I recently watched a funny YouTube video of a comedian. He was explaining how he and his friends like to go out to bars on karaoke night. They like to sing and this gives them the perfect opportunity…you know…since they aren’t in their own rock band and all. He talked about how surprising it is to him when he picks a song that he thinks he knows inside and out…only to find out that when the words start to scroll on the screen he has the lyrics completely wrong. It was hysterical hearing what he thought were actual lyrics in songs I know. (I would share it here, but it had some bad language). He would mention what he thought the lyrics were in certain songs and then he would play them for the audience. It was really hard to hear the right lyrics once he told us the wrong ones!
It’s happened to me before too. For the longest time I thought the Age of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks lyrics were “just like the one winged dove” instead of “white-winged dove.” And the GoGo’s song Our Lips are Sealed I thought for sure said, “how does it feel.” And then there is Blank Space by Taylor Swift that I could have sworn said, “list of Starbucks lovers” instead of “got a long list of ex-lovers.” Maybe it’s because I love Starbucks (smile). This is why as a teenager I loved when an album came with the lyrics. Score!
I think this type of thing happens in other areas of life as well. How about when it comes to the Bible? Do you think that there are times when people read something and think it means one thing when in fact it means something completely different? This happens a lot when people take a verse from the Bible out of context and use it to make a point. That verse can completely lose its original meaning when we do that.
If you look at history, you will find some pretty significant controversies about misunderstanding the Bible. For instance, there was a time when people believed the Bible taught that the cosmos was geocentric (Earth is at the orbital center of all celestial bodies). Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the Earth is the center of the universe yet for centuries people believed it. Here are just some of the passages that they thought proved geocentrism:
The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
They believed that if the sun moved, the earth must not move. And they had passages to prove that as well.
1 Chronicles 16:30
tremble before him, all earth; yea, the world stands firm, never to be moved.
The Lord reigns; he is robbed in majesty; the lord is robbed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yea, the world is established, it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”
It’s easy to see why when Copernicus and, later, Galileo, who taught the sun-centered (heliocentric) theory, came along they caused a controversy in the church. People were considered heretics for believing them. Now if you believe God created the universe, and you believe that scripture is God-breathed then this can cause a real problem for you. Obviously God knew how He created the universe. He knew how He set the solar system in the sky. It was man who misinterpreted the scripture. Bad lyrics if you will.
One of the things that comes up often when I discuss the subject of homosexuality with people is that they tell me they want to follow the “true” scripture. They want to follow the truth. My question to them is, “Whose truth do you want to follow?” And they respond, “God’s of course!” Since we don’t actually know the mind of God, we kind of have to go by how we interpret the scriptures. And history shows that we don’t always get it right. It’s hard to get an accurate count, but as of 2012 there was an estimated 33,000+ different denominations in the world. This doesn’t mean that they all believe completely different things about God, but there are enough differences in theology that they separate themselves from one another. Even if that number isn’t accurate (you know…not everything you read on the internet is true) smile…having even 10 different denominations proves that we can’t agree on everything.
Another thing that comes up when I talk to folks is they tell me they don’t want to look at outside sources…they only want to look at the Bible on this topic. Since I don’t know the original language that the Bible was written in, I’ve had to look to Biblical scholars for some of what I’ve learned. However, I don’t look to them as my authority…that’s God’s role in my life.
I’ve read many books along this journey and they have been really helpful. But I think people misunderstand when I say how much they’ve helped me to mean that they have become my “bible.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. For instance, the book Torn by Justin Lee that I mention a lot helped me to realize that you can be gay and a Christian. I never understood the teaching on that, but I believed it because it’s what I was taught. It was so refreshing to read Justin’s journey. He writes about the controversial Bible verses in his book also, but at the time when I read it I wasn’t ready to delve into that part of things. That came later in my journey.
I’ve done tons of research, but when it comes right down to it…I don’t know what God thinks about this topic. I know what He’s spoken to my Spirit. I know without a doubt what He wants me to do. I have my beliefs…how I now interpret certain passages. Could I be wrong? Absolutely…but so could you.
I am so thankful that the disciples asked Jesus the question they asked in Matthew 22. It is a question I so would have asked. I would have been like, “Jesus…it’s been great hanging out with you. A lot of cool things have happened and you’ve taught us a lot, but I have to say…sometimes the stories you tell I just don’t understand. What is the one thing I need to be doing? Like…if I can’t do anything else…what should I make sure I get right?”
Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
When the lyrics of life get complicated and are hard to understand…
This I get. This I understand. This I can do.
Love each other…because it matters…a lot.