A few days ago I posted my own personal summary of Darin Hufford’s book, The Misunderstood God on facebook and ended up stirring up a hornet’s nest of rage from some Christians (one in particular). Here is what I posted:
“Love is not jealous” but religion says that according to scriptures God is jealous. “Love is not proud” but religion says God demands to be worshipped. “Love is not easily angered” but religion says God is full of wrath and angry at humanity. “Love keeps no records of wrongs” but religion says God is keeping track of it all. Hmmmm, does God expect us to have a better personality than He does? Why does the God many Christians cling to actually have the personality of Satan? Either God is actually NOT love, or religion has Him ALL WRONG.
This was followed by one person hurling a slew of Bible verses at me accusing me of basing my theology on how I “feel,” trying to be “smarter and more enlightened than the word,” “seeking popularity,” I’m making accusations “against the Bible its self,” that I “do not like the Bible or the entirety of it,” having been “taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,” “revamping the character and nature of God from what the scriptures declare about Him to what (I) and most Christian philosophers today want Him to be,” “twisting the scriptures,” “quoting men and their insights without confirming the authority or accuracy,” “saturating myself with men’s persuasive philosophies about the scriptures,” “not quoting enough scriptures” and it was all followed up with “If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t bother saying anything at all or provide you with the scriptures listed above.”
Normally I’d just blow this off because it’s clear my post struck a nerve so he chose to assert his “spiritual superiority” over me rather than really taking a look at why the clear description of love taken straight from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) and applied to God contradicts what many teach about Him. The Bible clearly states in 1 John 4:8 …”God is love.” I wanted to just walk away. I hate this kind of nonsense. But this morning it occurred to me, there are others reading my posts who are not the least bit interested in winning arguments but really want to know how I would answer. So for their sake, I’m writing this.
It’s humorous, in a sad way, that what got me accused of “making accusations against the Bible,” “twisting scriptures,” and “not quoting enough scripture” was me quoting scripture and holding it to what it CLEARLY teaches about God. There is a reason why I don’t go around throwing out a slew of Bible verses. The person who responded to my post showed why. We can make the Bible say what ever we want it to say to back up our personal stance on anything. I hold to a “Let He who has ears to hear, hear” stance. If what I say is of God, He will confirm it to the person and they will see how it lines up with scripture. If it’s not of God, then He won’t confirm it TO THOSE WHO HAVE EARS TO HEAR. This person believes God is angry and demanding and he threw out a whole bunch of verses to prove it. I can come right back at him with a slew of verses that say the exact opposite. That was the tragedy surrounding my post about 1 Corinthians 13. He was able to use the Bible against the Bible to nullify something it says, while declaring that he is being scripturally “balanced.” This is extremely common in Christianity.
So what do we do? The answer is simple. We look at Jesus. And I don’t mean in some mystical, touchy feely way. I mean read the gospels. Read what those around Him who knew Him personally said about Him. “What about the Old Testament? Do we just blow that off?” No! But if we’re going to approach the scriptures correctly we have to start with the Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher of our faith. All the scriptures point to HIM. If what you’re reading isn’t pointing you to Him, but instead is giving you rules and codes of conduct to live by, you aren’t reading the scriptures through the correct lens. This is why Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 5:39 & 40,
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
Some things never change. This is the exact state that many in Christianity are in. As President Obama would say, “Let me be clear…” The Pharisees knew the old testament scriptures BETTER than most Christians today (including leaders). They even had massive chunks memorized. Yet, right IN FRONT OF THEM stood the Son of God, the One to whom all those scriptures were pointing and they couldn’t even recognize Him. But it’s even worse than that. They went so far as to accuse Him of being of Satan! Is it any surprise that Bible “experts” today can find themselves in the place of standing in direct opposition to Jesus and what He’s doing in this hour? And you better believe they’ll have chapter and verse to back of everything they say.
Do you know the Bible better than Paul? I think we can all agree that Paul really knew His scriptures. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees. Yet, with all His learning He was more than happy to persecute the church of Jesus Christ. Brilliant Paul couldn’t see a thing until He was knocked off his horse by Jesus and saw HIM! Once He saw Him, suddenly He saw how all the scriptures pointed to Jesus. It was only after meeting Jesus (not just a mental agreement with some verses, but truly encountering HIM) that He could understand the scriptures. He began looking at things through the correct lens…a lens many Christians are not looking through. And when He saw Jesus He counted all of His learning as rubbish in comparison.
