Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 10:32-39.
Some Bible verses are hard to stomach and this week’s passage is among them. This text is troublesome. In truth it causes me to cringe. Much like Jacob wrestled with a man in the night and limped away forever marked in the morning, folks have wrestled and continue to wrestle with this text – biblical scholars, pastors, disciples, and seekers. We thought Jesus’ intent was to draw all people together and to draw all people together to himself. And yet this passage seems to tell a different story…
When we read passages like this one it is important to remember our tools for exegesis – meaning our tools for studying Scripture:
- Read and study Scripture in context meaning in relationship to the passages immediately before it and after it. This also means reading the given passage alongside other passages of the same topic in order to gain deeper understanding of the concept. Resources like a Bible Dictionary and Concordance are helpful in this sort of study. Hardcopies of these resources are available in the Church Library and electronic versions are available for free online.
- Beware “sound bite theology.” Have you ever been in a conversation with someone that has said, “Well the Bible says…” and then that person zeros in on one verse to make a (his or her) point and in order to shut down any further conversation? (I admit – I have done this!) More often than not when someone deploys this strategy that person takes a scripture verse out of context or that person “reads into the text” – known as eisegesis – in order for Scripture to say what he or she wants rather than what the text says. In these instances I encourage you
- To honor your conversation partner,
- To respect their opinion even if you disagree with it, and then
- To attend to your own study of the text to further develop your personal interpretation and application of it.
- Do not hesitate to use one of the most theologically sound statements available to you – “I don’t know!” There are passages of Scripture that are difficult and in our attempts to make them less difficult we sometimes dig ourselves into even deeper holes…and then backfill dirt on top of ourselves. (I have also done this one more than one occasion!) Sometimes we question the value of Scripture – or our desire to know more of it or about it – when we come across passages like this one that make our hearts ache. Saying “I don’t know” to a Scripture like this does not defeat it…but it may relieve our anxiety to explain it. And hopefully we will be encouraged to learn more about it through personal study and conversation with friends. “I don’t know…but let’s find out together.”
Reading the whole of Scripture paints us the fullest picture of our God and of his Christ. In some moments our hearts will be sweetly touched and in others they will feel achingly raw. We are better and our faith is deeper by having the presence of both kinds of Scriptures and the experiences they bring. In this way Scripture remains relevant in our lives. Scripture speaks to life. Scripture speaks life. And I am so grateful.
Prayer: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul), it is well, it is well with my soul.”* Amen.
*“It Is Well with My Soul,” The United Methodist Hymnal 377.