When I say I believe the bible is the inerrant word of God, I believe that with everything I am. When I say I take it literally, cover to cover, that’s the truth.
I’ve recently seen a plethora of arguments trying to justify certain moral stances (or lack thereof) based on whether or not the English translations (KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, AMP, etc.) of the Bible have been correctly translated. If you pull up the original meanings . . . yes, meanings plural because most of the words used have multiple meanings . . . of the text and look at the original words in context while comparing them to other passages of scripture using the same words, you will find that they absolutely were and are translated correctly. You can’t just grasp one obscure word out of a list of multiple meanings and make it work out the way you wish to justify sin. That’s not how it works.
This doesn’t just happen with controversial moral stances and the justification of sin however. The “it wasn’t translated correctly” argument also often comes into play when people want to pass judgment on things that are personal convictions rather than moral absolutes. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum but is still damaging. It’s the need to create standards and rules that don’t exist in the bible, or were for a certain time and/or place, in order to get people to come into line with your own personal convictions. In short, it’s legalism.
The bible certainly has a number of moral absolutes . . . I believe and agree with every single one of them . . . life begins at conception . . . God created marriage as sacred between a man and woman (and that entails a lot) . . . tithing (that one does not get the love it deserves) . . . hatred and ugliness, gossiping and slandering, lying and backbiting, they’re all wrong . . . Jesus is the only way . . . this is just the briefest of samplings of what God has set up as moral absolutes, given to protect rather than control us, and because I am a bible literalist, I believe them all. You don’t have to like that or agree with me . . . that doesn’t mean I don’t love you, or that I’ll treat you badly and without respect, and I never take any of these stances in order to hurt those I love. But I also won’t debate the moral absolutes or give on these things. You’ll have to take those arguments up with God. He’s our creator, and He knows what’s best for us.
Having said that, we all have personal convictions, shaped by our experiences and our own backgrounds. In some cases those personal convictions are part of our personal walk with God. Meaning they’re given to us by Him as we learn and fellowship and grow with Him and through Him . . . they will never contradict God’s word, but they aren’t absolutes laid out in His word either. In other cases, our personal convictions change as we learn and grow . . . we’re all wrong at times, and it’s fine to realize that and change. But because we are all unique individuals, created by a loving Father who knows what is best for us, we are often going to have personal convictions that are just that . . . personal to who we are.
And while I believe it’s always important to clarify where I stand on the moral absolutes, the crux of this is actually personal convictions . . . on passing judgment on others using my own standards and not God’s.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
The NASB translation actually says “by your standard of measure” in verse two. People, in general, love to throw around the whole “judge not lest you be judged” line followed closely by “who am I to judge?”. And here’s the thing, you and I, we don’t get to judge based upon our own standards. But if it’s something that God has set up as an absolute then that judgment is not our own. However, if it’s our own personal conviction then we must be very careful in how we present that. It’s fine to share what you know to be true for yourself, but that is also exactly when it’s most important not to judge others by our own standards . . . whatever those may be.
This is purposefully vague because I could give a list a mile long of personal convictions that people try to present as moral absolutes . . . from clothing choices and personal adornment, length of hair, etc. (piercings and tattoos anyone?) . . . to roles within marriage, the church, and so on . . . to medical decisions (vaccinations being a hot button issue at the moment) . . . to what to eat and drink (or not eat and drink as the case may be) . . . to what age to allow our kids to wear make-up, date, drive alone to another city . . . or for that matter, whether or not to even have kids . . . whatever it may be, the list is endless . . . some seem trivial . . . some very important . . . but if there’s not a clear guideline set out in the bible, these are own personal convictions.
I’ve been very convicted recently about standing strong on the moral absolutes while at the same time treading carefully with my own personal convictions. I am often prompted to share my personal experiences as a wife and mother and a follower of Christ, but I have found that I need to be very cautious not to present my personal narrative as the only right way. As long as we are not causing others to stumble (Romans 14:13 . . . and that chapter of Romans deserves an entire post in and of itself about respecting the personal convictions of others when in their company), we all have a different story to write within the guidelines set up by God, and that’s what makes this brief, earthly life so beautiful. We’re not robots all designed to live the exact same life, but unique individuals with different callings and purposes given to us by God. And so, because of that, our lives and our personal standards will all present just a little differently.
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