I’ve realized something about myself in the last couple years I hadn’t acknowledged before—The Bible offends me.
Not too long ago, my pastor preached a sermon on the Flood, and he talked about how the story offends us, but we may not realize it because when something in the Bible offends us we tend to skim over it and move on.
It made me wonder what other parts of the Bible might offend me. It also made me realize that if I’m not offended by the Bible it’s probably because I’m not thinking carefully about what I’m reading. Not because I want to be offended, but because as a sinner whose nature is to rebel against God’s authority I will be offended. It’s only a matter of whether I’m honest.
But being the “good” Christian I am, I know it’s wrong to be angry at God, so it’s easier to skim past the parts I don’t like so I don’t have to acknowledge my sinful heart.
I recently read the story of David and Michal. I was endeared to Michal from the start of the story because she loved David. Of course, who doesn’t love David?
So it’s easy to love Michal too. She loves David enough to stand up against her father and help David escape when Saul wants to kill him. Then David is gone for several years, and Saul gives her in marriage to another man, knowing she loves David. Hard not to feel sorry for her there.
Then David returns and takes her away from her new husband. And in the meantime he has married a number of other women. Right there, my heart is turned with Michal in bitterness toward David.
So when she sees David out the window making (what she believes is) a fool of himself, dancing in the streets wearing barely anything, I’m annoyed for Michal. Then she confronts David, and he corrects her. And then, God punishes her by giving her no children.
As a married woman who loves her husband and wants children, I found myself sympathizing with Michal in ways I shouldn’t have. Because the truth of Michal’s story is that, while she may have started out loving her husband, she did not love God.
At least we have no reason to believe that she did. There’s a lot we don’t know about Michal. But we know enough about David to know that He loved God, and was not ashamed to declare the praise of God in the streets, to bless the people of God, and to humble himself to God’s leading in His life. Yet, Michal despised him in her heart.
That’s just one example of a place I have found myself offended in reading the Bible.
I’m offended by God’s harsh punishment of Moses for what seems a simple act of banging a rock. And, yes, I’m offended that God would wipe out all but eight people in the Flood, children and infants included. It doesn’t seem fair for God to punish the weak and helpless alongside the strong and defiant. And the reason I’m offended with Michal is because along with her, my desire is for a faithful husband, an easy life, and a good reputation.
As I slow down to think about how I’m processing the stories of the Bible I’m learning my heart isn’t as submissive and humble as I’d like to think. I can pretty much guarantee that any time I’m offended at a story in the Bible, it carries over to an offense in my own life. When I don’t like that God disciplines Moses for one little “slip up,” it’s because my heart is saying to God:
“But I’ve been obedient to You in these other ways!”
When I sympathize with Michal, it’s because my heart is saying:
“I deserve the dignity of a good life with a husband who loves me first, even before God!”
When I’m angry at God for killing all those people in the flood it’s because my heart is saying:
“Wickedness isn’t that wicked. God takes it waaaay too seriously.”
And, in all those cases, my heart is wrong.
Those are the sorts of things you start to recognize when you start to notice where the Bible offends you. Skimming over the parts of the Bible that are hard for us doesn’t mean our heart is submissive to God. It only means we aren’t willing to deal with the wickedness that’s already there. Doing the dirty work of acknowledging our wrong attitude before God is what leads us to repentance.
If I don’t repent when I’m offended by God’s word, I won’t repent of these attitudes in my own life either. I pray that throughout my Christian life I become more like David, fearing the Lord and submitting unapologetically; rather than Michal in the window, despising God.