The Whole Bible

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  June 8, 2013

             While traveling abroad some years ago, I had the occasion to visit with a charming British woman who told me that she just loved the United States and joyously proclaimed that she had learned all about the U.S. during her travels here. I then asked her where in the United States she had been and with abounding enthusiasm, she told me that her only trip the U.S. was a bus tour that originated in Boston and ended in Washington D.C. Yet, in her mind, she had seen the whole United States.

            Those of us living so far removed from the Eastern Seaboard can quickly and easily recognize that there is far more to the United States of America than that narrow corridor between the Capitol and Boston. In fact, we laugh at the suggestion that people would actually believe her trip is representative of all the U.S. has to offer.

            Interestingly, however, we tend to do the same thing with the Bible. Some would call it a preferred “canon within the canon.” Others would, rather pejoratively, call it “proftexting.” However one may refer to the practice, it is never a faithful way to approach and interpret scripture.

            Consider Romans 13 as an example. Taken on its own, it clearly commands us to always, and without question, submit to the authority of the government. Regardless of what we may think of the government, Romans 13 suggests that God has ordained and placed the respective leaders in office and Christians are sinful to oppose them.

            In stark contrast, one may also consider Revelation 13 which preaches just the opposite. In this highly symbolic vision, the Roman government is depicted as a beast to which no Christian is to bow down or serve. So vile is the government, in this instance, that anyone who submits to its authority is described as bearing the mark of the beast and subsequently prevented from knowing salvation.

            The book of Joshua describes the attempted genocide of the inhabitants of the Promised Land so that God’s people could live there in peace and Isaiah calls for the people of God to be a light to the nations, drawing them in rather than killing them off. The strict laws of the Holiness Code in Leviticus often clash with many of Jesus’ teachings and actions.

            As Christians, do we submit full and unquestioned allegiance to the government as an institution created and placed by God to serve the common good, or do we faithfully resist all forms of government that fail to serve the common good? Do we serve God by eradicating all non-Jewish people from the Holy Land or is God served by working to make the land a place of peace where all nations, all races, and even all religions can find God in the compassionate and loving acts of God’s people? Are we sinning if we do not follow the letter of the law as depicted in Leviticus, or are we to merely follow the example of Jesus Christ and forget about the laws of old?

            These are not easy questions! Yet, often we find simplistic answers that are firmly rooted in one part of scripture and do not take into account the whole of scripture. It is no different from assuming the whole of the U.S. is as one finds it in Boston, New York, or Washington D.C.

            For the faithful Christian, the Bible is the indispensable Word of God. It must be taken seriously and trusted implicitly. Yet it must also be taken and interpreted as a complete whole. We do not serve God when we elevate our favorite passages above all others and completely ignore whole sections of the Bible. Our faith demands nothing less!