I think humans in general have a habit of condensing thoughts into little catchy phrases. It makes them easier to remember if we can fit them on, say… a bumper sticker. “Christians aren’t perfect… just forgiven.” So, I suppose it’s understandable that we can do the same with Scripture. But much like the secret to real estate is supposedly “Location. Location. Location,” the secret to understanding the Bible is “Context. Context. Context.”
While the following wouldn’t all fit on a bumper sticker, I think sometimes we throw them around – often out of context – in much the same way. Here are a few of my favorites.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
This is one of my favorites. Because it’s written to the thousands of people who have been deported to exile in Babylon. And Jeremiah is actually telling them to get used to it – they’ll be there 70 years. Thaaaat’s great. It’s miserable, and it’s not getting better, at least not for awhile. Yes, this verse is still full of the comfort of God’s promise today, but His planning is often more long-range than ours.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
I’m almost afraid to mention this one for fear of incurring the wrath of the National Day of Prayer folk. This verse comes right after the construction and dedication of the temple. And the glory of the Lord fills the temple. The next verse continues, “Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” “This place” being the Temple. The land is Israel, and while we should always pray for our country and its leaders, God is not talking about America here.
“They’ll know we are christians by our love.”
Great. Be more generally loving – easy. I think this must come from John 13:35. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Technically, the saying should be: “They’ll know we are Christians by our love for each other.” Which, being so specific, is much harder. An interesting distinction that seems especially relevant to many of the discussions happening in the Church today.
“Love the sinner – hate the sin.”
Okay, technically this isn’t a verse, it’s more of bumper sticker. But if you look carefully, Jesus never said to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” He did say to love the sinner. But he was pretty clear you should hate your own sin.
Are there others?