Un-convenient Biblical truths church folk don’t like to talk about anymore.
One of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a film about an angel Clarence Odbody, and a man George Bailey who wants to kill himself. But Clarence is sent from Heaven to save George’s life. Clarence wants to get his wings and saving George from self-destruction is a way he can get his wings. In the 1946 film, Clarence ends up helping George see the positives in his life and the town comes together to help George out of his financial troubles. (sorry if that’s a spoiler.) At the end of the movie, George’s daughter hears a bell ring and says, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” Well, I’m not an angel expert, can’t say I’ve ever seen one, but angels doing good works to get their wings isn’t found in Biblica Scripture. But the idea is a heartwarming way to end that movie.
People did talk to angels in the Bible though. And there are many stories about encounters with angels today. Does it still happen? You and I can ask God when we see Him.
Just like the story of Clarence, my euphemism ‘un-convenient’, some “Christian” things we read or hear just don’t sound right. But what sounds right? Or do they sound right? How do we find out what is right? The truth, or what sounds right, can only be found through reading the source of truth for ourselves. And, no, the word ‘Un-convenient‘ isn’t correct English. I looked it up. It doesn’t sound right.
Why Should we know Scripture for ourselves?
I was watching a Youtube of a minister preach. And he kept quoting Jesus. And several times he quoted Jesus, something just didn’t sound right. He said he was quoting Jesus, but he really wasn’t. What he was saying sounded good and inspired hope, but had no foundation in scripture. He was actually adding words to scripture. How did I know he was adding or misquoting? I looked at his scripture references. And no, there’s no point to embedding his video here since there are countless people misquoting misusing scripture. The purpose is not to bash a specific person, but instead, the hope of this article is to challenge us to see scripture completely for what it is and what it is not.
There is a real danger is saying something is in the Bible and it’s not. Maybe someone seeking Christ, they may not know what this minister was saying was untrue. That person may try to find those passages later in the Bible and get frustrated, thinking that minister a fraud. And maybe he is a fraud. We are to speak the truth in love, and nothing but the truth. Ephesians 4:15
So here are some sayings we’ve grown up thinking are in the Bible but are not.
Moderation in all things.
Once saved, always saved.
Better to cast your seed….
Spare the rod, spoil the child.
To thine ownself be true. (attributed to Hamlet)
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
God helps those who help themselves.
Money is the root of all evil.
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
This too shall pass.
The eye is the window to the soul.
God works in mysterious ways.
The lion shall lay down with the lamb.
Pride comes before the fall.
We like these sayings because they help support a moral fabric that makes us content. And there is nothing wrong is these sayings. They all have positive messages and a lot of them can run parallel to Christendom. But they are not in the Bible. And there’s nothing wrong with that either. They are just sayings, philosophies, positive quotes. Every day you open up your social media, you see a lot of quotes writers feel are important. They make us feel good, and that’s good too.
A Personal Revelation
So over the past 40 years of my church-going experience, there has been a shift in Christendom away from modern Church functions such as Sunday School, Scriptural teaching, to a seeker-friendly post-modern experiential church push. The post-modern (some might say post-postmodern) church service experience is geared more towards addressing social issues which congregants care about and a move away from specific Biblical scriptural understanding. Instead of personal scriptural reading, we depend on the church projection screen or printouts of the message points to learn what scripture means. If we don’t have complete scriptural context (or what the scripture is talking about as it was written) it can be a challenge to follow a message and decipher what is scripture and what is philosophy. Is the spoken message in the church meeting founded in Biblical Scripture? In today’s post-postmodern churches, some may push a church service experience with visually appealing light displays and decor, songs that most of the congregants like, and environments that are comfortable and less disconcerting to the general public that may attend.
The caution in such environments is the risk of making an environment too relaxed, to seeker-friendly, to non-disconcerting is; that we risk avoiding the Un-convenient Biblical Truths that separates Believers from non-Believers. Jesus says we should be Salt and Light; He never talked about ‘sugar.’ However, there is a risk if today’s post-postmodern church talks about certain scriptures, themes, or truths found in God’s word. And the risk of talking about certain Biblical scripture is that someone will get offended and not come back to the church service. If we talk about complete scripture, will people leave the church service? In today’s sometimes described as a consumer-driven church culture, there is a risk that offended visitors won’t return if something makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s just like eating out, not liking the food or decor, leaving a negative Google review and not going back.
So what are some un-convenient truths found in Scripture? Here are just a few examples.
