Fast forward 3 years or so. I'm no longer a youth worker, Cory is 2500 miles away. And my wife sends me this video. Now, I learned a long time ago that when my wife 'suggests' that I do something like that, she really means "If you know what's good for you, you'll do it". So I start this Frances Chan video, and sure enough It's a sermon based on that crazy book. But again, I've learned to trust my wife on these things, so I tried to watch with an open mind.
I can't even say that I remember most of the message. I remember agreeing and saying 'Amen' in my head a few times, but like with many sermons, it didn't stick with me. At least not at first. But toward the end of the message, Pastor Chan said something that stopped me in my tracks. He said he disagrees with the Bible A LOT. Here, this bestselling author and then pastor of what would be called a 'Megachurch' in modern vernacular is standing in front of his congregation and questioning the Bible. If that weren't enough he posted it on YouTube for the whole world to see. This dude really is crazy! But what he said next changed my perspective, and my opinion of him entirely.
"I don't have to agree to obey. Because even though I disagree, I know that God knows better than me." Amen! After I came off my high horse, and was honest with myself, I knew there are things in the Bible I feel the same way about. There are things that go on in our world that just didn't exist when the Bible was written. It's easy for Solomon to write be slow to anger, He never dealt with rush hour traffic. And in his letter to the Romans, when the Apostle Paul chastised them for their sins, he included homosexuality, and disobeying their parents with theft and idol worship. Did Paul have gay friends who were in a committed relationship? People that truly love each other? I don't know. But I do. And I honestly don't understand what is wrong with it. I read a story on CNN that made me cringe. A father and his wife locked their 5 year old son in a closet, in the dark for weeks. When authorities found him, he was emaciated from malnutrition and wearing a filthy diaper. Does God honestly expect someone to obey parents like that? Yes, I believe he does. When he says forgive, he says forgive. Not forgive people you like. Forgive people who have only done certain things. Before my wife and I met, her cousin sexually abused her for years. Around that same time, I was growing up in a small town outside Rochester full of elitist snobs who chastised anyone who was different. A fat black kid, for example. I have forgiven a lot of people for a lot of things. But I hate that man for what he did to my wife. And if you talk to me long enough, you'll find out I'm not too fond of my 'home town' either. Forgiveness isn't exactly my strong suit. But I'm able to acknowledge that as my own shortcoming, and not an error in God's word. Because whether I like it or not, as a Christian, I am called to forgive. Even people who hurt the ones I love. And if you think Chen or I are crazy for obeying a God we don't agree with, consider this. I don't agree with the entire US Constitution either. But I respect it, and I obey it. And I would give my life to protect it. Wouldn't you? Why then, should the Bible be different?
So many people reject the Bible because there are things about it that are uncomfortable, inconvenient, or don't line up with their lifestyle or personal beliefs. The problem with that is our lifestyles change. Our beliefs change. So what then? What if something you stood firmly against at one point, is suddenly acceptable? Well, then you change your beliefs accordingly. But God does not change. He is eternal, and so is his word. More times than I care to count I've let myself down, lied to myself, and took the easy way out when it was convenient. God has never lied to me. God has never let me down. And if you know me at all, you know that he has never let me take the easy way out when it was the wrong way.
God is not a buffet, where you take what you want and leave the rest. God will always tell you what you need to hear when you need to hear it. But it doesn't do any good if you don't listen. If you want someone that's going to tell you what you want to hear, look up Joel Osteen. He's another pastor at another 'Megachurch'. Joel is really good at spinning the word, and telling the 'Good News' in a way that suits 21st century America. He's also sadly misguided, and would serve himself and the millions that follow him by taking his head out of his butt, and sticking his nose into the book he professes to believe.
Another thing that Paul wrote, and something I try to live by can be found in his letter to the Ephesians
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10, 11, 14-17 NIV Emphasis mine)
He doesn't say put on whatever parts you agree to. He doesn't say put on the comfortable parts. He says the full armor of God. The FULL armor. The word of God is the truth. The word of God brings righteousness. With the gospel comes peace. Without the full armor we can, and do fall into the devil's traps. And yes, as Olsteen and many others demonstrate, Satan uses the Bible to deceive. And when he does it's particularly destructive. Far too many people hear part of the word, and miss the rest. And they will pay a price for it that no one should ever suffer.
Paul also says take up the shield of faith. Faith is believing what you don't see. Faith is trusting. So, yes there are parts of the Bible I don't agree with. And there are parts that I don't, and may never understand. But I have put my faith in God. And I'm not so arrogant to think I know better than him. So when I come those points I don't agree with, I obey them anyway. Because like Pastor Chan says, you don't have to agree to obey. Maybe Cory was right about him after all. (But don't tell him that)
Check the sermon out here. Be warned, there's some heavy stuff.