Many understand the Bible to be written by authors inspired by God to record accurately what God is like and believes. But, the Bible was written over a thousand years ago in languages other than the interpreter so interpretations aren’t infallible and the writer is not available for further clarification. Unfortunately, opinions are not shared openly and gracefully so each can work out their own beliefs and relationship with their Creator. Supposed “truths” become more important than the main encouragement of the Bible that true freedom is loving others as yourself.
I am convinced the Bible reveals that roles in life are determined according to one’s gifts and not their gender. I have become rather dogmatic about such views but know I must meet the challenge that I give to others. What we believe are truths contained in the Bible are not more important than the love of our Creator and how we are encouraged to follow in God’s footsteps in our own relationships. Let me share my interpretative views and end by suggesting a model for how we can handle our personal views as to what we think God is like according to the Bible.
- Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is used to suggest God ordained separate gender roles and as you might suspect the men aren’t women’s helpers. The English implication of the word “helper” translated from the Hebrew word ezer is nowhere to be found in the Bible (2:18). Ezer is used of God and implies or often is translated as “strength” (Deut. 33:29).
- The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament is said to suggest that wives are subordinate or under the leadership of their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives (Eph. 5:22). But, mutual submission is a way of life for all followers to imitate Jesus: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). In verse 22 in the original manuscripts, Paul literally says: “wives to your husbands as to the Lord.” The verb missing is supplied from verse 21 so verse 22 is often translated “wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” If wives are under the leadership of their husbands, then we must also say church members are in subordination or under the leadership of one another (v. 21).
- I am convinced to believe the Bible teaches wives are in subjection to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives creates an environment most conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men throughout history.
Since interpretations are fallible, it is best to error on the side less prone to abuse. Equality is the least unclear to most. Mutual submission is impossible for men to twist to justify their subtle or blatant mistreatment of women. Lack of mutual accountability can be disastrous. Men often interpret leadership as making final decisions when there is a stalemate. Jesus suggested we lead by serving, so perhaps the man should always submit to the woman’s final decision. Truly, in any dyad relationship, there are many creative ways to resolve impasses. Couples can agree with the decision of the one with the most expertise in the area of conflict.
We all need a model for behaviors or priorities when it comes to interpretation. First, I would suggest when two debatable interpretations in Scripture exist, err on the side that portrays God as the most relational and rational to the human mind. Those who believe there is a God believe in the goodness of that God. Secondly, supposed truths are not more important than God’s hope for the world to love others as yourself. God only seeks to inspire and encourage us in such a journey. Many feel the Bible condemns homosexuality; I believe the Bible is silent about monogamous same gender relationships, so same or opposite sex committed relationships are between God and individuals. Regardless though what you believe, we should not declare any belief stands between God and one pursing God.
We can make God or pursing spirituality in our life so confusing. We put up all these obstacles or claim certain beliefs are necessary before we can follow or even be accepted by God. What parent insists a child jump through certain hoops when interest is express in having a relationship? Jesus didn’t talk to people they way we sometimes talk to others about God. Jesus simply encouraged people to follow their heart.
You don’t have to sing about how great God is and what a wretched soul you are. Most of know we aren’t the person we hope to be. We all wish we were more patience at times; we all wish we could take back certain actions in our life that hurt others and ourselves. You don’t have to go to religious meetings to sing God’s praises. Simply seek out others anywhere anytime that encourage being the kind of person deep down you want to be. God isn’t interested in one-way worship but a friendship and relationship to share life together.
You don’t to worship the Bible as if it were some idol. God doesn’t insist on knowing certain information in the Bible when the majority of people who have been born never had such written knowledge. The writers may have only written down God’s inspirational thoughts, or God’s respect for freedom may have allowed a writer’s personal moral view to creep into the Bible. A rational explanation may exist why a loving God encouraged certain behaviors in the Bible but that is not the point. God never intended one to read anything without their heart and their brain.
You don’t have to believe Jesus resurrected if the historical evidence is not convincing to you. You don’t have to say some ritual prayer about your beliefs or sins before considering God; you don’t, you don’t, you don’t. Jesus didn’t have a litmus test before simply encouraging others to considering lifestyle changes that are in their interests and others they have a relationship with. We don’t have to argue about certain beliefs as long as not violating the rights of others.
You don’t even have to believe in God. If may be hard to wrap your head around an invisible God. People may want to debate if humans have any purpose by design if there is not a Creator. One may say without a standard other than ours, good or evil is in the eyes of individual humans. Most of us know and can agree on good from bad. Most of us can agree about behaviors that are self-destructive or destructive toward others. Life can have a purpose without a Creator. For me, because it is easy to believe in a Creator, such a belief is icing on the cake for me and gives me hope after death.
God only cares about us considering loving others like we want to be loved. We all will be selfish at least one more time but we can strive. Also, in a broken world we have to consider matters such as justice and forgiveness, because one day we may be on that side of the fence. Love doesn’t mean we can’t protect ourselves from those pursing self-gratification. We don’t have to necessarily forgive those who have no regrets and continue to hurt us, but we must find a way to not continue to be victims by harboring bitterness or seeking revenge. I think loving others like we want to be loved deep down is really all God cares about. I am convinced God simply seeks to encourage and support us in such a journey.
Those who believe in the God of the Bible must explain how their God is any different than a God who supposedly demands certain beliefs or allegiance or be rejected or killed. The Bible is full of God’s anger and wars. God chose one nation to represent them so is God’s desire to unite all into one nation with one belief? One main difference seems to stand out from the extremists’ God when reflecting on stories of God’s actions in the Bible in a past culture.
Only religious extremists, regardless of religion, don’t seem to understand what the God of the Bible understood. True love cannot be forced, not even by an all-powered God. Only in a free world can authentic relationships develop. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world desiring their children not freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. The God of the Bible doesn’t act as if controlling or destroying free, moral decisions results in true love.
One may assume that God’s anger and declaration of wars were against those who worshipped their own gods and not the God of Israel. Why then would a God opposed to evil, who is powerful enough to create, allow so much evil in the world? The God of any extremist is neither patience or tolerant of rebellion. God’s declarations of war against other nations were not because of a refusal to worship God, but because people were involved in despicable immoral acts such as child sacrifice. If you lived next to an armed community where hundreds of children were being used as sex objects, would you advocate for aggressive interventions which may lead to loss of innocent lives but save the lives of current and future generations?
A loving God would never deny one the freedom to choose their beliefs. We must intervene with family or whoever when we notice one’s beliefs leading to forcing their religious practices on others or blowing up innocent people. One hint terrorists are misguided is they don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus felt His own suffering for something He believed is what changed lives for the better. Any religion based on control than service is not truly religious. Rational people sense it is wrong to murder or steal. Don’t you sense in your heart a loving God respects the freedom of beliefs if not violating the rights of others?