This week the Bible App, the great app from the people who pioneered YouVersion, released a new feature – Images. I’m not writing this post because I think it’s a terrible feature, or one that should be mocked. In fact, I can see how it could be quite useful and even pointed it out to my wife 1. I’m writing this because as soon as I came into contact with the feature I saw the potential for a teachable moment. It has to do with the way we view the Bible.
I was once in a conversation with someone from a Christian publishing house about how Christians seemed to have conflated the ideas “family friendly” and “Biblical,” an idea which seemed odd to me given that the Bible was anything but “family friendly.” He replied by saying, “Yah, we often Joke that if the Bible were held up to our own guidelines we’d never publish it.” This leads us to our teachable moment.
Whenever I’ve seen features like the one in the Bible App the backgrounds are beautiful, and frequently majestic in scope. Again, this isn’t a knock on the choice of backgrounds – a feature like this is designed to be inspirational. That’s a good thing. The problem is there are significant portions of Scripture which are not majestic in scope, and can even be rather crass. Such is the case in the verses I chose for the image above, Ezekiel 23:20-21. Seeing these words against a majestic backdrop creates a emotional and mental dissonance because the verses are meant to be read as harsh, and even crass. It’s prophetic proclamation wielded like a club. We need to make room in our spirituality, and certainly in our understanding of the Bible, for these less-than-majestic utterances. As Christians we should probably embrace the idea that the entirety of the Bible is inspired, but not inspirational.
I see two benefits in this affirmation.
First, when we come across passages like this we won’t be shocked to find them in the Bible. I think we sometimes inadvertently create the mis-conception that the Bible itself is “family-friendly” with the way we teach and utilize Scripture. Putting cute animals and comic depictions of Noah’s Ark on onesies leaves a lasting impression, after all. We really should be much more up front with ourselves about the roughness of this book we call Holy, and do so while still recognizing it as being so. Holiness, like the notion of Biblical, does not mean “family friendly.”
Second, affirming this understanding of Scripture reminds us that the entirety of the human experience is known and understood by God. We don’t have to deny feelings of anger, anguish, desire, bitterness, or sorrow in order to be acceptable to God. We find all these things, after all, in the Bible itself. While some might think their presence is license, the reality is something different. We find all these aspects of our humanity in Scripture as reminders that God knows how deeply scarred we are, calls us to lay those scars at the feet of our Savior who embraces us despite how broken we are 2. We don’t need to put on spiritual make up, we need to submit to being made whole.