People have used biblical quotes toward their own end for as long as it has existed and demand that it be interpreted literally. It has been used to bash gays, justify slavery, and oppress women. It reminds me of how Hitler used the words of Luther when he was old and sick to justify his treatment of the Jews, when everything Luther said or did during his earlier lifetime opposed Hitler’s views. Sadly this behavior has become so common place, many now shy away from reading it or believing that God speaks to us through it.
St. Peter taught us a thing or two about literalism. (Acts 10:1-16). In this reading Peter is praying, becomes hungry, and falls into a trance. He sees “all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.” (v.12) A voice tells him he could kill and eat these creatures. Peter refuses because his tradition teaches him they are unclean. The voice exclaims “What God has made clean you must not call profane.” Now my fundamentalist friends might have interpreted this passage as a justification for a feast. “let’s eat.” Peter on the other hand listened not just to the words, but to God’s voice – the lesson beyond the literal words.
Peter heard God say that all are welcome at God’s table – the Jew and the gentile. Today, I suspect that Peter would hear the message to mean all who God made – Women or Men; Gay or Straight; Black, White, Brown, Yellow, and all colors in between. All the barriers that men have erected God tore down with the words “you must not call profane.”
But, I get away from today’s message. We shouldn’t let the barriers erected by those who would use the Bible literally to dissuade us from reading the Bible as God intended. The Bible cannot be read like any other book. We must be prepared to ask of it, and to listen to God speak when we do. Only if we seek God in it, will he speak to us.
More on this tomorrow….