Commentary
By Stephen Mattson 11-21-2018

The Bible is the inspired word of God, but that inspiration is ultimately telling us that salvation comes from Jesus — not the Bible. At some point, Christians need to decide whether they value their interpretation of specific verses over the words and actions of Christ himself.

Many churches promote themselves as being “Biblical” and “Bible-based” and “founded upon the word of God” instead of “Christlike” and “Christ-centered” and “founded upon the love of Jesus.” They adhere to a Jesus-less interpretation of scripture.

Christians can overemphasize the importance of the Bible and underemphasize the life of Jesus. Thus, when people advocate for Christ-like things like helping immigrants, providing safety for refugees, empowering the oppressed, and loving others as we wish to be loved, Christians passionately refute such things — using the Bible. They spout verses and use pseudo theology to discredit the actions that are the most Christ-like —all under the guise of “Biblical Christianity.”

Quoting Jesus and saying things like “love your enemies” and “love your neighbor as yourself” is now seen as “liberal” among many politically conservative Christians. Why? Because these words of Christ leave no room for compromise when it comes to how Christians should treat refugees, immigrants, Muslims, and everyone else.

Weaponizing the Bible for evil is nothing new. Satan did this to tempt Jesus, and throughout history Christians have used it to oppress others for the sake of obtaining wealth and power. Scripture has been used to sanction everything from slavery to genocide.

Even well-meaning believers can succumb to anti-Jesus conclusions. The Bible provides us with a pool of ideas, words, and opinions that we can draw from, and despite our best efforts, we conveniently cater them to fit our own ideologies and biases. Even within the basic rules of contextual analysis and exegesis, our translations of truth can vary radically. So what is the ultimate litmus test for “biblical interpretation” within the ever increasing landscape of theological and spiritual voices? Jesus.

The Holy Scripture, written by numerous authors, from various backgrounds, places, and times, was meant to point us to Jesus, not away from Him. The sole purpose of the Bible is to discover and fall in love with Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 states that Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right-hand of the Majesty on high.” The Bible should help us become more like Jesus, not the opposite. So whenever you have two differing or even contradictory opinions regarding scriptural truth, judge them by how closely they match the words and life of Jesus. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Col. 2:9) In such a manner, we will know how to love God and become more loving ourselves, for as the Bible says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.

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