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Regardless of your views on the Bible, I think most readers would agree that without context, interpretation of any text loses most of its validity. I’d imagine that we all have experienced that awkward moment when our text message is misinterpreted or taken out of context. “But that wasn’t what I said!” “I don’t really think that!” Context is everything.
That said, I would conjecture that the single most dangerous thing to both Christianity and the condemnation of Christianity is the “Bible verse”: the single quotation taken out of 66 books written over thousands of years, craftily selected to suit a specific purpose or argument. It is on Bible verses that both cults and critics thrive. If we’re going to reduce God’s Word to a sentence or two, then quite frankly, we can make it say whatever the hell we want it to.
So let’s talk about condemning homosexuals to death. While we’re at it, let’s talk about those who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14) and those who commit adultery (Leviticus 20:10). All condemned to death. Let me draw your attention to Jesus. He and his disciples come across the infamous “adulterous woman,” exposed in her sin and minutes from death. Jewish culture and scripture demanded that she be struck with rocks until dead. So what does Jesus do? He looks out at the crowd and says, “He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” And when everyone leaves, this is his final word: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:1-11, ESV).
The Bible, like I said, is composed of 66 books and written in three different languages over the course of thousands of years, yet it has one coherent message and focus. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who always has been and always will be. If you read the Bible as being about anything other than Jesus Christ, you will always miss the point. He came to usher in His new Kingdom, not with force or with violence but with powerful, sacrificial love.
Adrian Gusland is an electrical engineering graduate student.