Misquoting Jesus, Part 1

We have all quoted Christ’s statement that the Truth will set us free.  And just as promised, men and women around the world constantly discover that living out the Gospel brings liberty, joy and victory to the human life.  Merely speaking the Truth in love can have a dramatic impact.

But what happens when we misquote Jesus?  What happens when instead of drawing out the truth of God’s Word, we read our prejudices and human experience into the Bible? The result is that we are practicing tradition rather than Truth, and we can find ourselves in difficult situations. For example, Psalm 104:5 teaches, “He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.”  Today science has confirmed the power and accuracy of that verse: life is possible on our planet only because of the particular tilt of the Earth, our distance from the sun, the circular track of our orbit.  God has orchestrated gravity, the sun, and the moon to anchor our planet in the most beneficial spot in the universe.

In the 15th Century when Christian researchers like Copernicus began to suggest that the Earth is not the center of the universe, but actually orbits around the sun, some leaders in the Church were offended and even outraged.  They insisted that everything must revolve around the Earth;  to suppose otherwise is not only bad science, but heresy!  Why?  They cited texts like Psalm 104:5.  The Bible says the Earth cannot be moved!

They were obviously reading their prejudice and their human assumptions into the Bible.  You can imagine that some unthinking leader might have shouted, “I am convinced that the Earth is the center of the universe, and I will not be moved!” No one would have assumed he would not go out to dinner or go home to sleep that night.  They would have naturally assumed he was saying that he would hold true to that particular position.  Likewise, God has given our revolving planet a position in the solar system that he promises to maintain.

It’s apparent today that those indignant theologians were misquoting the Bible.  It didn’t interrupt the advance of scientific thinking; indeed, the distinctive worldview of the Bible fueled the development of Western Science.  But the argument did create a needless uproar in Church History, and surely frustrated some godly scientists.  It reminds us why it’s so important to be precise and prayerful when we are interpreting and applying the powerful Word of God.

This brings us to something Jesus said about prayer.  What if we misquoted Jesus and, as a result, misunderstood the basics of prayer?  What if we began to insist on a ritual that Jesus never intended?  You’re probably running out of time for now, so I’ll pick this up in about a week.  In the meantime, thank God that the Earth is so uniquely positioned to keep us alive and healthy!

And lift up the Cross!


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