Take Off Your Rose Colored Glasses

We all have a theology.  You may disagree, but you do.  You have a definition of God and you have an understanding of the nature and character of God.  We all do.  Unfortunately, yours, mine and everyone’s definitions of God are too small and too narrow.  If we were honest we would admit that our understanding of God is really based on how we want to perceive him, sprinkled with some factual knowledge from reliable (we hope) sources, such as our pastor, a book we read, a mentor, and hopefully the Bible itself.  Nevertheless, we each have a theology and we bring that with us when we read the Bible.  And herein lies the problem.  If we aren’t careful or if we deny our theological biases, we will read into Bible passages what we want to them to say.  We will gravitate toward those portions that support our theology, and we will do all sorts of intellectual gymnastics to force other passages to conform to our image of God.

This is why I advocate a steady dose of a systematic reading of the whole Bible. Think about this: God has given us a written record of how he chose to reveal himself.  Clearly, God is so much bigger than one book.  John realized that the whole world wouldn’t have room for the books that could be written about the things Jesus did in his short time on earth (John 21:25).  So how could one book – the Bible – contain all there is to know about God?  It can’t!  But it is the revelation of himself God has given us. How could we not read all of it?

So when I approach the Bible with the attitude that it contains the understanding of God he has chosen to reveal, I am more apt to lay aside my biases and preconceived ideas of who he is or how I wish he was.  Instead I let the Bible form my theology.  However, I can do that only if I read the complete Bible through.  I can no longer be content to pick and choose verses and passages out of context to provide proof for my already existing beliefs.  I must acknowledge my biases, hold them loosely, engage the whole sweep of scripture and let it reshape my theology.

Let me see if I can demonstrate this. The other day I was reading and mediating on Psalm 7.  Now if your theology of God is that he is solely a God of love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, then you might ignore everything else in the psalm and gravitate to verse 17: “I give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High (NIV).  Because of your bias you may be tempted to interpret “righteousness” as the good and right things God does because he is love and he is compassionate.  Of course he would forgive and pour out his mercy – he does right things.  He is righteous. Yea!  Praise the Lord!

However, if we read verse 17 in context with the rest of Psalm 7, we have to face the fact that our understanding of “righteous” is too narrow.  We discover that God’s righteousness is linked to his justice and therefore his wrath.  He does right things, but in this case “right things” have more to do with his justice and judgment.  God is right (righteous) because he is God.  How could he be anything else?  And he is a bigger than we often want to define him. So let’s let the Bible define him.

How has your understanding of God been impacted as you read more of the Bible?

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