In my reading this week I was challenged by a question that, on its face, seemed ludicrous. Yet I could neither ignore it nor get it out of my head. The question was, “Which parts of the Bible are you choosing to ignore?” It was preposterous in both its implication that I would even think of picking and choosing parts of the Bible to ignore, and also by the insinuation that I indeed was ignoring parts of the Bible. I have been diligently striving to follow in the way of Jesus Christ, to do the things that He would do. That involves not allowing any compromise along the way. So how could I possibly be ignoring parts of the Bible, much less by conscious choice? This story, however, does not have a happy ending. Prayer and introspection revealed that indeed I have been ignoring parts of the Bible. In fact, I have been ignoring multiple parts of Scripture. This realization has been both sobering and challenging. Allow me to share a couple of areas I have been choosing to ignore.
The second greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:28-31). I do my best to show kindness to my neighbors. I always smile and wave whenever I see them outside. In the winter I even clear their driveways and sidewalks with my snow blower. Therefore, I must be demonstrating love to my neighbor. So apparently I can check this box with an affirmative. Or can I? I am ashamed to admit, I’ve never invited one of my current neighbors over for dinner; I’ve never stopped over just to see if I can help in any way. I’m a great neighbor as long as we happen to be outside at the same time. Otherwise it takes a little work, and apparently that’s been a bit too much for me. For those who are way ahead of me at this point and are still content that they can easily check off the “love my neighbor as myself” box, let me ask you a question. Have you, like a great number of Americans, purchased one of the new, large, flat screen televisions in the past couple of years? If you answered yes to that question, did you purchase one for your neighbor as well? If not, why not? Do you not love your neighbor at least as much as you love yourself? In the interest of full disclosure, I picked the flat screen television example because I don’t have one. I figured that was fair since I took my lumps in the first half of this paragraph. How about groceries? When you purchase food each week, do you purchase a bag for your neighbor as well? I hope you see my point.
Most of us do just enough to make us believe we are doing what Jesus commanded us to do. But when we look a little deeper, if we’re honest with ourselves, we will be forced to admit that we are indeed ignoring parts of the Bible. We ignore that which makes us uncomfortable or requires too great a sacrifice. We give money to those in need, but will we sell all we have and then turn around and give all the proceeds to the poor (Luke 18:18-22)? We’ll volunteer at the soup kitchen, but will we take a stranger in to live with us (Matthew 25:35)? We are ignoring the parts of the Bible that most reflect the mission of Jesus. How dare we call ourselves disciples? We are at best a weak and hypocritical people. The Church is supposed to be the unified body, the very hands and feet, of Jesus. We are to be ushering in His Kingdom by doing the things He commanded us to do while we are still on this earth. We are only half committed; we speak the language but we fail in the execution of the plan.
We must all repent of the parts of the Bible we have ignored out of our selfish sense of comfort. If we would indeed be a follower of Christ, we must look again at what He expects of us. We must look again at the way He lived and the things He did. We must repent of the words He spoke that we have ignored. It is time to rise up as the body of Christ and leave behind the half-hearted effort most of us have given to this point; it is time to work in unison to accomplish the mission of Jesus. As you prayerfully consider the way in which you will live for Him, give fresh consideration to the parts of the Bible you have been choosing to ignore.