} stickyFooter(); $(window).resize(function(){ stickyFooter(); }); });

When the Bible says difficult things

Jan 21, 2021

I have selective hearing. When my wife says things that are pleasant to me, I’ll listen attentively. But when she says things that I don’t like, all of a sudden, I cannot hear. When she reminds me afterward of something she told me, my inevitable response is, ‘Did you really say that?’ I’m sure many husbands suffer a similar affliction.

When it comes to hearing from the Bible, many of us have the same problem. We have selective hearing. We listen to what we like to hear and ignore or question what we don’t like to hear.

Persist with listening.

Our current sermon series in Joshua has given us plenty of examples of things that are difficult to hear. There are miracles, like the Jordan River being stopped and people crossing on dry ground; there’s the problem of God commanding holy war against the inhabitants of the Promised Land; and there’s the instance of capital punishment for theft (that’s coming up this Sunday).

Indeed, if you read the Bible enough, you’ll find difficult things to hear all the time. Our modern ears don’t like what the bible has to say about sexuality, judgement and hell, the perils of greed, or the divinity and exclusivity of Jesus. We like it that Jesus is compassionate and forgiving, but we’d prefer him to conform his words to our modern sensibilities.

So, what do we do when we find the Bible difficult to listen to?

Firstly, persist with listening. Don’t switch off in ignorance or disbelief. Like with many things in life, understanding comes with time, perseverance in reflection, and being prepared to have your presuppositions challenged.

Secondly, ask lots of questions. Some questions might be, ‘What does this passage mean in its original context? What does the rest of the Bible say about this issue? How does this passage fit with what the Bible says about the character of God?’ In asking these questions, get some discussion partners: friends and other Christians, or material from qualified experts in the respective fields. One of the best resources around for thinking about difficult questions is John Dickson’s Podcast, ‘Undeceptions’.

Thirdly, have the right disposition. Humility is a friend of wisdom. Humility says, ‘I don’t have complete insight or information about this issue. I need to keep listening, even to things that are difficult.’ Humility is also the friend of perspective. It will say, ‘If the Bible is actually the Word of God, then I can’t be standing in judgement over it declaring what’s right and wrong about it. It should be standing in judgement over me, telling me what’s right and wrong in my life.’

Of course, in all things, we pray asking for God’s help and guidance that we might understand and apply rightly what he says to us.

Alex McCoy

Latest stories

Gracious engagement

Gracious engagement

In the last week, I’ve noticed more heat than usual in online discourse. Think of the US Supreme Court overturning Roe vs Wade, or the debate over transgender in sport, or closer to home, the political changes in our city. Sometimes we get in arguments. We feel...

read more
St.And Youth

St.And Youth

Five years ago, I joined the Youth Ministry team as the leader for the 14 and 15-year-old girls at the 9:30am service. Watching that group mature into the university students they now are, has been such a blessing. Since then, I have known many more students and...

read more
Hobe’s Story

Hobe’s Story

I was born into a Christian family, but that does not in any way qualify me as a child of God. Since I was young, I knew the so-called appropriate words to say in prayers and the rules to follow in church, but deep down, I disliked the idea of being “bound by”...

read more

Weekly Email
If you would like to learn more about what’s happening in our community, receive stories, scripture reading, prayer points and catch up on previous sermons, click to subscribe.