See previous posts:
- "Why I quit quoting 99% of the Bible in public" (Part 1)
- "The 1% of the Bible I will quote in public" (Part 2)
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