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Heart in the Bible

lenses for the Bible?

On Sunday we read Romans 13:9 that

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This echoes Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; and Luke 10:25-28. Jesus teaches that the scriptures hang on two hinges:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

If Jesus (and Paul) would have love God and love others as summarising the scriptures, is it appropriate, when we get to “difficult” passages in the scriptures, that we read them through the lenses of “love God and love others”?

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7 thoughts on “lenses for the Bible?”

  1. Bosco, reading all other commandments through these two is not only appropriate, it is necessary.
    What I mean is that the Pharisees asked Jesus what he considered to be the greatest commandment because he and they and every other biblical interpreter of the time knew full well that you cannot have a static law. Even the Torah given through Moses had to be continually reinterpreted as circumstances changed. This means that some parts of that original revelation would have to be used as central truths around which the remainder could be understood. Jesus had no qualms about identifying his legal axioms, identifying these two of the the 630+ commandments as pre-eminent. As it happened, his opponents agreed with him. No one present is recorded as objecting to the process as such. On the one hand, not one tiny letter shall pass from the Law, but on the other hand not all are equal. This is why Jesus could change the food laws so drastically.
    When our circumstances change, so must our legal code, even if it was handed down on Sinai.

  2. Right on, Bosco!

    We really need to remember that we are called “Christians,” and not “Biblians,” for a reason. We do not follow the Bible; we follow Christ Jesus, and all things, including the Bible, are subject to him. If we do not read and interpret the Bible through the prism of Jesus, we are liable to miss the point and do some very dangerous, unhealthy and sinful things while feeling quite religious and righteous about it. He himself said: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life” (John 5:39-40). Our minds must be open to Christ Jesus to understand the Bible aright: “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).

    So when we read the Bible, we must measure everything we read against Jesus. And when we come to those “difficult” passages — like, say, the ones some people want to use to justify killing other people on account of perceived sins — we have to remember his primary directive: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). Love of God and neighbor, and the Golden Rule, commanded by Jesus, are indeed the lenses through which we must read the Bible, especially to give us pause when we think that Book is telling us to hate, hurt, harm or kill. Christ Jesus is the key to the Bible; he says “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19), not “Come, follow the Bible.” We are called to become ever more Christlike — not Bible-like.

  3. I was taught from the earliest age that everything I read or interpret should go through the lense of Jesus’ teachings.

    One of the most important passages in scripture to me is ‘whatever you do to the least of my people, you did to me’, which sets quite a balance on our words and actions, ‘would I do/say this to Jesus?’!

  4. There is an interesting section in Augustine on this, including this very direct statement — in which he seems to talk of all passages – whether ‘difficult’ or otherwise:

    Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbour, does not yet understand them as he ought


    if his mistaken interpretation tends to build up love, which is the end of the commandment, he goes astray in much the same way as a man who by mistake quits the high road, but yet reaches through the fields the same place to which the road leads


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