It has been brought to my attention that the following is not a balanced portrayal of the study. Keep in mind that:
– I left out all of the lighthearted and positive conversation that made up the majority of the study
– I focus on the points of contention and highlight the reactions of a few people
I hadn’t been to bible study since I showed the video For the Bible Tells Me So. Sickness, weather, and family visits had all conspired delay the next visit.
This time, we watched a video study on the Psalms.
I can still find beautiful passages in the Psalms and thought I could learn something from others’ perspectives. And I missed everyone.
We started off with a question of how we felt about redemption. Two people shared heartbreaking stories of how they felt too unworthy to ask for forgiveness, how much they felt their depravity still, and how glad they were to know about their unworthiness and filth so they could give it to Jesus.
I contemplated the new freedom I have not to make myself miserable for not meeting some imaginary and contradictory ideal. I felt so bad for those women who shared about the guilt they buried themselves in so as to be more needy of Jesus.
Then we read Psalm 1 and were asked to share some initial thoughts.
There was some glowing praise about the metaphor of the tree by living waters who always has fruit.
One woman (not considered a true Christian by the others since she meditates and rarely goes to church) said that she thought it was too simplistic. People aren’t all good or all wicked.
Then Big Pastor mentioned that they loved the verse about delighting on the laws of the Lord and meditating on them day and night. He mentioned that evangelicals are not good at delighting, but prefer rules.
I opened my mouth. I pointed out that the law referred to in this Psalm was likely the first 5 books, especially Deuteronomy, Numbers and Leviticus. And that some of those laws were not to be delighted in. Most of them. Such as those about how to kill rebellious teenagers.
“Are we supposed to contemplate these laws with delight? Where is the discernment? How is it unlike focusing on rules to glory in thinking about such rules?
“I can delight in the few verses about taking care of the widows, orphans and strangers, but not all of them!”
Silence and palpable dread swirled inside me. To me, two of them actually looked angry. They refused to make eye contact and their faces looked strained as they actually gritted their teeth. The leader looked distressed. Of course, this was the first time he led a study during the past 4 years and I was not following the script.
One sweet lady piped up, “I always thought it was talking about the saved and unsaved and our relationship with Jesus and eternal rewards.”
“That doesn’t make sense from the passage. It was written during a time with no concept of the afterlife. Blessings and cursings were material and in the present. The concepts of an eternal hell* don’t appear until Jesus’s time. Quite a bit later.” I pipe up.
The same two people stared at the floor in what looked like exasperation. Why are Christians afraid to look at the Bible? Especially when reading a verse that tells you to delight and meditate on its laws? A verse they are going to force the children to memorize.
We watched the video guide that went with it. It was about an intimate personal relationship with Jesus. A pretty young woman drawing in a graveyard wishing for some lover to fix her deep pain somehow correlated with a psalm about bad things for bad people and good things for ‘good’ people (whom I assume tithed to the priests as per ‘delighting in the law’).
I did not get the connection at all.
Neither did the leader. He apologized for not understanding how it fit together and mentioned that he, as a married man, felt a bit creeped out by the whole intimate relationship thing with Jesus.
I grinned and quoted HeIsSailing’s great line about his “homoerotic relationship with Jesus” and his discomfort with singing worship songs that sounded like they’d been written by a 12 year old girl.
(I think HIS meant they were suited for a 12 year old girl, and I disagree, having been one and knowing the damage and weird pressure it causes there too, but I digress 🙂
Silence. Obviously, I lack comedic timing. Or maybe the appropriate audience. Or both 🙂
A very gracious woman jumped in.
“How can we be righteous? Is knowing Jesus enough to make us good people?”
“All you need to do is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and that’s it. Everything will fall into place.” Stated one man with great authority.
I bite my lip and visibly shake. Everyone notices. I am asked to share why I disagree.
“What god? We all know of those who did terrible things but sincerely loved their god. It could have been the love of their god that drove them to do nasty things. ”
“Well, the god of the bible!” said the man sarcastically and impatiently.
“Which god in the bible? The one who demands the killing of rebellious teenagers? Or the one who calls for justice for the poor? You can support almost any kind of god with the bible.
“I didn’t help my neighbour whose husband committed suicide and who had several children with disabilities. I was too busy going to prayer meeting, leading youth group, going to church services, special meetings and multiple weekly bible studies. Add that to work and school, and it was impossible for me to help. But I was loving god as best as I knew how.”
The leader jumped in. “Ok, I guess we all have a distorted view of god somehow. Back to the study. It says here to read Matt 25:44-45.
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Ouch!” I say.
“So,” said one of the ladies, “I guess all we have left is the hope that Christ forgives us.”
“Yes,” agreed the man. “And since the bible says he does, he does. I mean, that’s all we have.”
I stare at the floor. I did not come to tell them they are wrong.
After most of the people left, the leader of the study came up to me.
“Where did that come from? You seem like a completely different person than you were last time I saw you! Are you ok?”
I assured him I wasn’t a Communist spy and that I was actually doing really well!
He looked relieved and then started asking about bicycles. I appreciate him and his wife. All they wanted to know was that I was ok and then found a common interest.
I can learn from them.
I think that was the last bible study we will be welcome at.
*and ‘eternal’ is debatable