Please understand that this is not in any way an attack on the Divine Scriptures. If anything, it’s inquiry into where our true faith lies. Is it in the Scriptures themselves, or the Person to whom the Scriptures point us—Jesus? I ask this because a lot of our divisions arise as a result of interpretive differences. I would not at all suggest that we compromise doctrine. There are times that unity is understandably broken because of a compromise of sacred doctrine, but with whom are we breaking unity? Are we breaking unity with the other congregation in our county or city with whom we have nothing to do? Then did we even truly have unity, to begin with? Are we breaking unity with a congregation who’s another state away of whom we heard they did something that doesn’t level with our understanding of Scripture? Then did we even truly have unity, to begin with? We label one another so callously: progressives, liberals, conservatives, ultra-conservatives, etc. What is a progressive? Do I even care?
If we were to mind our congregations without butting into another’s business, we might be better off. There are congregations who claim a similar heritage to ours and whose signage is similar to ours who do things that we disagree with, and some of those things are matters of opinion. There are some who do things that contradict doctrine, but if we’ve never had dealings with them before, why make a stink about what they are doing unless it somehow effects what we do? We sometimes behave as if any other church of Christ, or person associated with it, that does thus and such that we deem to be in error is going to bring the bricks crumbling down on our own congregations. Let them do what they do, and we must never forget that the church was here before us and will be after us. The church is Christ’s, not mine or yours. His bride will not be thwarted. So we can contend for the faith without being contentious about the faith. We can preach the word faithfully while exposing heretical practices, but we don’t need to ever believe that the whole of Christ’s bride centers on what we do or preach. Jesus will remove their lampstands if they are in error, so I don’t need to try to do that for Him, but only discern the teachings in the Scriptures for myself and those I serve.
A passage that I’ve dwelt on for some time has been John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” Contextually, the following verse that points to their disobedience is telling, but I wonder if we have become more about our Scriptures than the Lord who gave us the Scriptures just like Jesus’ audience. Here’s what I mean:
- Do we use the Scriptures to support a political agenda?
- Do we use the Scriptures as a method to win debates and arguments?
- Do we search to Scriptures to prove others wrong?
- Do we read the Scriptures in snippets to establish a doctrine?
I believe Scripture can help us think about political issues from a Christian perspective. They can become a good focus of discussion when we disagree with someone. They can and should prove us as much wrong for our shortcomings as we might use them to point out the faults of others. We should read the Scriptures as a whole, and not one line of a verse here or there and find something that compliments it to try to establish a doctrine.
Since the Scriptures still testify about Jesus, they should inform our speech and conduct. They should guide our interactions with others. They should make us into mini-Jesuses. They more often make us into Pharisees because we sometimes care more about being right in our obedience than in our carrying the whole of the purpose of Scripture. Jesus pronounced a woe upon the Pharisees because they tithed the most minute of spices while neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. Jesus said they should have still tithed as they were doing, that is they should have still been as precisely obedient as they could have, but not neglected the spirit of the law (Matthew 23:23). When we neglect the spirit of the Scriptures, to point us to Jesus and be more like Him, only to do all that it says, what have we gained? I feel as if it’s more of a loss when we fail to allow the Scriptures to transform us than to be used to thump others.