The Bible is a wonderful narrative of God’s redemption, His plan and His self-revelation. But there are parts in it that can make Christians feel uneasy, uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassed and confused. Why? Because when we speak to others about God, Christians tend to speak in terms of love and acceptance, hope and peace, goodness and kindness. But how often do we, or are we tempted to, sanitise Bible stories and the truth for people?
I’ve had the privilege of preaching for a number of years now and when I started my current job I was preaching a lot of judgment passages. This just naturally happened as we preached through books of the Bible systematically. At one point I was preaching so much judgment that a friend of mine nicknamed me ‘judgment Chalmers’.
My tendency is to go towards the more difficult passages in the Bible, I enjoy wrestling with it and trying to communicate it’s meaning in a helpful way. But one of the things I’ve noticed is that Christians often sanitise Bible stories and sanitise the truth.
Two weeks ago I preached on Genesis 3 on the origin of sin, the consequences of sin and God’s solution to sin. Last week I spoke on Genesis 6-8 on deserved judgment and undeserved grace. Could I have glossed over some of the more ‘sticky bits’ or the bits that make people feel uncomfortable? Sure I could of! But here’s why I didn’t…
Sanitising Bible stories and the truth that Scripture teaches is bad because…
1. It conveys the idea that we can simply get rid of the bits of the Bible we don’t like.
2. It tells our listeners that God’s Word can be chopped and changed to suite our culture, rather than the Bible influencing our culture.
3. It tells the world that Christians don’t actually like the Bible, because we keep making excuses about some of the more difficult parts.
4. It conveys to children that not the whole of the Bible is helpful for our understanding of who God is and how we can glorify Him.
5. It teaches people (both Christians and non-Christians) that the Bible’s message is confusing and you can’t understand it without a degree.
6. It makes it seem that Christians are trying to hide some of the ‘skeletons in the closet’ of history.
7. It tells our listeners that they don’t to submit to God’s Word, but that they can change it to suit their own comfort.
8. It means that we are putting ourselves as the main authority over a text and not letting God speak.
9. It portrays the idea that what we see in the Bible isn’t all to be taken as actually happening and that almost everything can be questioned.
Last, but definitely not least…
10. It means that we are not being faithful handlers of the Word of God.
We forget what a privilege it is to have God’s Word in our own language for us to read and understand. A privilege that many brothers and sisters in this world would give their right arm for! So why would we be so foolish with that privilege by softening, skipping or changing its message to suit our own comfort?
Our task as Christians, as pastors and as preachers is to rightly handle the Word of God, to teach it faithfully and to glorify God with our every Word. We cannot do that if we sanitise the meaning of Scripture or if we sanitise certain stories and teaching In the Bible. So please Christian, pastor and preacher; stop sanitising the Word of the Lord and teach it faithfully.
Teach it to every ear that will hear because the Bible teaches us about our need to salvation and about God’s grand plan of redemption!