The peril of having 100% of the Bible (Part 3)

See previous posts:

In the first blog in this series I suggested that 99% of the Bible was written to the covenant people of God. I also pointed out that America is not in a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible. I believe that means that 99% of the Bible should not be quoted like it directly applies to America or American politics.

I then suggested 1% of the Bible, the part that addresses all nations (not just God’s covenant people), teaches us that God’s justice sides with the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed! I believe this is the part of the Bible we should quote in the public domain!!

But, what does this mean for those of us who consider 100% of the Bible as sacred? What does this mean for those of us who believe we are in a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible? Who should we quote 100% of it to?

The short answer is, “Ourselves.” 100% of the Bible applies to us, but only 1% applies to everyone else. They will be judged for the 1%. We, the Church (capital C) will be judged by all 100%. So we need to quote our 99% to ourselves.

Let me use a specific example of the problem of not keeping the 99% to ourselves. Most North American Evangelical Christians are fixated on sexual morals. They often quote the Bible in public to support their expectation that everyone live by most of their sexual ethic (i.e., no porn, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, or adultery, etc.).

Of course, in making their case from the Bible, they can only quote from the 99% of the Bible written for God’s covenant people. This is true because the 1% of the Bible that addresses all people/nations, does not address sexual morals as a reason for the destruction of a country.

Now you might think, “What about Sodom and Gomorrah, with its sulfur from the sky destroying all the people for their corrupt sexual lifestyle?”

Well, the Bible clearly describes the citizens as “wicked and sinning greatly against the LORD” (Gen. 13:13). And many were so wicked that they frequently raped visitors to their town (19:5). And one citizen offered his daughters be raped to prevent the rape of a visitor (19:8).

But, the one time scripture identifies the ultimate reason for Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction, it says,

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Ezekiel 16:49

The “needy” they did not help would have applied to the two strangers/foreigners that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah desired to rape in Genesis 19. And the “needy” would have applied to the two daughters of Lot that he offers be raped instead. It is for failing to come to the aid of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed that God judges Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not primarily for their loose sexual lifestyle.

Now, of course, the 99% has a lot to say about sexual morals for God’s people. Lots! My summary is: “God’s best for God’s people is celibacy in Christian community, or faithfulness in heterosexual marriage.”

Now, this may not be your understanding of the 99%. But, however you define God’s sexual ethic, remember it is God’s ethic for God’s people. It is not God’s minimum expectations for non-covenant people and nations. That expectation has to do with protecting the sexually vulnerable, those marginalized because of their sexuality, and those enslaved for sex.

Being clear about our national ethic matters! Why? Because if my understanding of God’s ethic for God’s people were applied to America, we would need to outlaw pre-marital sex, and adultery, among other things. And, to be totally true to the 99%, we would need to outlaw lust too. For Jesus said that to look with lust at another person in your heart is the same as having sex with that person (Matthew 5:28). Imaging trying to enforce that as our national ethic!

So, as the covenant people of God, we need to quote 1% of the Bible to our nation. We need to consistently hold our countries accountable for the things God holds countries accountable for: the care of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed! We need to, as Dr. King said, be the conscious of our nation.

And, as God’s covenant people, we need to quote the other 99% of the Bible to ourselves! And as a response, we need to repent for our failure as North America Christians to live up to the standards God expects for God’s people.

We especially need to repent (since we make such a big deal about it) for the ways we have failed to live up to God’s sexual standards for God’s people. As I write this blog, the story is breaking of a pastor who had to flee naked from a home, because a husband came home early to find his pastor in bed with his wife.

And if we do not do a better job of quoting the 99% to ourselves, God will allow destruction to come on God’s people. God allowed it to happen to Israel for disobeying the first covenant. And even under the new covenant, God allowed death to take Ananias and Sapphira for lying (Acts 5), and to take some in the church in Corinth for disobeying Paul’s instructions about taking communion (1 Cor 11:30). They serve as a reminder that God is not above allowing destruction to come on God’s people for disobedience.

So, Christ-followers, let us quote in word and deed the 1% by standing with the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed! That is what America needs from us, lest America be destroyed.

And let’s quote the other 99% of the Bible to ourselves. Let’s hold each other accountable to live by it, even if the words of Peter may come true soon.

"For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household." 1 Peter 4:17a

Blessings!
Dale

The 1% of the Bible I will quote in public (Part 2)

In a previous blog, I suggested that I do not believe it is appropriate to quote 99% of the Bible in the public domain because it was written to the covenant people of God, not to non-covenant people / nations.

And, I suggested that America is not in a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible. For me that means 99% of the Bible should not be read and quoted in public since it does not directly apply to how non-covenant people should behave or how a non-covenant nation (America) should shape her politics.

Yet, 1% of the Bible (I have not done the exact math, but the point is that a little bit) does address God’s expectations of non-covenant nations.

An excellent example of this is found in the book of Amos. Amos, as a messenger of God, was sent to reveal the reason why God was about to allow for the destruction of Israel (God’s covenant people). In getting around to revealing the reason why, Amos reveals why destruction is about to come on some of Israel’s neighbors. In doing so, God reveals God’s expectations of non-covenant nations. In it, I believe, God reveals why God would allow America to be destroyed.

What are God’s minimum expectations of non-covenant nations?

Amos begins each of his prophecies with the same formula.

“For three sins…, even for four, I will not relent…” NIV

The term “sins,” refers to willful acts of disobedience. They were probably a violation of their own country’s laws and, if not, a clear violation of the human conscience. They were things that every human knows is wrong.

