Disclaimers. You know, that fine print that tells us why something doesn’t mean what it says. They seem to be everywhere. They explain that your phone’s “unlimited” data plan isn’t really unlimited. That product’s “lifetime” guarantee doesn’t really last a lifetime. And that miracle product for “effortless” weight loss doesn’t really melt pounds away without effort.
It occurred to me that one place we seem to want disclaimers is in the Bible. We want to believe the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says. Here are a few examples of disclaimers that you won’t find in the Bible:
“Show proper respect to everyone*” —1 Peter 2:17
* Everyone does not include politicians or government officials that you don’t agree with. God totally doesn’t expect to show them respect. Especially if they’re president.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows* in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” —James 1:27
* The expectation to look after orphans and widows excludes Syrian refugees. God doesn’t really want you to look after those people. They’re somebody else’s responsibility.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.*‘” —Galatians 5:14
* The command to love excludes neighbors who are gay or transgender. God is fine with you mocking and ridiculing them.
OK, my “disclaimers” may go a bit too far. Maybe a lot too far. We’d never admit to wanting things like that to be true, but sometimes social media posts make me wonder. Do our posts show appropriate respect for political leaders? When sharing views about Syrian refugees, do we recognize that these are real people in a desperate situation? Do the memes we share about people like Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner reflect that they are created in the image of God and loved by him? When sharing about topics that evoke strong emotions, it can be difficult to recognize the full impact of our words. But as ambassadors of Christ, our words do matter.
I do feel the need to add a couple of closing explanatory comments to this post. (I really don’t want to call them “disclaimers,” but…)
First, this post deals with rightly interpreting Bible verses. When determining what verses really mean, it’s absolutely essential to look at context, and to interpret individual verses in light of the Bible as a whole. “Proof texting,” or using individual verses without considering context (you know, like I did in this post) is dangerous. Someone could write a post like this, with out-of-context verses and snarky “disclaimers,” that would promote almost any viewpoint, even ones that run counter to what the Bible actually teaches. So, how can you trust that I’m interpreting these verses correctly? Honestly, I really recommend that you don’t take my word for it. Check out the verses in context for yourself, using the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Second, I touched on loving LGBT people. I absolutely believe we are required to love people. Period. Some argue that it is unloving to proclaim biblical truth that could hurt people’s feelings, particularly in this area. I want to be clear that I am not saying that. Love drives us to act in the best interest of others. Therefore we must proclaim biblical truth. We just need to do it in love. We need to be like Jesus, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)