From the upcoming Beautiful Christ Book – Discussing Christ through the objections people have to faith, religion, and Christianity.
Much of the Bible is the history of God’s people. Just like ourselves, our history includes stories of great memories and events. It also contains our faults and failures. In the same way, the Bible does not hide either. It includes both, the good and the bad. Here is where many get derailed and miss the point of some of what is in the Bible.
However, this in part is actually what makes the Bible such a compelling read. It includes the stories of people who were far from perfect. In fact many of the Bible characters seemed to have more flaws than strengths. It is this revelation of God working with real humanity which actually can give us some hope. The story of scripture is that despite ourselves, God still loved us anyways.
This opens up the possibly, and really the fact, some things in the Bible are just plain wrong. I did not say inaccurate, I said wrong. The reason why the Bible should speak to us, as it was intended, is that it does not hide the normality of it’s writers and those it is speaking of. For example, Moses who God used to bring the people out of Egypt’s life was full of failure, not just great feats. His story is of one who killed a man. A story of how he had to run and hide. How even when God spoke to him he didn’t think he was good enough. How he overworked himself. How he became aggravated and disillusioned at times. None of this is hidden. Many of the actions recorded in scripture that Moses did were wrong. It is not hidden, instead it is all in the open.
Another example is King David, who in his youth defeated the giant Goliath. Despite it being said by God, ‘‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do,’ (Acts 13:22b) many of his failures, and wrong actions are recored in scripture. How he committed adultery. How he had a man killed to have his wife, and so on.
These are stories of things in the Bible that happened that are not right. Perhaps there are a lesson to us that even good people mess up and fail, or that bad people can do some good. Maybe it is to show how people really are capable of evil and need God. It also, can give some hope that God actually interacts and uses people who do not have it all together. When you being to read the Bible in this light that there is also hope for you. However, there is one thing that must also be made clear, because it has brought much confusion. Just because the Bible includes the history of people’s failures and wrong actions it in no way means that it condones them all.
One story I have brought up many times when discussing weird and offensive stories in the Bible is what happened with the Prophet Elisha. I have seen stories, videos, and many posts about how this particular story is a reason you should not want anything to do with the Bible. At the time of this story, Elisha, had been mentored by the Prophet Elijah. One of the things Elisha wanted, and asked for, was a double anointing of what his predecessors had.
In short he wanted to be used by God twice as much as his predecessor. In scripture there are almost double as many miracles recorded that Elisha did than Elijah. However, upon getting this great power, we read one of the strangest and offensive stories in the Bible. Elisha who with his new found ‘anointing’ comes in contact with a group of young people. They began to mock him because of his appearance, calling him baldy and other names.
In response, he curses them. The story goes on to say that many of them were torn apart and killed by wild animals as a result. Then the scripture moves on to the next story of his life. But what is the point. This is actually a horrific scene and story. It is these types of things which has caused so much division between those who love the Bible and those who hate it. Some call it God’s love letter and some a Book that condones slavery, taking women as sex slaves, human sacrifice, and genocide.
But consider this story for a moment. Again both groups can be totally missing the point. Is the lesson here, as some fundamentalist may say is don’t mock or disrespect a prophet because God will punish you? Or is this as some atheist writers have said another story about the deplorable God of the Bible who even kills children. Or is there another option?
I am not saying I am right in this idea, but I want to offer an alternative. When we begin to read the Bible as the history of people’s encounters with God and that it includes ‘all’ of their story, the good and the bad it opens up another possibility. It is possible that what Elisha did was wrong. Perhaps those who are appalled by this story should be, and so should everyone. What if this is a story about how ultimate power can even corrupt good people. What if the reason this is recorded in scripture is to let us know than power without character can lead to destruction.