Since the various early councils to construct a cannon or scripture, the Bible has often been a tool of great evil. This morning, let’s do a quick run through of some evil things that the Bible says. In addition to these initial passages, all of the further passages I read will be from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
Leviticus 20:33: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Deuteronomy 7:1-2: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you—and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.”
Deuteronomy 20:16-18: “But as for the towns of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them—the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites—just as the Lord your God has commanded, so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord your God.”
Exodus 21:20-21: “When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.”
Ephesians 6:5: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ…”
On the oppression of women:
1 Timothy 2:11-14: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ.”
On the death of rape victims:
Deuteronomy 22:23-24: “If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
Obviously, these passages are pretty heinous. The words combine to create a world where oppression of others is expected and commanded by God. There are many who would quibble at the exact meaning of the above and many other evil passages of scripture and try to explain away based on context and original language, but for me it is hard to explain away genocide, homophobia, sexism and other obvious evils contained in the scriptures. So how in the hell do we interact with scriptures every Sunday morning and produce a space as inclusive as we currently sit in? The answer lies in our hermeneutical approach to scripture.
The word hermeneutic refers to how we interpret the scriptures. Our main hermeneutical approach in this space is love. I believe that the scriptures exist to educate us on the ways of love or the ways of God…for in the words of 1 John 4:8: “…God is love.” Jesus encourages such a hermeneutical approach in Matthew 22:36-40: “‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Love is the message of Jesus. Jesus even demands in Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies.” If love is the core of the message of Jesus and Jesus is the core of message of God then we have to assume that that which falls out of the message of love is not a part of the message of God to us in scripture.
On homosexuality, using the hermeneutic of love…I do not believe you can love your neighbor as your self and deny their sexuality. I believe that God is for love.
On genocide, using the hermeneutic of love…I do not believe you can pillage and eradicate entire races of people in a loving way.
On slavery, using the hermeneutic of love… I do not believe that you can love your neighbor and enslave them at the same time.
On the oppression of women, using the hermeneutic of love…I do not believe that you can treat one sex different from the other and do so in love.
On the double victimization of rape victims, using the hermeneutic of love…I do not believe that you can lovingly kill someone for being raped.
On all the other evil contained in the Bible, using the hermeneutic of love…I believe there are passages and stories in scripture that are not loving and in turn are not of God.
Scripture exists to magnify the God who calls God’s self love.
Love is the hermeneutic we must employ.
There is tremendous beauty in the Bible…but such beauty can only be found through reading the text through the lens of love.
Before I conclude, there will be those who read this sermon online in the next few days and get disturbed…perhaps even disgusted. I want to send them a message…I love you more than I love a book…which is why I feel the need to tell you…if the first words out of your mouth are always Leviticus says and not I love you then you don’t understanding what the word of God is for. The word of God is for helping us love God and others…if it keeps you from doing either then perhaps you need to put it down for a little while.
May love not just be our hermeneutic for the Bible…but also for all that we encounter.