In the movie “Matilda”, based on the book by Roald Dahl, a very smart girl is sent to a school with a very scary head teacher. In one scene, a large kid is made to eat an entire chocolate cake as punishment. I imagine myself eating that and at some point I know I’d scream “Enough! I can’t handle any more.”
Sometimes I think our approach to understanding of the bible is similar to eating a chocolate cake all at one sitting. Positive stories or affirmations of success (with a little of God’s help) again and again. After a while, it’s just not good any more.
If we skip over the bad news from the Bible, we disconnect the Bible from reality. The reality we all live with as humans who struggle with sin, who suffer tragedy and who see the brokenness around the world. It doesn’t take long for “Smile and be happy because God loves you” wears thin. When we see the pictures of the mess left by Hurricane Sandy, or we hear of a friend’s marriage breaking apart or we realize that again we’ve let words come out of our mouth that are cruel we know there must be more.
The Bible is an honest book about the human condition – it doesn’t sugar coat who we are or the mess that we’re in. Look at the heroes in the Bible – Noah was a drunk who passed out naked in front of his sons. Moses had “anger management problems” as he killed one man, broke the stone with the 10 commandments in rage and finally disobeyed God in a fit of anger so that he didn’t get to go into the promise land.
King David committed murder to cover up his adultery. His son, Solomon, who would put any sexual pervert of today to shame as he had over 1,000 woman at his beck and call. The prophet Jeremiah suffered from depression and the apostle Paul organized the killing of Christians.
No – we need to teach the whole Bible with integrity which means we are honest about the characters written in the Bible and we are honest with the Bible’s analysis of the human condition. If we gain a greater understanding of the problems we humans have, then our understanding of God’s mercy and grace will grow larger as well.
And then the sweetness of God’s grace can be savoured delightfully like one slice of chocolate cake after a well cooked meal.