Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bible Beaters

Dear Readers: the following is a bit of a rant. I do not normally do this, but as I sat down to write this morning, this is what came pouring out. For those of you who are right there with me: Yay, you! And for those of you who are squirming in your seats a bit after you read this, I pray that this post will be a seed God allows to sprout up in your thought life, changing you from the inside out. Early on in my walk, I was one of "those kinds of Christians" that I am writing about-- and God showed me that I wasn't making a difference like that. I had to come out from under that kind of thinking to truly reach out with the love my Savior intended.

After I wrote that last post about Elevation, I started thinking about the news about Elevation, and about the devotion I wrote, and unfortunately about the criticism I received for using the Message Bible. I had more "helpful" emails come in yesterday-- one gentleman even kindly informed me that he had decided that the Message was "from the pit of hell." (To quote Clayton King, "I could not make this stuff up.") I was thinking about the other emails (the ones I should be thinking about and praising God for) I got from women who were thinking of ending their marriages-- one said she was up all night the night before she got the devotion planning how she would end her 34 year marriage. And I was thinking about how many of the people that wrote said it was that verse, in that version, that captured their attention and got them thinking, repenting and changing their perspective.

And I was thinking about how I have only had to deal with this for a few days and it is exhausting and draining, and how there are others in ministry who have to deal with this stuff ALL THE TIME. Like my pastor and the staff of Elevation. There are so many people who want to help them see the light of tradition and doing things the way they have always been done, instead of just letting God lead. Christian people who have conveniently forgotten what Jesus stood for when He was here-- radical change and shaking up the religious establishment.

Folks, I am not saying you have to agree with me. But I am saying, really think before you pass judgment on any of God's servants. Unless they are doing something that you can tell me chapter and verse why it is against God's word, I don't wanna hear it. In the research I did on Eugene Peterson, his heart is to lead others to Christ by creating a current, applicable version of God's word through paraphrasing (from the Greek, I will add). I heard Jennifer Rothschild speak this weekend, and she is blind, so she couldn't stand before us and read from the Bible. She had to "paraphrase" the stories she was sharing. Now, she quoted some verses from memory, but many of it she just told like you tell a story. And it was quite interesting. And I didn't feel like any of the power or impact of those passages of Scripture were lost because she didn't stand and read them from the King James Bible. In fact, I rather enjoyed hearing them told the way she told them, if you want me to be honest about it.

And so I ask those folks who wrote to me to tell me they don't agree with the Message, or to all those critics of Peterson, or my pastor, or anyone else who does things differently than the establishment. What else could you do with the time you spent writing that email? Who could you call and encourage? Who could you share Christ's love with instead? How could you invest in building relationships with people who-- through trust and a commitment to loving them-- will see your Jesus in you?

And I am going to be so bold as to say this (and I might lose some readers over it, but it just has to be said): it is judgmental, self-righteous, condescending Christians who turn off unsaved people and send them running the other direction. They see that long list of do's and dont's and they think: no way, I am not having any of it.

Again, I know this firsthand because this is the reason some people I love very dearly want nothing to do with God-- because they have been burned by "religious" people who passed judgment on them. It is really downright dangerous what your words and actions can keep another person from. Last week at Bible study, my friend Tamery did the opening and she quoted her pastor, who said that if we could really grasp what spending eternity apart from God was like, we would crawl across glass to lead our worst enemy to Christ.

As I was thinking about all of this, I had my Ipod on and what should come on random shuffle but this song.

I will post the lyrics here:

Open up the book you beat me with again
Read it off one sentence at a time
I'm tired of all the lines, convictions and your lies
What right do you have to point at me?

Well I'm sitting alone thinking about it all over coffee
And still crowding my space are the things
You still hold against me
You cannot save me
It's not the time to breakdown
It's not the time to breakdown
It's not the time to break up this love
Keep it together now
Well it's not the time to break

Read it all no need for separating it
You see what you want and try to justify
All your little lines, convictions and your lies
What right do you have to point at me?

Open up the book you beat me with again
Read it off one sentence at a time
Well it's not the time to breakdown

I don't want to be a Bible beater. I want to encourage others to stop being Bible beaters. I don't want to send people running the other direction because I am so smug in my Christianity that I turn people away. I will leave you with this joke I heard at Bible study:

Jesus returned to Heaven after the ascension and was stopped by an angel, who asked about His plans now that He was back. He said, "Well, I have left my earthly ministry in the hands of twelve men back on earth. They are responsible for carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth until I return."
The angel looked at Jesus and replied, "Do you have a plan B?"

Yeah, funny but not funny. Jesus is counting on us to impact people's lives for eternity. It is a sobering task, and one we should try to honor with our lives, with our words, and with our actions. Most of all, we should remember what Chris says in his song, We cannot save them. Only Jesus can do that.
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Christine said...

Wow, what a powerful message! I agree wholeheartedly. I was lost, and was "found" by Jesus when I was 20. I had many experiences that completely turned me off to the Bible and Christianity before I received His grace. The only thing that is important is leading people to sit at His feet. The dos and don'ts just make a negative impact. Once someone has found Christ, the HS will lead them to the way their life should be changed bit by bit. Thanks for this important post, MaryBeth.

Carol said...

Amen! I agree wholeheartedly with your post. We have received "hate mail" from a large Christian college in the south that basically said that if we used any other version than the KJV, that we are the enemies of God. How ridiculous!! My question to them (or any other KJV only people) would be "Are you saying God is not powerful enough to use any other version of the Bible to speak to people?" Let's focus on one thing that we know God wants us to do - win others to Christ and bring glory to Him! That's what you do with your posts, Marybeth, so don't let the negative people discourage you.

Rachel said...

I fully agree with you. One of the big reasons my mother isn't a Christian is because of how she got burned when we lived in NC. To this day she still talks about how hypocritical they are, and it makes me sad. Also I love the Message. One of my best friends struggled for months to make reading her bible a daily thing, then she got a Message bible and she is thriving!! I love the fact that we can have a choice in what bible version we read, and which one makes the most sense to us. We forget about those who don't even have bibles and who would give anything to have one, regardless of it's version. I applaud you for posting this!

jess said...



Anonymous said...

Amen all! People have been beating the bible regularly tho. Back in the greek days is the earliest I can track it least AD. Some of hte greeks beleived Christ wasn't even real...they claimed he was false. It was the Basilideans. They nicknamed christ Abraxas after the root word Abracadabra. meaning that the HS was false and jesus' birth, death and resurrection was magic.

You're right Christine, there is something to be said for those who were lost and are found. It's a crime people don't really see the true spirit of God's grace, even after millions of years of war, famine and plenty of miarcles.

God's blessings to you.