My youngest child has a way of saying things that leave me speechless or at best stuttering out an answer that I know is insufficient. I recently bought him a new Bible. It was one made for boys his age with a cool cover and lots of notes and interesting facts displayed in an easy to read format. When I showed it to him he was less than enthused.
“I don’t want a kids’ Bible mom,” he quickly announced. “I want a real one.”
“This is a real one,” I contended.
“No. I don’t want stories. I want all of the words.”
“This has all of the words,” I insisted.
“Well does it have all the sex and violence and stuff that moms don’t like us to read?”
“Uh…yeah,” I muttered thinking I didn’t really want to admit that. So once again, this kid had me thinking outside the box of the conventional. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how sanitized our thinking about the Bible and even life had become. God is so wise. He didn’t take out the bad parts! He left, right there in between creation and His final return, story after story of human frailty and failure.
Right from the start there was Cain killing Able. Interestingly, God continued to talk to Cain who never even seemed to show much remorse. Then there was Abraham. Now he was a true friend of God and man of faith if there ever was one! He too, though, was shown as a real human with some pretty huge failures. He lied more than once about his wife and said she was his sister. Without God’s intervention Sarah would have become the wife of a pagan king. Nice! Then he and Sarah decided that God’s promise wasn’t happening fast enough so Sarah suggested that Abraham have sex with her young servant. What man would turn that down? Of course we know how that went and how we are all still paying for that bad choice to this day. Then there is Jacob and Tamar, David and Bathsheba, Solomon and many other kings and their many pagan wives, Gomer and her roamings, women entrapped in adultery, incest in the church of Corinth and the list goes on. I didn’t even touch on the violence!
Here is my point. God did not gloss over our humanness. He did not make even those He used mightily seem saintly in our twisted version of saintliness. Why did God put all of this in the Bible anyway? He obviously was not condoning it, nor was He taking it lightly. What was He doing then and why is all of this in His book?
I have a few ideas on this. One is that He was trying to spare us from thinking that we could be perfect. Maybe He was trying desperately to keep us from learning the hard way how messed up we really are so that we would just get humble and repent before we made things worse. Or maybe he knew most of us would have to mess up big time before we really humbled ourselves but He wanted us to know that we were not alone in our humanness once that happened.
I think too that we can clearly see in His word how sin caused a lot of problems even for the “good guys” like Abraham and David. We see plainly that many people were hurt by their selfish and sinful choices. Sometimes we don’t see that clearly when we are the ones being selfish and sinful until after it all blows up. On the other hand, there are times when we so long to avert these kinds of messes that we hide behind religious pride and piety clinging to a false perfectionism (like the Pharisees) that ultimately leads to just as much sin and pain as overtly selfish choices. I know it sounds crazy but I have actually met people who think they can live perfectly now!
If it sounds like the human race is in a catch 22, we are! If we just live out our sinful thoughts and desires we bring destruction. If we try to live perfectly and constrain our sinful nature we bring destruction. That is the point of the cross! We are hopeless! We cannot avoid making messes. Our sin nature cannot be allowed to rule and it cannot be hidden behind masks or held back by our wills. We need the cross. We have to have the blood of Jesus daily! We have to take up our cross daily. We do not have the ability to live a sinless life even after we have been redeemed and made righteous. We have been saved. We are being saved. And we will be saved. There is not one of us who is still here who has arrived. We are to live holy (set apart) lives but we must not confuse holiness with perfection. We all have blind spots, short comings, and yes, we all still have sin in our lives. Hopefully (and this, I think, is a very good reason God put the “bad stuff” in the Bible), hopefully, we are being honest with ourselves and with God and realizing how frail and human we are so that we can receive His grace and strength. We can live a life dead to sin and to our sin nature by allowing the cross to do its work in our life but that work will not be complete this side of Heaven. Knowing this keeps us from either giving into blatant sin but also from falling into the trap of the Pharisees. I think God was saying this, “I love you! I see everything. I know everything. You cannot be perfect. I am God and you are not and yet I fully accept and love you so just let me be in charge.”
1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.