Monday, June 11, 2018

The Discomfort of Scripture

that's what I'm afraid of!

Yesterday, in my sermon, I called out both capitalism and democracy as potentially idolatrous! Yikes…I’m surprised to still be typing this as a First Baptist employee!

Now, to be clear, I didn’t comment on partisan politics in any way. And I didn’t universally critique the economic model of capitalism, but specifically named the ways we allow this neutral economic system to become corrupt. But still, I’m well-aware that those subjects have become taboo in our culture and I was saying some things that probably made people squirm.

But it’s not my fault – Paul made me say it!

The beauty of critiquing these staples of Western culture within the framework of a sermon series on a book of the Bible (in this case, Colossians) is that I simply get to blame the author (in this case, Paul) for making me say what I said. Throughout Colossians, Paul is constantly critical of the corruption, oppression, and abuse of the Roman Empire. It’s an incredibly political and revolutionary letter. So, if Paul didn’t want me to critique the economic and political systems of our day, then he shouldn’t have done so himself –  boldly critiqued the hollow and deceptive philosophies that were trying to take the Colossians captive.

It’s not my fault – Paul made me say it!

And I absolutely mean that. For the first time in my brief preaching career, I am committed to not watering down the gospel and sanitizing scripture to make it more palatable for myself and my congregation to digest. As Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat say in their profoundly brilliant book Colossians Remixed, “Any rehearing of a biblical text in a different cultural situation must attempt to maintain the audacity and offense of the original text." If a passage of scripture is political, challenging, and/or offensive and we don’t read it and preach it in a political, challenging, and/or offensive manner, then we are doing a great injustice to the text and aren’t reading, interpreting, and living it the way it was intended.

And for me, the preacher of that text, it probably means I’m being a coward.

So, no more cowardice from me. If the text is challenging and hard and would have ruffled 1st Century Roman feathers, then I need to communicate this feather-ruffling truth as accurately and faithfully as I can for our contemporary culture. I’ll try my hardest to never take sides. I’ll work to keep my bias out of the pulpit. But I won’t apologize for reading the Bible accurately and faithfully and the telling the truth each Sunday – even when the truth is hard to hear and even harder to live.

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