What do you do when something you read in Scripture offends you? When a passage or verse appears to contradict your perception of God and makes you question if He truly is good?
In such situations, we tend to respond in one of three ways:
- We ignore that portion of text, halt any thoughts pertaining to it, and quickly move on.
- We become obsessed with it and begin re-evaluating God through one particular paragraph or narrative.
- Or, we acknowledge our response and the bias our emotions tend to create and analyze the bothersome section through other well-founded biblical truths.
Years ago, I engaged in an ongoing email conversation with an atheist during which he posed numerous supposed problems with Scripture. And while I knew he was trying to trip me up and weaken my faith, I continued the dialogue hoping God would use it in some way to soften the man’s heart.
At one point, he asked me how I could believe in a God who subjugated women. Granted, Scripture demonstrates, from the time of Sarah to Prisicilla and beyond, God’s heart toward all humanity, females included. But I recognized the man’s statement pointed to a bigger issue–his criteria upon which he established his world view. And so, I replied, “I don’t determine truth based on how I feel or my personal preference or comfort level.”
Because, frankly, there are certain sections of Scripture that I strongly dislike. Portions, if it were up to me, that I’d rewrite or delete. I imagine the biblical authors and countless scholars and translators over the years have felt the same, which is why the less palatable portions of Scripture validate its authority.
I reflected upon this past conversation and various “unpleasant” passages I’ve encountered over the years as I read through the first chapter of Malachi. Verses two-three states, written to the nation of Israel, “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. ‘but you ask, “How have You loved us?” ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals'” (NIV).
An apparently contradictory text, right? How can a God Scripture reveals as the perfect embodiment of love, in one statement, proclaim His love for one man while stating his hatred of another?
At this point, I could share the articles and commentaries expounding on these verses, but I’d rather discuss this from a broader and more crucial perspective–how we process truth.
You and I are prone to make ourselves god. To filter everything through our emotions and the bias they create. The problem is, when that’s the basis from which we approach Scripture, we are inherently beginning with personal bias. Therefore, we’ve already erected inner barriers to truth.
Personally, I don’t believe ignoring our discomfort benefits us, either. There’s something profoundly spiritual that occurs when we wrestle with God over a particular text. I once heard this fitting analogy: “Two people are never closer than when they are wrestling.”
In my recent podcast interview with Dr. Allender and Cathy Loerzel, he referred to wrestling as worship. I’m prone to agree with him. I believe God is honored when we engage Him honestly, even if that engagement is wrought with inner angst. Because He can handle our questions and doubts. He’s fully aware of our disquieted soul, more than we are in fact. And He meets us there. He meets us in our uncertainty, our frustrations and turmoil.
Although we may not receive the answers we crave, we’ll receive something far more valuable; a treasure of infinite worth: a soul-deep encounter with our Creator.
And so, we acknowledge unease and areas of disbelieve, laying both, unveiled, at the feet of our Father. Asking for His perspective, knowing ours is flawed.
Yet, we do this holding tight to truth, reiterated through Scripture, gloriously displayed on the cross, and reaffirmed countless ways throughout our lifetime. We know that God is love. A love so deep, so merciful and unrelenting, our Creator pursued and rescued those who rebelled against Him again and again when He could’ve easily turned away, or annihilated humanity completely. A love that formulated the most excruciating yet necessary plan for redemption, prior to breathing life into mortal flesh.
A love that preserved a text so raw, so honest, generation after generation and century after century, so that you and I might discover God’s heart and character illustrated within.
There are portions of Scripture, as I’ve said, that bother me deeply. Sections for which, after years of study, I still lack answers. But while I investigate and question and wrestle with the text and the God it points to, I do so knowing that He truly is good and loving and kind.
That, not my feelings and flawed human logic, is the filter through which I read.
Let’s talk about this. When has God used a period of doubt, of wrestling with Him, to bring a deeper revelation and experience with Him? How do you handle those nagging questions that seem to lack satisfactory answers? Share your thoughts in the comments below or engage with me on Facebook.
Before you go, make sure to check out my interview below with Dr. Allender and Cathy Loerzel, co-authors of Redeeming Heartache. And watch out for a deeper discussion on Malachi 1:2-3 in an upcoming Your Daily Bible Verse episode.
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And, for those who live in or near the Omaha Metro, save the date! We’d love to see you at our upcoming gala. It’s going to be a hilariously fun and inspiring night of celebrating the God who sets hearts free.
Find out more HERE.
And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to grab a copy of my latest release, Her Small Town Refuge. 🙂
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