We know nothing at all if we don’t know Jesus and then look at the scriptures through Him. Jesus showed us EXACTLY what God is like. Every Christian who reads that statement will nod their head in agreement. But then they proceed to run around the Bible grabbing verses that contradict Jesus and say, “We have to have a complete and balanced view of God.” So, let me say again for those who are hard of hearing, Jesus is the EXACT representation of God. He’s not a little portion of God and then there is this whole other side of God sitting up in heaven that Jesus didn’t show us. Jesus is not “safe God” while “danger God” stayed in heaven (because he doesn’t behave well in public). EVERYTHING we need to know about God, EVERYTHING He is, is seen in Jesus! Jesus said it Himself to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) Jesus didn’t say, “I’m kind of like the Father.” Or “I’m the more loving version of my Father.” He made it plain as day, if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father, period! The writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 1:3,
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
There you have it again, Jesus is the EXACT representation of God! So then we come to that little verse that religionists absolutely abhor (although they’ll never admit it…but actions speak louder than words), “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Who wrote that verse? Well, it’s obvious, John did. Was John some Old Testament prophet who never met Jesus? Was He some philosopher locked away in the halls of higher learning? No! John was one of Jesus’ BEST FRIENDS! Arguably, there is no writer in the Bible who knew Jesus while he walked the Earth better than John. He was the one who leaned his head on Jesus breast at the last supper, remember? He lived with him for three years. So John saw more clearly than any of us what God is like. Remember, Jesus is the EXACT representation of God. And John wrote at the beginning of his letter,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1John 1-3)
John says that he’s testifying of that which he HEARD with HIS OWN EARS, SAW with HIS OWN EYES, and TOUCHED with HIS OWN HANDS. Please keep in mind when John says, “concerning the word of life” he’s not talking about the Bible. He’s talking about Jesus. (Remember John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the word, the message of God. In fact, the Bible is never called “The Word of God” in the scriptures. Jesus is called that, because the message is a living man, not a book.) And this writer who intimately knew Jesus, saw God in the flesh, wrote that, “God is love.”
Now people turn and say, “Yes, he is love. But we need to balance that with other scriptures.” Hold on there buckaroo! Let’s use some common sense here. If you were trying to solve a murder, whose testimony bears the most weight? Even in the Jewish law it was clearly stated that by the mouth of two or more WITNESSES a thing was to be confirmed. And here we have John, an eye witness of God in the flesh telling us he is love. But we want to run off and grab some scripture form an Old Testament prophet and place it above the one who was actual there, heard Him, saw Him, and touched God among us. (Uh-oh! Now I’ve really ticked some people off!) Yes all scripture is inspired, but you have to look through the correct lens. Any person with half a brain can tell you that an eye witness has more credibility than any other testimony.
What we see in the Old Testament is an unfolding revelation of God. They DID NOT have the complete picture. Peter, who was also an eye witness of Jesus and close friend, wrote:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 10 – 12)
The Old Testament Prophets and even the angels longed to see what has now been revealed to us through Christ! If we’re going to truly be scripturally balanced then we MUST acknowledge that the people living in the Old Testament had not seen Jesus. They spoke of what they had not seen with their own eyes or touched with their own hands and longed to understand. As Peter said, they were serving us.
People who hold the Old Testament on the same level as Jesus, God revealed, how do you reconcile Jesus speaking to the crowds of people and changing scripture?! That’s exactly what He did? “You’ve heard it said ‘you shall not murder,’ but I say to you…” “You’ve heard it said ‘you shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you…” “You’ve heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye,’ but I say to you…” And on and on He goes! If all scripture is equal, why is the author standing their altering it and/or changing the emphasis? Hmmmm? (Especially the scripture about “an eye for an eye.” He completely goes the opposite direction on that one!)
See, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so desperately wanted us to truly understand what God is like, to truly know who He is. Though out time they could see we just weren’t getting it! So Jesus came and showed God to us. This is why He takes priority over anything written before Him. He is God revealed. He revealed God’s true nature by dying on the cross. He showed that God’s love is so intense that He will hold absolutely NOTHING back from us. He gives all! Even His own life for people who hate Him! His entire motivation in all things, is love!
It’s not about one scripture being over another, it’s about Jesus being above all! He is God revealed. After Paul encountered Jesus He penned His beautiful description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. He revealed what love looks like and therefore revealed what Jesus (God) is like. It’s interesting that when one doesn’t look at scripture through the lens of Jesus, 1 Corinthians 13 as a description of God presents some serious problems. But when you look at the One who gave up everything, even His own life for us, suddenly it all locks in place. 1 Corinthians 13 doesn’t contradict God. It’s a beautiful description of Him!
Now Pharisees, it’s time to go crazy!