The writer in yesterday’s post said to me, “using profanity is not a sin but being judgmental is.” She says this like a doctrinal statement, like she knows it to be a fact. But I don’t find a statement like that anywhere in the Scriptures. It sounds to me like a personal opinion. The Apostle Paul starts 2 Corinthians Chapter 11 with these words: “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly.” Like Paul, it might sound as if I’m joking in the title of this post, or perhaps as if I’ve gone crazy, but pay attention anyway.
Take a look at Romans Chapter 12. Take a good, hard look. The message of how to be legalistic and judgmental is very subtle there. You might not see it from this passage alone. In fact, root through the whole Bible. That’s what that scary title of Fundamentalism really means. It’s basing your belief on the “fundamentals,” thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, rather than men’s added-on thoughts and opinions. Fundamentalists are often accused of being narrow-minded haters. So try this Bible study thing out for yourself. See if intense, open-hearted, disciplined examination of the Scriptures doesn’t make you narrow-minded and hate-filled. (Hint: No, it won’t.)
Verse one: Purify and practice self-denial upon your living body through God’s mercy, thereby becoming holy and fit for service. It’s the least you can do.
Verse two: Be changed completely, take your mind out of the world, so that you will be able to understand God’s perfect will.
Verse three: God gives grace to everybody freely, the Apostle Paul and you and me included. Because of that, there can be no justification for pride. Be serious about using the faith you’ve been given, whether it seems to be a teaspoonful or a bushel basketful.
Verses four and five: The body has lots of parts with lots of different jobs. This analogy applies to us as people who are part of the Church. Still, numerous as we are, we are one body in Christ as well as part of each other.
Verses six, seven and eight: Gifts come by grace. We don’t deserve them. We have different ones. We should use them. Proclaim the Word, minister, teach, encourage, give, be in charge, and/or show mercy, with your teaspoonful or your bushel basketful of faith.
Verses nine and ten: Love honestly and wholehertedly. Hate, hate, hate evil. Hang on to what’s good. Operate with kindness, affection and family love and respect, and say, “after you,” or “no, after you,” a lot.
Verses eleven and twelve: You have work to do for God? Get busy, get excited to be serving the Lord! This is no dead-end job! You have eternal prospects. Yes, maybe it’s really, really hard, but hang in there, and pray, pray, pray.
Verses thirteen through sixteen: People who serve God have needs. Give missionaries a meal or a place to sleep, or both. God knows about the people who attack you. It’s not up to you to attack back. When someone has good news, shout hooray! When it’s bad news, cry with them. In other words, be able to pay attention to and understand somebody besides yourself. Don’t pay attention to riches and power and influence. Be kind to those who are ordinary, or below ordinary. Don’t think you have all the answers, or any of the answers, in yourself.
Verses seventeen through nineteen: Okay, so he did you wrong. No, you don’t get to do him wrong back. And your obligations to truth go far beyond “honesty is the best policy.” It’s the only policy. Try to be at peace with all men, but it may not always be possible. Even Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, said in Matthew 10:34, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” But don’t take revenge, don’t lose your temper, and remember that judgment belongs to God. He’ll settle accounts.
Verses twenty and twenty-one: Hungry or thirsty enemy? Feed him. Give him a drink. To “heap coals of fire on his head” could possibly mean that you make him miserable by feeding him and giving him drink, by being nice to him. He could be made miserable with guilt or he could just be made angry. You have a choice of about letting evil overcome you. If you make the right choices, you overcome evil with good.
What I just wrote isn’t a translation or a commentary or an official statement. It’s just one person’s (mine) understanding of one chapter out of the whole Bible. On the other hand, it isn’t just something out of my head. As you noticed, I added Scriptures from other parts of the Bible. Studying the Bible as a whole over, in my case, a period of forty years, can result in a better understanding of it parts. 1 Corinthians 2:13 says, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” You have the Scriptures, the spiritual writings God gave us, compared with the teaching of the Holy Ghost within you, and you can compare them. I don’t say I’ve studied the Bible forty years to be proud, just to make a point. That’s a lot of water running through my sieve. That’s a lot of washing my dish, a lot of soap and water. It’s bound to have an effect.
But if you keep on looking at Christianity as a matter of opinion and rarely open up that Book to see what it says about what you think or feel or want, well, what does that say about your sieve, your dirty dish? Still dirty, huh? Start working on getting it clean, right now!