The Bible is miraculously cohesive, but it is not uniform. Different portions were given for different purposes; distinct authors at distinct moments to distinct audiences.
While many today look to the Bible for comfort or inspiration, an honest look at the Scriptures reveals that not all of it was given for these purposes. If we randomly dip a ladle into the depths of Ezekiel, the brew that emerges is more likely to be sharp than sweet.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Some—perhaps much—of the Bible was given not for our comfort but for our discomfort. The Scriptures are profitable for reproof and correction, after all; they provoke, unsettle, and rebuke us. Far from harsh, this is a sign of God’s love. It is damaging for our souls—indeed, for our humanity—to turn against God in rebellion. The fact that he steers us away from sin and back to himself is evidence of his care.
In our efforts to soothe our troubled friends and not to cause offense, we often dull the blade of the Word. We wince and brace at the damage the wound may cause, so we soften the blow. In doing so, we strip the Bible of some of its power.
Some time ago I was listening to a preacher speak on a passage that touched on the dangers of riches. Predictably (and understandably), he included a few words about how money is not inherently evil, nor is it automatically sinful to be wealthy. Yet he said this so soon after the Scriptures were read that I fear their full force did not land. This is, unfortunately, not rare.
In that space after the reading of the Word, there is a window where the Holy Spirit often works to convict sinners. We dare not step in to bind up the holy wounds the Spirit has opened. Those wounds often lead to the salve of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick; he did not come to bind up the whole, but the injured.
We blunt the sharp tip of the piercing Word when we quickly say what it cannot mean. There should be a time both for clarification and for consulting other sources (both Biblical and extra-Biblical). But we must not clarify quickly at the expense of a plain rebuke that many people need to hear simply because we fear discomfort.
We must learn to sit with the weight and wound of a Bible passage. If we are shocked, offended, or rebuked by its obvious implications, that may be exactly the point.
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