Updated: Feb 24, 2021
If you set yourself the challenge of reading the entire Bible this year, from Genesis to Revelation, I can pretty much guarantee that by now, you've hit a story you don't like. There are a lot of hard stories in the Bible. We read about the things God's people did and we're shocked. We read the laws of Moses and we're left confused or angry. Why did God make laws like that? Why did He allow, or even command, His chosen people to act like that?
I recently dug into this a little on my post Slavery and Early Christianity, but I felt I wanted to go deeper here.
Modern believers struggle with accusations that the God they follow is harsh, homophobic, or oppressive. Some believe that the scriptures contrary to our worldview should be removed, citing that those parts can't be true. “Did God really say that?” is a question that echoes from the garden of Eden until today.
I want to encourage you: Don't give up on the journey when you get to the hard parts! The world is full of critics trying to make us ashamed of the Bible. The only way we can decide what to believe about the Bible is to read it for ourselves.
Don't bring those snarky critics along on your first read of the Bible
Think back to the last time you confronted someone you knew was wrong. Instead of sitting down to listen to what happened and why, you probably began by shutting down the conversation with your attitude, body language, or words. When we are on the offensive or defensive, we're not listening. If we're not listening, we can't understand. Hear the Bible out first, and be open to the answers.
The evolution of moral standards in the Bible
I want to encourage you to understand that you're looking at a different time in our spiritual history.
If you've studied the Bible before, you've probably been told to read the Bible within context. I've said the same thing. You should attempt to learn when a book was written, who wrote it, and a little something about the intended audience. Knowing these things can help us understand what's going on in scripture, and to find the heart of a message that might feel outdated to us.
I believe we also need to consider the worldview of that historical time and geographical place. What they valued, how they saw their place in the world, their perspective on life and the afterlife—all of this and more were combined to create a worldview that affected every aspect of their culture, including their moral compass. The Bible spans thousands of years of history. It is not far-fetched to say that their worldview went through some dramatic changes.
We have our own worldview, our philosophy on life. Who knows what the future moral battles will be? Will they be breaking new ground or turning over old ethical issues yet again?
The point is not that our modern-day moral standards and battles are unnecessary, nor am I saying that we have outgrown the Bible's teachings. Any moral dilemmas Christians encounter today should be navigated by the teachings of Jesus.