I grew up being told that homosexuality is wrong, because the Bible is clear.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the OT doesn’t forbid same-sex relationships between women. Or that the “homosexuality” referred to in the NT wasn’t at all what we mean when we talk about homosexuality today.
All my life, I was told that abortion was a sin, because the Bible was clear. Imagine my surprise when I found no Bible verse forbidding abortion. But I did find one that seemed like prescribed abortion from the lips of God (Numbers 5), or when God appeared to both demand and accept the sacrifice of children (Exodus 22,:29-30, Judges 11:29-40).
Life is sacred, they told me. The Bible is clear, they said. But then I read about the genocide of the Canaanites (Joshua 11:12-15). And I read about the mass murders at Mt Sinai (Exodus 32:27-29)
Sex is a sacred gift to be cherished and shared only between one husband and one wife. The Bible is clear. But then I read about David’s – a man after God’s own heart – sexual abuse of Bathsheba. I read about his multiple wives. I read about how he turned a blind eye to his own daughter’s rape. I read about Soloman’s 1000 concubines and wives. I read about Jacob’s sex cult in which he used 4 different women, without first securing their consent, for sex and offspring.
Thankfully, I also read about the passionate love affair between two unmarried but consenting partners in the Song of Songs. That book taught me that sexuality can be a beautiful thing, and it doesn’t have to wait for a marriage ceremony.
The patriarchs of the Old Testament did not place sex on the same pedestal that purity culture demands today. And many of the relationships we see within the pages of Scripture are not ones we want to see mirrored in relationships today.
The Bible is not clear. It’s a lie we were given to silence our questions.
The truth is that the Bible is filled with so much nuance.
There’s mess and there’s ugly and there is evil, all in the name of God.
There’s also truth and beauty and grace, also in the name of God.
And I think part of the beauty comes from the fact that we are hearing from fallible human beings. They were just as susceptible as we are of projecting their own values and beliefs on to God. But they were also just as capable of changing and learning as we are today (Matt 5:21-22, 27-48).
As we learn, we grow. And Scripture illustrates this so eloquently.
The Bible is an important tool in our spiritual lives. It has so much to teach us. But we have to be careful not to fall into the “Bible is clear” trap. Because it’s not. It never was.
The Bible requires us to approach it with humility to tease out the gems of truth within it.
The Bible requires us to approach it with respect for the fact that the it is a collection of books, stories, and letters written in very different times to very different cultures.
It requires us to reframe the way we’ve been taught to view it. Sometimes the literal approach is the least respectful because it ignores how the original authors and audience would have approached these works.
Always remember: when you hear someone use the phrase, “the Bible is clear”, that’s when you need to start asking questions. Because I promise you, there’s a lot more hiding under the surface waiting to be discovered.