Thursday, August 27, 2020

Accurately Handling the Word of Truth

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 (NIV) 
"So let’s run the race marked out for us. Let’s fix our eyes on Old Glory and all she represents. Let’s fix our eyes on this land of heroes and let their courage inspire. Let’s fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith and our freedom, and never forget that where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. That means freedom always wins."

Vice President Pence - August 26, 2020 (transcript source)

I get it. I understand rhetorical flourish and echoing classic passages of literature to evoke emotion.

But we as evangelicals are called to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB). What Vice President Pence did last night is not accurately handling Scripture.

There are things we as followers of Christ are NOT called to do...
  • prioritize the American flag (and what it represents) over Jesus
  • prioritize this "land of heroes" (America) over the Kingdom of God
...that are clearly implied by Vice President Pence's appropriation of Scriptural language. 

Evangelical historian John Fea pointed out that, in Biblical context, 2 Corinthians 3:17 "has NOTHING to do w/ political freedom & everything to do w/ freedom from sin, death, & guilt... The patriotic ministers of the American Revolution used scripture this way all the time. It was wrong then and its wrong now."

I am reminded of C.S. Lewis' words in The Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” (emphasis mine)

I wanted to come up with something wise and convicting to close this post with... I wanted to turn on my "pastor mojo" and finish with marching orders to my fellow followers of Christ.

But I'm tired. So tired of watching Biblical truth being used as a prop.

So, I leave you with this.
Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed.

Ephesians 6:18 (VOICE)


Daniel Brown said...

Right use of scripture is a big deal. From the pulpit I see scripture being used a proof text and shaky grounds to make cultural points. As you well pointed out scripture has been misused to make a political statement. I see it used as tweets completely out of context. I have seen it weaponized to attack others.

I want to accurately handle the Word of Truth and I appreciate you pointing out where it is not being handled accurately.

Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

Daniel, thank you for your kind words - and your affirmation of my point.

And you're correct, part of the problem here stems from those of us who speak to congregations and wrench passages out of context, "bending" their meaning to teach spiritual truths. It too easily becomes "ends justify the means" and teaches not only the wise behaviors we hope to instill but also a faulty methodology for engaging with the Word of God.