David and Goliath: The Whole Story
Growing up in church, I learned great stories from the Bible. And the image below is how I learned the story of David and Goliath. This is the story of David, a sheep farmer, who defeated a really large enemy in Goliath, who was much larger and a professional soldier. We’ve all heard the story of how David volunteered to face this giant of a man which just a sling and some stones. He killed the giant by hitting him in the head with a stone.
But when we read the whole scripture, we learn a little more about what the scene may have really looked like. The image below shows a young man taking a sword and chopping off Goliath’s head. 1 Samuel 17 we learn that David put Goliath’s weapon in his own tent and took Goliath’s head back to Jeruselum. In our effort to concentrate on the spiritual aspect of the story of David, often times we will often gloss over the violent scene that was there. Here we have someone, David a shepherd, who God says is a man after His own heart, take a sword, chop off a man’s head and carry it back to town.
David was talking to King Saul after the battle, the Bible says David was still holding Goliath’s head. Imagine that. It may change the cartoony image we’ve learned over the years. The nice story of a boy who conquered the bully.
But David was much more than God’s hero for killing Goliath, he also committed adultery, killed his love rival rebelling against God and led armies that slaughtered entire nations of people. We have to look at all parts of David’s life as well in the context of the time period, what God was doing in David’s life and how it fits the full Bible narrative. It’s in the Bible.
But sometimes in our modern flavoring of Christian stories, we may not like to talk about the violence that is in the Bible. I’ve never heard any minister talk about the story of David that includes David still holding the head of Goliath. But that is what’s in the Bible. But I have heard non-believers talk about the violence in the Old Testament as a way to condemn Christendom. So how do we explain the Old Testament and what is often violence in the name of and against the name of God-Yahweh? Our explanation has to be explained in the entire story of the Bible, not just this chapter, this story, or this character. But other than Bible scholars, I haven’t heard much Apologetics, or defense, of the historical violence in the Old Testament from lay believers. But the Old Testament and the violence within it, is part of the Bible, even though it may be uncomfortable to talk about. We tend to avoid the subject, instead focusing our diatribe on comfortable ideas like the Love of Jesus. But we have to understand even the Love of Jesus within the context of the whole Bible. We can’t pick and choose, otherwise, the complete narrative doesn’t make any sense.
Romans 3:23 ‘All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, Common English Bible’ (CEB) If just start with Roman 3:23, then we know that everyone has sinned and what, fallen short of God’s glory. Meaning none of us have are different from others in the respect that each is not achieved God’s glory.
In John 8, we see a story of Jesus intervening in the stoning of a woman for adultery. What we see is Jesus addressing sin in her life, not in the way people around her wanted to condemn her for, but with compassion. And often as Christians, we love that story. We lean into the picture of compassion that Jesus had. He stepped in the middle of an angry mob and a woman, protecting someone in need. And yep, that’s all true. But we can’t avoid Jesus talking about Sin. Jesus asked the crowd, of people wanting to stone her, about their sin. He then told the woman to leave sin behind in her life.
So what is Sin in the Bible?
There are many instances of ‘sin’ in the Bible. But if we just look at the story of Adam and Eve, we see a cause and effect relationship between sin and man. In Genesis 3, we see the story of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God’s directive that they not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were put out of the Garden of Eden. Sin is just a rebellion against God. Subsequently, Repentance or to Repent is to turn or return from evil, to return to God.
So why in our post-postmodern churches, do we not talk about sin? For one, progressiveness or the progressive movement in culture seeks to deconstruct religion that has any type of standard. Ask anyone you know about sin and you may get some stutters, rambling response that ends in ‘Well, I don’t judge people.’ What that person is saying is they don’t believe in sin. If you talk about rebellion against God, then you have to talk about the nature of God and His design for humanity. And when you do that, you talk about a standard for living. And that’s something the current progressive nature and post-postmodern churches don’t like to talk about. Because if they do, the Bible promises we/they will be convicted of our sin.
John 16:7-11 (NAS) 7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
Matthew 18:1 “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a little child and set him before them, 3and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children[trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5Whoever receives andwelcomes one child like this in My name receives Me;6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin [by leading him away from My teaching], it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone [as large as one turned by a donkey] hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
How are we supposed to repent if we don’t talk about what we need to repent from?
Summary: If sin is talked about in church, there is a risk that some folk will go elsewhere because God’s Spirit and man’s sinful behavior are not compatible. It’s not fun to talk about sin. It may be more fun to talk about hope, encouraging others, helping others, and so on.
Mark 10 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;12 and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
‘Woah right there fella, I’m going to go to a church that talks about divorce.” “I’m not interested in someone pointing out the pain in my life.” What did Jesus say?
