Sunday, 26 May 2013
Grace, rules and the bible.
Is the bible a rule book divinely dictated down by God? I used to think so, but now I think I'm starting to change my mind. I'm starting to think of it as something flexible; something that is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" precisely because it is so flexible. It is an inspired response to God's intrusions into our reality; to those times that in some way God meets us where we are. It was inspired by God at the time of writing - but just as importantly, it is inspired by God at the time of reading. God changes us through our reading by His Spirit. He breathes into and through the text, into us the readers.
Now why am I thinking about this. Well the other day I was reading a passage by Paul and it was about dealing with sin in the church. It was very graceful. "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness."
That got me thinking about another famous passage of Paul's about dealing with sin in the church - the one in Corinthians, where it says "hand him over to satan."
Talk about polar opposites! And as I thought about that, I realised that this happens all the time in the bible; sometimes in two passages that are right next to each other.
Something I do sometimes with the bible (that I've recently been trying to avoid), is I try and find out what decision I am meant to make by looking in there for similar situations, and just copying whatever it is they did in the bible. If the bible is inspired and infallible, then clearly, that would be the best way to go right? Well, actually, no. Because the bible isn't a rule book. It's a grace book. Ever since Jesus came, the rules have been out the window. Not because we aren't meant to try and be good people, make good decisions and do good works. But because we are supposed to do this through grace, discernment and wisdom, as fully matured children of God. We aren't supposed to blindly follow a rule book in order to make all our decisions.
It is far, far easier to treat the bible as just a rule book - but that diminishes what the bible is and what Jesus came to do. Far harder, but more glorious, is to become the people that Jesus calls us to be - sons, and not just slaves.