And these willful acts of disobedience were not one-time acts. The phrase, “For three sins…, even for four,” makes it clear that each country had a “pattern of detestable behavior, and God would not overlook it any longer.”

What are the willful violations of human conscious that God will no longer over look?

Syria/Damascus - “…she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth…”

 “It was as if they ran over people with threshing planks that had iron teeth protruding out of them to separate the grain from the stalk.” (G. Smith)

Philistia/Gaza - “…she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom.”

“These innocent people are suddenly deprived of all rights. Treated like cattle, and sold to the highest bidder.” (G. Smith)

Phoenicia/Tyre - …she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood.”

“Tyre is accused of selling whole communities, not capturing them. Thus, Tyre may have primarily functioned as a middleman, brokering captured people from various nations to the highest bidder… Their sin is presented as a betrayal of friendship, for the very people they have political treaties with are being sold as slaves.” (G. Smith)

Edom - “…he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked.”

“Edom’s rebellious acts involve… vehement attacks of relentless inhumane rage.” (G. Smith)

Ammon - “…he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders…”

“The Ammonites have carried out military campaigns to take control of Gilead… but in the process, have massacred innocent and defenseless pregnant women… Such merciless inhumanity to both mother and unborn child… deserves God’s judgment.” (G. Smith)

Moab - “…he burned to ashes the bones of Edom’s king…”

“This is an act of total disrespect for the dead, something that no one would want to happen to anyone in their family.” (G. Smith)

The Hebrew scholar Gary Smith, whom I have quoted above from The NIV Application Commentary: Hosea/Amos/Micah, says,

These oracles demonstrate that God holds all nations accountable for their acts of inhumanity to individuals… (They) describe how certain leaders and officials did not judiciously set wise policies concerning the treatment of weak or innocent people.

King David knew that what God expects of all countries, God expected of Israel too (as well as more stringent covenant expectations too). He declares in Psalm 19:17-18

"The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God. For the needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed."

The 1% of the Bible that addresses all nations, reveals that God’s justice sides with the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed! I believe this is the part of the Bible we should quote in the public domain!

In this regard, the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” captures well God’s expectations for ALL nations.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

This needs to be affirmed by Christ-followers as “biblical.” It needs to be shown as consistent with God’s expectations for all nations.

And, in my opinion, the 1% is what we need to quote from the Bible when it comes to welcoming refugees, arguing for affordable housing and national health care, declaring that black lives matter, or arguing for equal treatment of women and our fellow humans in the LGBTQ community.

But, what about the other 99% of the Bible? Who should we quote it to?

Check back next week as I address: The peril of having 100% of the Bible.

Blessings!
Dale

Why I quit quoting 99% of the Bible in public (Part 1)

As an Adjunct Associate Professor of Bible & Theology and a pastor of many years, you might be surprised to find out that I don't think Christ-followers should use 99% of the Bible when making a point in public. By this I mean when expressing our views in public about how other people should behave or on public policy in America. Whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or in an opinion section of a news source, I don't think 99% of the Bible should be quoted to support a position.

To give a few examples, I would not quote Jeremiah 22:3 to oppose a ban or a decrease in the number of immigrants allowed to come to America.

"The LORD proclaims: Do what is just and right; rescue the oppressed from the power of the oppressor. Don't exploit or mistreat the refugee, the orphan, and the widow. Don't spill the blood of the innocent in this place." (CEB)

Nor, strange as it sounds, would I quote Jesus in Matthew 25:35c-36a.

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me in. I was naked and you clothed me."

I also would not quote Leviticus 23:22 to argue that our country should provide for her poor and hungry.

"When you harvest your land's produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don't gather every remaining bit of your harvest. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the LORD your God." (CEB)

Why wouldn't I quote those passages in a public argument, in the public domain?

The 99%

I believe 100% of the Bible was written under the inspiration of a covenant-making God. I also believe that in 99% of the Bible, God is addressing God’s covenant people about God's covenant people.

For God’s part of this covenant, God made promises. Things like, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” “I will bless you, and make your reputation great.” For God’s part, God kept promises, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery.” “In those days I will pour my Spirit on all people.” “This is the cup of a new covenant in my blood.”

For our part (here I am addressing those of us who have voluntarily enter into a covenant relationship with God by becoming followers of Jesus Christ), God asks us to, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as yourself.”

Of course, for the covenant people of God, neighbor love extends to all people – to others who share our faith in Jesus, but also to the foreigners and aliens who live among us, and even to our enemies.

Now here is the thing. Israel was in a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible. The Church today also is. But, America is not. I believe that means 99% of the Bible should not be quoted like it directly applies to America or American politics.

The other 1%

Now, interestingly enough, in 1% of the Bible, God is addressing God's covenant people about non-covenant people (i.e., nations and their leaders and officials).

The biggest example of this is found in the book of Amos. Amos, as a messenger of God, was sent to reveal the reason for the imminent destruction of Israel. In getting around to the reason for her impending destruction, God also reveals the reason God was about to allow the destruction of some of Israel’s neighbors. No doubt Israel cheered at the news of the impending destruction of her neighbors, until Amos turned to reveal that Israel was about to be destroyed too.

But even before Amos does, we are given a bit of “revelation” to non-covenant nations. We learn why God allows for the destruction of these non-covenant nations. We learn why God would allow America to be destroyed.

What are God’s minimum expectation of non-covenant nations?

Check back next week for the answer. In the meantime, until you hear from the 1%, I’d encourage you not to quote 100% of the Bible in public!

Next Week: The 1% of the Bible I will quote in public

Final Week: The peril of having 100% of the Bible

Blessings!
Dale