6 At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.[a] 7 Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, 8 and the two will be one flesh.[b] So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”
Don’t yell at me, I didn’t write it. But when is the last time someone you know quoted Jesus on divorce? There are many resources in the church today to help people recover from divorce. But why did Jesus say what he said? Couldn’t he instead say something like, “You can divorce if it really isn’t working out if you’re unhappy if your spouse isn’t living up to your expectations?” But no, He said a man should not tear apart what God joined together.
The un-convenient part of this is it’s very uncomfortable for the church to discuss divorce because divorce is so destructive. There are no winners in a divorce. Over my career, I’ve never seen anyone come out with a trophy in divorce. Sure someone may get both cars, the house, the kids, but the emotional disappointment and destruction are real. And when kids have to divorce their one or both parents, it’s an emotional toll that can carry into adulthood.
So this is why Jesus gives us the direction about divorce. So should the church ignore the words of Jesus? Of course not. It’s important to start with Jesus’ words and treat divorce with compassion, forgiveness, and healing in the church. But the start has to be with the truth of what Jesus said. If not, then we are no better than Dr. Phil or Oprah circa 1980.
Speaking of Marriage. The Bible, God’s written message to us is not an encyclopedia, but a Guide Book. So the description of marriage is simple for us. God doesn’t give us the full picture of how he created man, there’s no Youtube of the event. But what we do have is a definitive description.
26Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, a and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
And yes, in the post-postmodern church, it is seen as old-fashion and even ‘hateful’ to define marriage in the way God did in Genesis. Churches have either discarded the Old-Testament or said the definition in Genesis is something God has ‘progressed’ from.
Even when Jesus says in Mark 10:7 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,’ many progressive, post-post modern churches discard that as well, instead adopting the idea that God will love any two people who love each other because God is love. This philosophy has no basis in scripture.
So why not discuss it in church? The movement away from Biblical marriage is strong in the current culture. Entire denominations have split over this issue. This is by far one of the biggest Un-convenient truths in the Bible. There is a big risk in discussing what the Bible says about marriage. The issue will split churches, split families, split friendships. It is very divisive, so many church folk avoid the issue because the lines in culture have been drawn and you’re either on that side or this side.
Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Talk about an uncomfortable subject. Wow, what does that mean?
There are other scriptures about Hell; Matthew 25:46, Psalm 9:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Matthew 13:50, Acts 2:27, Mark 9:43, Jude 1:7, Proverbs 15:24, Proverbs 23:14, Matthew 25:41, Revelation 19:20, Proverbs 15:11, Matthew 16:19, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 20:13-14, Matthew 10:28, Ezekiel 18:20,
No one likes to talk about Hell, but the Bible does mention the subject. Christendom in large part has historically considered Hell a place of torment for those who do not repent. Today, there are entire denominations that have discarded the idea of Hell along with the idea of Sin as well. There is a movement to consider such subjects as Hell as a time in the past and that today, God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell because God is loving and Love wins in the end. There is no scriptural basis to explain away Hell. All we have to go on is what the Bible, including Jesus, tells us in the Bible. God did not give us a blueprint for His creation, but a book of hope and warning, the Bible. The goal is to approach Hell as scripture describes it in the full narrative of repentance and Sin and not include philosophies or descriptions of Hell that are not described in the Bible. It’s very hard to think about people going to a place called Hell. How could God be so cruel some would say. But we don’t know the nature of God, all we know is what He tells us in the Bible and to our spirit in prayer. Hell is a subject that has to be discussed in church meetings, in groups and in our own thought and prayer lives.
In Luke 24:45-49 Jesus talks describes sending the Holy Spirit to comfort us following His death. In Matthew 12:31-33, Jesus talks about sin against the Holy Spirit. In John 3:6-8 Jesus talks about being transformed by the Spirit, being reborn. Which is where the phrase in Christendom ‘born again’ comes from.
So why can it be so un-convenient to talk about God’s Holy Spirit in church? For one, we humans like facts. We want to to be able to explain from start to finish. But God doesn’t give us a blueprint for His Spirit. Jesus and other narrators of God’s scripture who describe God’s Spirit, describe the behavior of God’s Spirit and the effect it has on man’s spirit, but that’s about it. So to talk about God’s Spirit, we are left with scripture and that’s it.
