My house group ie. church small group Bible study (we meet in a house, we’re a group…. lol) had one of the vicars (ministers, preachers one might also call them) come speak to us last night about a Bible study that happened in house groups a few months ago that caused a bit of a stir and controversy around the church. I thought.. we could wrestle and grumble on our own or we can grab someone to discuss. Thankfully Jonathan was more than happy to entertain our questions.
Most of us who could come early had dinner together and then the few late people arrived as well as the vicar and we settled into a three hour discussion. Jonathan went around and got everyone to share their personal questions about the said issue and any pertinent background information that would be helpful for us to know about one another as we approached the issue. He asked lots of questions of all of us before we began to wrestle through some answers and him address some of our personal theological questions and pastoral questions (pastoral meaning.. what does this mean practically in looking after people in and outside of the church in relation to this topic).
I was struck by several things from last night as I pondered them over in my mind today:
1. Our agreed foundation was not “our opinions or experiences” but set squarely on what God says in the Bible.
Jonathan started addressing the questions by separating out the two issues at hand: “What Scripture teaches” and then “what do we do with this, that and this situation.” If we start by looking at the situations without having a clear picture of what God says in his Word and are firm in that.. we will waver and come to conclusions based on our own fancies and experiences and not grounded in what God says about it.
2. I want my continued goal in life to be to set my convictions squarely on what God says in his word.
This is sometimes complicated. Some things are as clear as day in the Bible. “Jesus is the only way to get to God and experience forgiveness of sins.” Not even a question in scripture. Predicted in the Old Testament, fulfilled in the New Testament, proclaimed clearly by Jesus and all of his followers. Other things, are harder, including some nuances with last night’s text we were looking at. Some things in the doctrine we were discussing were clear as day even in them being difficult teachings. Other scriptures we needed to wrestle with a little more and seek to interpret them looking at what God says across scripture in the issue. Even if it is difficult I want to be a woman of the Bible who looks to God’s word as my foundation for everything.
3. Disagreements should push us to see what God says in the Bible MORE.
I don’t know what everyone thought of last nights discussion other than it was really good and helpful. I don’t know how thought out everyone’s conviction was on the matter at hand before they arrived. Some were honest in saying they had not thought about it much. Some people nodded and seemed to agree with how Jonathan explained the grayer areas of the text in question. Not to ever be a dissenter or anything (darn that dialectic spirit!) but I wasn’t quite convinced. I was however pricked and very challenged. I walked away challenged by Jonathan that I need to really dig into that passage more, read it, understand it, get its context (even maybe look up a few Greek words). I didn’t disagree because of my experiences. I disagreed because of what I was understanding the text to mean. The way forward is to look at that particular text of Bible more. A way forward would be to pray and ask God for humility and understanding and do a bit more homework. It would not be to walk away and disagree because I don’t like something or it’s hard teaching.
We live in a time where many things God says are true are being outright ignored, disagreed with or manipulated to suit our own fancies. This is gravely dangerous.
4. I find it an honour that I have fellow Christians along side of me I can wrestle with and pray and look at the Bible with.
Last night was a great example of Christian unity, of coming together to be planted on what God says is true. It was a great example that though we did not all agree, we were looking to God’s word to teach us and we wanted to know what it said as we wrestled through the mess of life, sin, brokenness, and relationships together.