Of Walls and Scripture

I was on Facebook, which may have been problem number one, when I came across this specific picture for the fourth or fifth time:

Now, I get it. It seems like on its face it would be true, right. However, here’s the thing, we can bend scripture the other way as well. Matthew 16:18 says the following

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah! For flesh and blood did has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

We see, then, from this verse, that Hell has gates, but what about heaven?

By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day and there will be no night there. –Revelation 21:24

Hell has gates that are closed. Heaven does have walls, but the gates are perpetually open. So there!

But not really “so there!”. Here’s the deal: Neither of these interpretations are what Jesus or John the Apostle had in mind when they wrote or said these things. What Jesus said about Hell, and what John recorded about Heaven was not about immigration or anything like that. We can be fairly certain that Jesus did not have Donald Trump in mind when he mentioned that “Gates of Hell”. Really, no jokes from either side, He did not. And we can be pretty sure that John did not have Nancy Pelosi in mind when he wrote about Heaven having open gates day and night.  So why would we do this?

One of my “favorite passages” in all of scripture is Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joint and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

When discussing situations like this, I kind of sarcastically say that, if the word of God is living, it is like any other living thing: twist it hard enough and it will say whatever the heck you want! And that is what is happening here. Christians, on both sides of whatever debate may be going on, go to the Bible looking for something that sounds like what they need to say, what they need to prove, and suddenly the Bible agrees with them. Instead of letting scripture speak for itself, they bully it with swirlies, wet-willies, and noogies until it delivers up its theological lunch money.

The worst part is that they (and this has happened for Republicans and Democrats, for Conservatives and for Liberals) are worse than the hypothetical bully. A real bully knows that they got this money by force. The theological bullies walk away believing whole-heartedly that their victim gave their money up willingly, joyfully, and would have given more if there was enough time between classes.

What is the cure to this? A greater reverence for the word of God. See, when we take the word out of context, we are participating in the worst kind of sound-byte media. The word of God is a thing of time and eternity, of life and death. There is a good chance it will not fit neatly on a bumper sticker, meme, or T-shirt and still carry the weight you really want it to have.

Side note: I like reading political news just so I know what ridiculous things both sides are doing. However, in general, nothing of my views concerning politics will pop up here. It is not because I am afraid of alienating people, but rather because I want this to be a bigger place than that. Paul, Peter, James, etc. had no time to talk about Rome, and I will follow suit where I can. The only time I will talk about these things is when people try to magically invoke the name of Jesus or bully scripture.

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