All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Many of you already know that I grew up in a very conservative environment. I was raised in churches that held to a very rigid and literal interpretation of scripture. I attended Christian schools that taught me that about 6,000 years ago, God created the world in six days, and men walked around with dinosaurs for a while. I was told that God was disappointed with me if I did not read the Bible every single day. If I missed a day, I would be so riddled with guilt, I would read extra the next day to make sure that God knew how devout I truly was. If something bad happened to me, I was certain it was God’s punishment for that misstep. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” I was always told.
My biggest struggle, of course, was my homosexuality. Oh, how I tried to make that go away! I spent countless hours praying for forgiveness and for relief from that worst of sins. Eventually, I felt forced to make a choice. I could have God, church, the Bible, Christian friends, and the entire life I had always known – or I could be gay. There was no way those two sides of my life could ever coexist. So I walked away from faith. I stopped reading the Bible. I stopped praying. I stopped going to church. I was finished with all of it!
It still amazes me how God never stopped working in my life, even during that time when I had absolutely no interest in the things of God. When I eventually decided to go back to church, it was only because I was being paid to play the organ there. Little did I know what I now believe to be true: God led me there. However, I had been led to a place that was so different than the places in which I had grown up. For the first time in my life, I was being told that God loves me for who I am. God loves me exactly the way God made me, and I don’t have to pray any part of myself away! Yes, those churches of my youth told me that God made me and loves me, but that love always felt so conditional.
Scripture began to come alive to me in a whole new way. Instead of viewing the Bible as a textbook of required reading, I was really beginning to see God and a message of love permeating passages I had known my entire life.
As I think back on my past and as I observe world today, I realize that God’s word has been and is being used as a tool for hatred, bigotry and division. So much emphasis is placed on the “reproof and correction” and less on the “training in righteousness.” Scripture is twisted and misinterpreted to promote individual ideologies. People close their hearts and minds to the possibility that they might be incorrect. They are unwilling to search out true meaning or have dialogue with an opposing viewpoint.
I am so thankful that God was patient with me. I am thankful that God led me to a place where I finally understand that God’s word is the firm foundation for our faith, but there is still so much to learn from the Bible. We don’t have it all figured out. It is important to ask questions, to research and understand context, to listen to what someone else has to say. Only then can we hope to be “proficient [and] equipped for every good work.”
How Firm a Foundation
How Firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in God’s excellent Word!
What more can be said than to you God hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Lyrics from John Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns
Music: American folk melody
Sunday Postlude arr. by Lance Flower
© 1998 SoundForth