I was raised in a very religious family. We valued our faith but in a way that was often legalistic. Don’t get me wrong. I am convinced that each of my relatives were/are true believers. But, I’ve witnessed too many family feuds in which the Bible was used as a weapon. Most of the time it was used as a very inaccurate one. It took me several years to understand, often imperfectly, that the Bible is not a hammer.
What you see
It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to observe the Scriptures being used inappropriately as a bludgeoning tool. All one must do is open Facebook and search for a culturally hot topic. Go to the comments section and scan quickly for Bible references. Sometimes God’s Word is being applied to a conversation in an appropriate way. Many times, though, the Holy Scriptures are being swung like a nine-pound sledge. Instead of John the Beloved, it’s John Henry that holds the handle and making “that coal-steel ring”!
What’s it say?
So, what’s the Bible say? It says that it’s useful for reproof and correction, right? Sure enough, it does.
16 dAll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
Simply quoting what the Bible says as proof that a person ought to engage folks correctively, begs the question. What is reproof and correction? More importantly, what does the author mean when he wrote this? Well, maybe it would be more “profitable” to examine what he doesn’t mean seeing that my title is making a negative claim.
What doesn’t it mean?
What does it mean to be profitable for reproof and correction? Did Paul intend for the reader to understand their role as a kind of brow-beater? I don’t believe he did.
It’s kind of hard to mesh the rest of the Bible with mean spirited apologetics or poor postured polemics. It may be that there are times that call for being straight-forward, but not straight-up mean. And that’s exactly what I am referring to in this counsel. I don’t mean to say that’s not what Paul means but that he doesn’t mean to be mean. It’s not Scripture that’s John Henry’s coal-steel. It’s your heart that misappropriates the Bible as a nail driver.
Manners, what Thomas Fleming called the “liturgy of culture”, is a Biblical concept that ought to prevail over our desire to win an argument. If we, as our parents instructed us, honor those who disagree with us we won’t drive Holy Scripture onto them. If we, as Jesus instructed us, love our enemies, it will be easier to honor them.
Don’t miss your motives
So, in case you disregarded this article because you knew that you had some Biblical right to reprove and/or correct folks with a heavy-handed and unloving spirit because Paul gives us permission in the previous reference, don’t miss your motives. If that was your preliminary consideration, take that as evidence that you have a problem.
If you are reading this, chances are you are Southern. Please, live up to the characature. Be full of grace and wisdom. Be discerning. Have some manners when you carry on with other folks. Honor God as you honor people created in his image.
I don’t need to write much more about using the Bible as a hammer other than to say that each time you engage people to reprove or correct them with Scripture, do a quick self-check. Ask yourself why you are engaging. Repent of any self-centered apologetic. Pray for God’s help and do your duty.
Don’t let your motives mess with you
If I could leave you with that positive encouragement, it would be best to consider it. We all have bad motives. Our narcissism and idolatry permeate our motives. The longer I walk with Christ, the more disappointed I become in my motivations. But, that’s part of his work. If you find yourself feeling like you use the Bible as a hammer but you can’t get past those ugly motives, repent and go on. Do your duty. Let God do the rest. He’ll soften the manner by stealing the hammer and replacing it with a heart of his own.