I have a friend who is very knowledgeable about scripture. He can quote chapter and verse in almost any situation in any conversation about any topic. He’s an excellent teacher and I know when I need a quick reference, he’s a guy I can turn to for answers almost quicker than biblegateway.com.
The problem is, he does it in EVERY situation, in EVERY conversation, on EVERY topic. And as much as I like the guy, I have to admit I get a little tired of getting beat up by the Bible.
Certainly, God gave us his Word as a roadmap for our lives. If we’re going to live out a Christian worldview, there is one source of authority and only one. It is at once our instruction book, field guide, and reference manual.
And I don’t want to say that you can over-use the Bible. But I certainly believe you can mis-use it. Even if every comment is accurate and well within context, it seems to me there comes a point when it ceases to be helpful to constantly quote scripture verbatim. I happen to think it’s one of the things many Christians do that actually turn off non-Christians. I mean, think about it…how would you feel if you were, say, training to be an auto mechanic, and some other well-trained auto mechanic kept quoting the Auto Mechanic’s Primer to you, word for word, in every situation? Certainly there are times when you need specific information about a specific situation, but more often than not, you just need the general knowledge to guide you.
Personally, I’d rather have someone SHOW me what it means to live the Christian life than to constantly be TELLING me. And even if they are showing me, I don’t want to hear their constant explanations and rationalizations. Sure, there are times when it’s very appropriate to quote scripture. But there are also times when it’s good enough to just know it without beating other people up with it.
Now, this particular fellow is not really what I’d call one of those “verse-shoppers,” who just finds some out-of-context passage to justify a particular position or statement. As I said, he’s usually pretty well in context with his remarks. But it gets to the point where you don’t even want to have a conversation because he’s just so intimidating. I mean, I know what the Bible says–in general–but I’ve never really been one to memorize verses, and certainly not to the extent that I can just pop them off at any point in a dialogue. It’s hard to share thoughts and bounce ideas around with someone who cuts off every possible question, every possible argument, with the “authority” of scripture.
I mean, sometimes don’t you just want to ask the question and try to figure out the answer for yourself? Wouldn’t you like to throw an idea on the table and bat it around with other folks, gaining their unique perspectives from their unique circumstances? And sometimes, there’s more than one answer, even in scripture. Obviously, there are those absolute truths of the Gospel, but there’s also a lot of gray area in scripture just like there is in life. I think that’s one of the cool things scripture teaches us, by the way…that we get to make our own choices in accordance with our own unique relationship with Christ. God gives us so many flavors to choose from in this life, and he gives us each our own filters through which to understand his Word.
The Bible itself convicts me enough of the wrong choices I make in life without having to hear it strung through every opinion someone else has. Sometimes even the most knowledgeable among us need to have the grace to let the rest of us poor slobs find the answers in our own way. Don’t give me an answer I’m not looking for, and especially don’t give me a narrow interpretation that might work for you but is completely outside of my own experience. I will study scripture. I will pray for guidance. Sometimes God will send you to give me that guidance, but other times he probably just wants you to listen. There are other ways to teach a guy a lesson besides giving him a black eye.