“I learned it from my husband” is a regular tribute to all the ways my husband is fulfilling his role in my sanctification process as described in Ephesians 5:25-26 “…cleansing her by the washing of water with the word.”
When my husband and I first started getting to know each other, I was a walking contradiction.
On the one hand: I fully believed in the God of the Bible. I believed that God created everything. I believed that sin entered into the world when Eve bit that apple, and I believed that I was born as sinful as the rest of mankind. I believed that as a result of my sin, I was separated from God and condemned to an eternity in hell. I believed I needed a savior. I believed that Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to earth to live a perfect life and die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I believed that I had been born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I believed that the Holy Spirit welled within me and that I would spend an eternity worshiping the only God of the universe. I believed that God called me to strive towards holiness and be obedient to His commands. Finally, I believed that the Bible was the divinely inspired Word of God, or so I claimed. My entire knowledge of God and my salvation rested in the belief that the things found in His Word were divinely inspired and true.
On the other hand: I was picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that were acceptable to me, and leaving the rest to be ignored. Sure, there were parts of it that I loved and studied with joy and passion. There were also parts that I didn’t quite understand, and didn’t care to understand. And then there were parts that made me completely uncomfortable, even angry. I chose to suggest there were alternative interpretations, or consider them as no longer relevant or necessary to Christianity. In one moment, I would acknowledge that scripture was God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), but in the next I would be providing reasons that we could overlook or disregard parts of it. What could it hurt to leave out a few minor details in scripture?
This should have been a crisis in my faith.
After all, if any one part of the Bible is flawed or false, one can easily suggest the entire thing is flawed or false, right? And who got to choose which parts were right and which were open to loose interpretation? John Owen once said, “If the Scripture has more than one meaning it has no meaning at all.” Mr. Owen and I had not yet met. At this point in my Christian walk, I based the core of my beliefs on a book that I treated like a choose-your-own adventure novel. I was quite at peace with my ability to interpret the Bible in whatever way made me most comfortable and freed me from feelings of guilt. In fact, I assumed everyone looked at it in the same way. Any scripture that would make someone feel bad was probably not worth keeping, right? I just wanted everyone to agree and be happy. Isn’t that peace? Jesus wanted peace, right?
God brought a man into my life at that time that just might have descended straight from Mr. Owen himself. Or maybe Martin Luther, who said, “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” (Totally kidding about the descendent thing!) Still, I was not shy about sharing my modern interpretations of the passages I had difficulty swallowing. I think I might have actually assumed he would go along with whatever I had to say on the matters. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and he was not shy about correcting me.
This is how things went down at dinner:
I would say something that conveyed a very flexible view of the Bible as a standard of truth. Whether it was my acceptance and advocacy for homosexuality or traces of my feminist upbringing translated into a Christian-y flavor, I had no shame in re-writing what scripture had to say about right and wrong. Many times it was simply refusing to acknowledge that God might consider something sinful that I wanted to defend as being perfectly acceptable and good. He would challenge me on the matter, often referencing multiple parts of scripture to back up what he was saying. When I challenged the scripture, he would consistently fall back on the accuracy and inerrancy of the Bible in its entirety. I would listen, quietly planning to go home and find a way to prove to him he was wrong. I would stubbornly argue my point, bringing in as many worldly emotions as possible, and finish the conversation shakily holding to the belief that my personal moral compass surely was correct.
I would return home at the end of the night and open my Bible and concordance looking for something useful to me, but found nothing that helped my case. If I was using the Bible as my standard of truth, he was right and I was wrong. Of course, being someone who HATES to be wrong, I would not quickly call him up to notify him that I knew he was right. I would actually do my best to avoid the topic in the future, for fear of needing to admit to him that I was wrong. (I am even giggling right now as I imagine him reading this, because I am confident it is the first time I have admitted these moments to him!)
Praise God, I was not a lost cause.
Slowly but surely, I was absorbing more and more scriptural truth through my conversations with this man. God was using our discussions to send me into Bible study with a mission to find God’s standard of truth with a humble heart. The Holy Spirit was at work in me, and I was feeling the weight of conviction for my inconsistent views on scripture. Through it all, God’s Word never failed to prove consistent and true. If I believed any of it, I had to believe all of it, even the parts that made me squirm. I was learning that I could not count on my own feelings and fleshly desires to point me towards right or wrong. Once again, I was learning that God’s ways are not my ways. Through this process, the Holy Spirit guided me to understand that choosing parts of the Bible to love and others to ignore was not only sinful, but a denial of the perfection, value, and purpose of scripture.
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
This passage is my theme verse for this lesson learned. As an early Christian, the Bible was an encouraging book of God stories with a happy Jesus filled ending, useful for feel-good and inspirational teaching. I recognize now that I had itching ears and sought information that suited my feelings and kept me comfortable. I turned away from truth by refusing to acknowledge all of scripture and its authority, and I wandered off into myths. As much as I had hoped, no where in scripture did I find that it is acceptable to disregard the verses you don’t like. No where in the Bible will you find a choose-your-own-definition-of-sin option. I wrote that part in for myself, and by writing it in myself it enabled me to avoid the difficult (and conflict-ridden) responsibility of using the Word of God to reprove, rebuke, and exhort others, and it crippled my work as an evangelist. After all, one can not convince another of their need for a savior if the sin they are supposedly guilty of is open to interpretation. A perfect standard can only come from a perfect God, and it can only be communicated through His perfect Word.
By the Grace of God, I got to know a man who (whether he realized it or not) was ready to preach the word, in season and out of season. He was bold in his convictions, and he did not shy away from conflict or compromise the integrity of scripture. The consistency in his teaching, paired with the Biblical accuracy of his arguments have been used by God to slowly lead me away from the myths and rest in the confidence that God’s Word is everything He claims it to be.