John 16:8 New International Version (NIV)
8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:
Now, wait just a minute! Sin? I can’t talk about God’s Holy Spirit in this way because then I’m confronted with Sin, and Sin is getting in my business. But When Jesus talks about God’s Holy Spirit, it is conjunction with telling folk about their sin and what is wrong with the world. It’s pretty straight-forward.
So sometimes we church folk avoid talking about God’s Spirit because this particular scripture has to be discussed. And doing that gets into our business, our own Sin. And that’s uncomfortable.
Like Hell, what we know of Heaven comes from Biblical Scripture. Heaven is great to talk about! Everyone loves the thought of going to Heaven.
In John 14: 2-4, Jesus talks about going back to prepare a place for us that has ‘many rooms.’ And trust me, I grew up designing my room in Heaven. Back then, I thought of rubies, gold, and a set of french doors to a patio beside some palm trees. Today, I’d probably settle for a comfy bed that doesn’t give me pain when I sleep.
What else does scripture say about Heaven?
In Matthew 22:29 When asked about married people dying and being resurrected, Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
That scripture pretty much torpedoes a lot of what we may think Heaven is like. We like to instead think of Heaven as an extension of this earthly life, only perfect without any problems, disease, taxes and so on. But in Revelation 21 John’s vision is of a new Heaven and Earth, the first heaven and earth pass away.
So how do we approach Heaven if it’s not the Roman Eutopia with fig leaves and grapes some folk think it is. We approach Heaven in the context of the complete Biblical scripture. We understand that God doesn’t give us His complete printout of what is to come.
But what we can’t do is talk about what is not in Scripture. But how do we know what someone says about Heaven is true or not. We’ve all heard stories of people who have died, gone to heaven and come back to share what they saw. My personal opinion is we take those stories and judge them in concert with Biblical Scripture. If the two don’t flow, then we should be skeptical. If someone says they died, went to heaven and saw that Jesus wasn’t there, instead, it was another god present that allowed for people to continue their sin from this life into heaven; there is no scriptural foundation for that account and should be considered as discarded and untrustworthy if not heresy. But how do we know? We read Biblica scripture.
Of Heaven, we know what Biblical scripture tells us and that’s it. It is a place for those who believe and follow Jesus’s God’s Son. John 3:16-17
In Luke 23:39-43 Jesus is described as being on the cross being crucified. One of the two other men being crucified along with Jesus curses. And the other man asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus tells that man, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’
There is a religious philosophy today that everyone will go to Heaven, that in the end Love wins, and no one goes to Hell.’
My personal challenge to that philosophy is found in Luke 23. If Love wins and everyone goes to Heaven, why does Jesus only make this ‘Paradise’ promise to one of the men, and not the other?’ Good question.
The Danger of not discussing the full Bible, even those sections or subjects that make us very uncomfortable.
The danger in not teaching the complete Bible in church meetings or in our own personal study is we tend to focus on whimsical quotes, philosophical themes, and the church meeting culture as a source. How often do we see religious quotes without and scripture reference? The limitation of spiritual philosophy is most of the time we are left wondering where the harmony in scripture is found.
1 John 4:1 ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see wheter they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the word.’
From 1 John 4:1, we are warned that not everyone’s message is from God; and a messenger that picks only certain scripture to talk about and discards other scripture lands in that category. Because the truth of the Bible is found in its complete scriptural narrative, not bits and pieces.
Another danger of equating being a Christian to church instead of a personal transformation and relations with Jesus is, a non-believer can easily say, “I don’t like church”, or “the church is full of hypocrites” as a way to dismiss believing in God. The expression of the church meeting has to be sourced from scripture because while people are imperfect, fail, and don’t have the answers within themselves. Scripture gives us our ultimate Hope in God. Simply put, as church folk, we are pointing to God through scripture, not pointing to ourselves as hope for others. So when someone says, ‘the church is full of hypocrites,’ we can respond as believers, ‘it sure is and we are all sinners according to the Bible but Jesus gives us hope and let me share with you why.’ A church may be full of good people, we know from Jesus that none of us are good in God’s sight. We have all fallen short. Spiritual equality if you will.
These are just some Biblical Truths that some church folk have discarded or put in the closet. Why? They are divisive. No one likes to talk about painful or controversial subjects. I sure don’t. In many post-post modern seeker-friendly churches, a lot of effort goes into getting people through the doors. Capital investment in a comfy cultural feel, freebies, marketing campaigns and so on. The last thing needed is something that will erase or risk the gains in church attendance. So there is a tendency to put on a good attractive appearance. Putting our best foot forward to attract and keep people coming. The risk to that is, the world or non-believers never will see what God sees, a group of broken sinners who need God’s grace like everyone else.
