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