I think most of you know by now that I love the Bible. I mean I LOVE the Bible. I read it faithfully, almost every morning. I pray it, I ponder it, and I try, to the best of my limited abilities, to let it seep into my heart, mind and soul and to change the way I think and act. Yes, I question it; yes, I wrestle with it – perhaps more than most – but this, I know, as fact: Scripture has personally transformed me and grown my relationship with God in more ways than I can count, and for that I am grateful.
That said, I also remember, very clearly, the many, many years I didn’t know the Bible at all. Those days are part of my not-so-distant past. It wasn’t all that long ago — just six or seven years ago, maybe — that I didn’t even own a Bible. And I certainly didn’t read it. Ever. Scripture was as foreign to me as another language. It meant nothing to me because I didn’t know it, and I didn’t have any context in which to understand it.
I remember the day I bought my first Bible; I wrote about that experience in Spiritual Misfit. I was leery I might be seen by someone in the “Christian Living” section of the bookstore; I was a little bit embarrassed and a lot uncomfortable. I remember the relief I felt when the cashier slipped the heavy, hard-bound book into a plastic bag. Another few weeks passed before I even opened the Bible I’d bought. I was afraid of what I would find inside.
The truth is, there’s a lot of scary, intimidating stuff between the covers of the Bible: hard truth, convicting words, ideas and teaching that will push you to your very limits and press at the boundaries you’ve so carefully erected.
As the Bible itself states, “The word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12).
I’ve felt that sword cut between my soul and spirit, my joint and marrow. Scripture has revealed my innermost thoughts and desires time and time again.
But. I think it’s important for us to remember that just because Scripture is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword does not mean we should use it as such.
The truth is, using the word of God as a two-edged sword, even when we believe it with our deepest convictions, does not always serve others best. Using the word of God as a two-edged sword, even when we believe we are using that sword as salt and in love and truth, can often alienate the very people who most need to be brought closer to God.
When we use the word of God as a two-edged sword, we defeat our most important mission as Christians: to love our neighbors and to invite them into God’s unfailing love.
I’m not so far out from my misfit days that I can’t remember how fervently I recoiled from the Bible, how suspiciously I approached the word of God and those who seemed to know it and quote it so often. I’m not so far out from the fringe of faith that I can’t recall how disdainfully I looked upon those I considered the “Bible bangers” and how deeply I viewed them with repugnance.
And why did I feel that way for so long? Because far too often I’d heard and experienced scripture wielded as a weapon.
Friends, if we take Jesus’ commission seriously, then please allow me to state this as clearly as I can:
Quoting bits of scripture will rarely, if ever, bring the lost and wandering to God. And I know that might sound shocking to you. I know it might sound all convoluted and backwards, because how can that be, right? How can it be that the word of God could do the opposite of what we intend and desire?
But please hear me when I say this: wielding the word of God as a weapon, no matter if it is Truth, will not bring the lost to Christ. In fact, using the word of God as a two-edged sword will send the lost, the weary and the burdened, those on the fringe of faith, running, running, from Christianity — and God — as fast as they can without so much as a second glance back.
Spouted Bible verses mean nothing to a person unfamiliar with the Bible, to a person on the fringe of religion and faith. I know, because I was that person for twenty years.
But do you know what does mean something? Do you know what speaks loud and clear and can truly make a difference? Do you know what can successfully turn a person toward God, even a person who has turned her back on him for decades?
It really is that simple.
There’s time enough for the two-edged sword. Believe me, when people commit themselves to Christ wholeheartedly and authentically, they eventually go to battle long and hard with the two-edged sword. We don’t need to wage that battle for them.
Instead, let’s invite the lost and the wandering and those on the fringe of religion and faith gently and gracefully into Jesus’ embrace. Let’s lay down our swords and lead them to Jesus with love.