an election season where we were reminded of how elected officials use inconsistent messages to appease their immediate audience. Maybe Jesus is the original ‘Flip-Flopper’? I have just laid before you a trap. A trap so many of us have fallen into. Even groups and denominations can get caught up in its trickery. A trap which allows us to discredit the parts of the Bible we view as contradictory or offensive. A trap which makes our perceptions more valued than God’s truths. This trap allows us to deny God’s Word unless it agrees with our feelings of right and wrong.
Let me help you to get “unstuck”. You need to be willing to listen to God’s Word through an understanding of who Jesus is and His truths not through your perceptions and feelings.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Jesus Christ came to free us from sin and death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23) Through His death and resurrection we are no longer separated from God by sin. Only Jesus can soften our sin-hardened hearts to receive God’s Grace. Jesus does everything possible to soften our hearts: he made a whip and cleansed the temple of its corruption and declared His Father’s house a ‘house of prayer’; he argued and confronted the Pharisees and other faith leaders who were more concerned with manipulating the Law to serve their desires than to serve God; he gently picked up the child and declared their faith worthy; he lovingly reminded Martha that Mary’s desire to be with Jesus needs to be our first desire.
In His humanity all of our passions were at Jesus’ disposal to turn us from our sin-bound false identity to a God-bound true identity. This battle is still waging today. Until the glorified Christ returns we need to put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit (which is the Word of God) and on our feet be fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace (from Ephesians 6:10-20). We may not always choose the right tactic (hard truth or gentle truth) to encounter sin. Yet, being prepared through reading God’s Word guided by the Holy Spirit, and discovering Jesus’ truths; we can be faithful Christians ready to share our passion for the Lord.
It is difficult when a loved one demands we bless their life of sin in order to be in relationship with them. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 10 we need to have the passion and strength to choose Christ over a loved one’s sinful false identity. In choosing Christ’s truths, our hope is for false identities to be destroyed and our true identity as a Child of God to be revealed.
Shannon Bauer is the Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Watertown.