Recently as I was reading my town’s newspaper I came across an opinion piece by a syndicated columnist who apparently believes it is his task to straighten out everyone on the culture war, Republicans, and Christianity. Most of it was just the usual liberal angst dressed up in progressivism. Not much new or interesting until he decided to put on his theological robe and lecture Republicans about the hypocrisy of their unchristian behavior.
Tragic, is the only thing I can say when a liberal reveals how he or she engages in the hermeneutics of biblical interpretation.
In an attempt to put the evil GOP Christian pretenders in their place the columnist revealed how he studies, interprets, and applies biblical passages which is, frankly, both embarrassing and typical of religious progressives and theological pluralists.
Love, peace, and fear. Those are the topics that Republican Christians don’t seem to understand. So he begins,
My Bible teaches me to love not only my neighbors but also my enemies. (Matthew 22:39; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43-44; and more).
But many Republicans are telling me to hate Muslims, illegals, and, oh yes, liberals…
Can you tell what he is saying the Bible is telling him about love? For him (and so many others) biblical love is absolute and complete acceptance, accommodation, and acquiescence to the views and activities of others...without debate. That he knows no Republican politician or Christian has gone on record saying that Muslims, illegals, or liberals should be hated, clues us in to his inference that love means the complete subjugation of the mind, the soul, and the will to those who differ with you (which not surprisingly he shows an unwillingness to do with his opponents). To even discuss views that are deemed different or perceived to be hostile to the other person is equated with hatred.
Yet, look at the Scripture verses he tosses out as if to confirm his thesis. He cites Leviticus 19:18 as proof that we are to love our neighbors and enemies. But let’s look at 19:17-18 for context:
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
I guess our guy didn’t like the part about reasoning frankly so that you do not become guilty of the same sin. Clearly, the “love your neighbor” phrase is not some kind of blanket statement concerning acceptance or else there would have been no need to speak of reasoning frankly with him or her! Actually, the “love” is the willingness to engage in frank discussion with your neighbor about his or her sin.
The citation from Matthew 5:43-44 is also taken out of context. Verses 38-42 include admonitions to turn the other cheek, give away your cloak, and walk an extra mile for your enemies. Is it in deference to accommodation or acquiescence? Absolutely not! We are to do those things in protest! As a sign of righteousness. An act of love. When Jesus was slapped in the face by a temple guard for his answer to the high priest the Lord responded, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong…” (John 18:22). Turning the other cheek is not submission…it is an act of protest for the other person’s wrongdoing.
Next our columnist moves on to lecture Republican Christians about the concept of peace.
My Bible teaches me to “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Romans 14:19)
But many Republicans enthusiastically pursue war and the tearing down of others…
This is a classic example of proof texting with little or no awareness or concern for the flow of the subject matter. The entire fourteenth chapter of the book of Romans is dedicated to instructing fellow believers to allow each other grace over matters that do not strike at the heart of faith. Should vegetarians be subjected to persecution and judgment from fellow believers because they don’t want to eat meat? Should those who put more emphasis on one religious holiday over another be treated badly? Of course not. Look now at the context of the one verse the columnist rips out for his own purpose:
So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:16-19).
How in the name of good conscience or sound theological reasoning does our columnist apply what was meant to guide a community of faith in superficial matters, to the war on terrorism where a defined enemy of truth and righteousness has sworn to bring as much suffering and pain to our nation as it can? And has already begun to follow through on those threats? My question for those who stand with our columnist is “How are you going to pursue peace with ISIS when their options are only two: acquiesce or die?”
Finally, our expert exegetical columnist turns to fear:
My Bible teaches me that if I believe in Christ Jesus that I need not be a slave to fear. (Romans 8:15)
But many Republicans want to enslave me to fears of all sorts, especially terrorism.
Short answer to his Bible reference: that is not what Romans 8:15 says or even remotely implies. It sounds biblical. Theological. Even practical. Here is what Romans 8:14-15 actually says,
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
That is not even close to what the columnist says the verse means. The “fear” that Paul is referencing is the fear of failure. The law was not intended to give anyone the impression that they were righteous. Quite the opposite. It was given to demonstrate that acceptance by God on the basis of adhering to the Law was impossible. When we embrace salvation in Christ and receive His Holy Spirit we are not to walk in the shadow of failure that the Law could not help but cast over us. The slavery the Apostle speaks of is the slavery always trying but never succeeding in measuring up to the righteousness of God. Adoption into the family of God is the divine invitation whereby we are sealed and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who Himself leads us into authentic worship. This has absolutely nothing to do trying to get people to do unkind things to others on the basis of worldly fears of terrorism, subjugation, or anything else for that matter.
To put it bluntly, this is the problem that many of us evangelical Christians have with our liberal, progressive, and pluralistic brothers and sisters sitting on the pews with us spouting such ridiculous notions as this syndicated columnist.
Stop projecting your worldly affinities upon the Bible and lecturing us that we are not practicing love or seeking peace and that we are fear mongers, with Bible passages you clearly have no idea either practically affirm what we are saying or have nothing to do with what you are saying.