So, why should we talk about uncomfortable truths from the Bible? Why? Because it’s the whole Truth. Oftentimes there’s an effort to pick and choose scripture to prove a point, or to tell a story. Like David and Goliath and the uncomfortable truth that he carried the head of Goliath back to his camp and was holding the head when we spoke to King Saul. I personally think that’s awesome, it paints a picture of a real post-battle scene. It also gives me a less than timid picture of David at that point in his life. That’s pretty raw, gross per se, but it’s the truth. It is how the story is told in the Bible. What about divorce? With the American divorce rate at 50%, half of the people in any given church service may be offended by what Jesus said in Mark 10. The subject is very relevant. Divorce is a raw experience that God never intended. So talking about it can be hurtful for those who have gone through it. But if we approach the scripture with compassion and healing, we can help those find understanding and a path forward. But we can’t avoid it.
The point or goal for us is to understand there is a complete Bible, a complete Word of God that was given to us to read. We are not to depend on someone reading it to us once a week as our only source of understanding. We have to know the difference between human philosophy, whimsical spiritual quotes and ‘friendly advice’ and what the Bible says about our issues. So how do you or I know what’s being said every time we go to a church meeting is actually what the Bible says or means. We read the Bible and pray. And if what is being said to us is Truth, it will be in harmony to what God is saying to our spirit. But if we hear scripture that is incomplete or doesn’t harmonize with our understanding of what that scripture says, then we should understand why. One of the activities I like to do is look around a scripture that is read in a church service. If someone quotes 1 Timothy 2, then it’s important to understand the context of that scripture and what the whole scripture segment is talking about. There are plenty of authoritative commentaries that can be used in conjunction with reading the Bible. The challenge is to weed out the blasphemy, incomplete scripture reading and cherry picking scriptures out of context. That requires reading and studying and prayer.
The Bible was never meant to be read and interpreted differently based on time, culture, or Christian-flavor. The Bible says what it says, and it’s important to understand the time period, culture, and most importantly is the communication with God on what He means.
Read and ask questions, discuss scripture. Don’t accept what one person says, read it for yourself. What you hear at church may be entirely sound with the entire Bible scripture, but it may not. It is up to us to study, decipher and challenge if need be. Because it won’t be our pastor that stands before God to give account for us, it will, in fact, be us.
A Guide Book and not an Encyclopedia.
Biblical truths are un-convenient for us. And I certainly don’t like anyone getting in my business. I’d rather live according to my own thoughts, vision for my life. After all, I have a brain, right? I can pick out scripture just like anyone else and make it sound right according to my behavior. I can avoid scriptures that make me feel uncomfortable. I love philosophy. But to what end? I end up living a lie that I’ve told myself if I don’t live in alliance with the complete Biblical scripture. If we read the complete Bible, we learn we have hope, but only if we don’t rebel and turn away from God. If we do, we have to repent because there is God’s design for us, and anything else is a sin. God does not contradict himself. His Biblical scripture cannot have two diametric meanings.
God gave us his written word to be a guide for us as we pray and seek to follow Him. The Bible is a story of hope, not an exhaustive explanation of God’s motives, nature, or methods. We hope because Jesus died for us. We know this because John 3:16-17 says so. We follow by faith, not because God gave us a blueprint for his grand design that we understand start to finish.
The subjects discussed here, Sin, Heaven, Marriage, etc are all found in the Bible. Are the subjects we hear in a church meeting, online or spoken word, corporate worship found in the Bible? The songs we sing in a church meeting may have sound Scriptural foundation, or they may not. There’s one way to know if what we hear or read is from the Bible, we read and pray.
God doesn’t call us to live a comfortable life. Jesus instead says there is a cross to bear, and that’s not comfortable for anyone. And that will make us spiritually squirmy for sure. So my encouragement is for all of us to understand the full Biblical narrative, even the parts that are ‘un-convenient’ for us.
Does your church cover Christian subjects like these? If so, that’s awesome. But God still requires us to read His Word. One of the more challenging Books of the Bible for me to read is Numbers. But I read it through because the stories are important to understand the Children of Isreal. So the Book of Numbers is on my way in understanding even the book of Matthew.
On the other hand, if we don’t hear the complete narrative of Biblical subjects covered in our church meetings, we should ask why. It’s very popular to cover social issues, or what I like to call Oprah subjects. The risk is to cover the surface of humanity and not delve into what can really change us; repentance and following Jesus.
About the Author: Steven Davis is the son of a minister; Bible school dropout, former social worker, and musician.