Who remembers the Pick and Mix stands so enticingly arranged within the sweet shops of our youth?
Little white paper bags, weighing scales to check the cost as you go, a generous selection of different sweeties to pick your favourites from and the hygienically attached plastic scoops to remind the owners of grubby and sticky mitts not to just thrust outstretched hands straight into the sweetie containers!
Constrained by our pocket money budgets, we would survey tubs of rainbow drops, various flavoured bon-bons, liquorice straws, chocolate mice, sherbet centred boiled sweets and chocolate covered raisins, to name but a few! A real cornucopia of the sweet but with a few sours included. The pick n mix offered us a chance to bag up our own selection of favoured flavours without the need to invest in full size packets of the whole thing.
So, here is my food for thought this week; are we in danger of applying this approach to our faith?
Do we avoid the whole package of the bible and choose instead to suck on selected verses, maybe taken out of concept but tasting sweeter perhaps, without the wrapper?
I could have written of many potentially misapplied or misunderstood scriptures, frequently quoted without context today but I’ve chosen to go with possibly the most frequently heard.
I am not good at remembering scripture by chapter and verse numerically but even I can quote the following verse, ad infinitum:
Book of John Chapter 3 Verse16 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Could this be the most oft quoted verse ever? Please don’t misunderstand me, an often quoted verse is a beautiful and powerful thing in itself, but and there is a but, I think that this verse is used too frequently within Christian circles in isolation, with the idea or intent of supporting a faith based solely on declaration rather than a faith of love expressed, that has a tangible visibility to it. I have encountered some brethren who appear to almost defend themselves with this verse, whose depth of faith is of course, unknown to me but in terms of the fruit of their lives, were they to be accused of being Christian, the evidence, simply put, would be in very short supply!
The following verse doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as popular in the realm of Christian soundbites but within the same book and the same chapter, some verses later, we read;
Book of John Chapter 8 Verse 51 NIV
Very truly, I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
Aha, could there be more to Christianity then than simple stand-alone belief then? Should we comprehend more from the concept of belief than our current day culture suggests? Also, obedience isn’t such a popular word these days is it? However, reading both verses shows us that belief and obedience are both important ingredients of the outworking of the Christian faith and they call out for further reading as, surely, you cannot believe in or obey the commands of someone with whom you are not reasonably well acquainted? So even two verses give us more depth but when the scriptures were written, there was a plan, purpose and intent in the Holy Spirit inspired order of words.
I blog with soundbites of scripture but hopefully with respectful intentionality of both the content and the context of the verse and I use my life experiences, or that of others, to illustrate my application or understanding of the scripture.
So,summarily, what I am saying today is that we cannot simply pick and mix the scriptures that suit our tastes and chew on them as stand-alone nuggets of wisdom. Why? Because they come with packaging, content and the wider reading of detailed and Godly instructions!
God bless you all.