A few days ago I was listening to a radio interview with one of our state’s political leaders. The radio hosts asked him about his plan to raise the minimum wage over the next four years. He responded with his belief that it’s a Biblical concept that no one should live in poverty while working 40 hours a week. A few sentences later he expressed his full support for same-sex marriage. I do not wish to get into the politics of any of this, nor do I wish to drag this politician through the mud. I will say, however, that there are about ten different reasons as to why his words elicited such a response from me. For about 60 seconds I jumped around the kitchen screaming at the radio (Why do I do this? No on can hear me!) causing the cat to flee the scene! First of all, I have no idea where this person got his theology or where in the Bible he’s referencing. The greater issue is that he used the Word of God to his advantage on one hand and completely disregarded it on the other.
I can just picture God, arms folded watching me throw a temper tantrum in my righteous indignation before sighing, tapping me on the shoulder and asking me what part of His Word do I use for my benefit and what part do I throw out. I can preach and quote verses denouncing the sin of homosexuality, adultery, lying, stealing, you know, the big ones. Those are easy to agree with. I’m not doing any of those things. It’s a completely different story, however, when I start reading verses and hearing sermons preached on how I live my Christian life. Things like loving other people above myself, dying to myself, taking up my cross, being slow to anger, refraining from gossip, these are all things that make me twitch in conviction.
The other day I needed gas in the van, and I was on a tight schedule. For some reason the pump refused my debit card flashing a See Attendant at me. Given my history this agitated me even further. Not only was I running out of time, now I had to worry about why the stupid debit card wasn’t working. I marched into the gas station furious. To make matters worse the attendant was operating at a much slower speed than me. Couldn’t he see what a hurry I was in? Couldn’t he see the smoke coming out of my ears? The second time he asked me which pump I was using my response was less of a spoken answer and more along the lines of a slow snarl. I might as well have smacked him across the face judging from the look of pain that shot through his eyes. I felt horrible and yet justified. I was in a hurry, the card was freaking out, and I had to repeat myself, something clearly worthy of the response I’d given.
As I stood there waiting for him to process my purchase, conviction set in. I tried to stuff it down reasoning that my response was warranted and not that big of a deal, but no matter how hard I tried the conviction I felt threatened to overflow like a pan of water about to boil over. My heart raced, and my face felt flushed. What had I just done? Who talks to another human being like that? So maybe I’ve never committed adultery or murder, but I had spoken to another human being made in the image of God like he was dirt under my feet. If I could have crawled into a hole right then I would have. Instead, faced with the ugliness of my attitude and my words, I looked the guy in the eye and apologized profusely, explaining that no matter what my problem was there was no excuse to speak to him that way. He was extremely gracious and told me to have a good day.
Here’s the thing: I find myself getting so angry with non-believers doing what that politician did, taking what they want out of the Bible and leaving the rest. Why do we expect them to do any differently? They are acting as they should as unbelieving people, having no connection to the truth. We, on the hand, as believers know better. We claim the commands of God’s Word flinging them at one another in holy judgment on the one hand, and on the other completely destroying each other with just a couple of words. If we’re going to claim God’s Word as the source by which we live then we have to take all of it. It’s all or nothing.
Psalm 119:14-16 says this:
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word”(NIV).
The writer doesn’t say he’ll follow some of God’s statutes but not all of them or that he’ll meditate on some of God’s precepts but not all of them or that he delights in some of His decrees but not all of them. We have to take the entirety of God’s Word for our lives, the easy commands and the ones that really hit home. Otherwise, we’re just cherry picking.