Beat people with your Bible?

“You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.”

Often heard phrase, but is it useful to say (or affirm)? Last week, in a Prayer Partner Letter from Bethlehem College & Seminary, President Tim Tomlinson wrote the following helpful reflections. Let me know what you think.
~ pdb

I don’t know if you have ever heard the following phrase, but I have on a number of occasions: “You shouldn’t beat people over the head with the Bible.” Whenever I’ve heard that said, it has always troubled me. I understand, I think, what those who say it are trying to accomplish. They don’t want to alienate people who might be alienated by some parts of the Bible. But therein lies what troubles me. There is implied in this statement the notion that the Bible, by itself, is not adequate for helping people overcome whatever it is they are struggling with (sin, depression, denial of God, etc.). It requires some sort of qualification or special relationship standing before it can be used to help inform, correct, exhort, or inspire people.

When I look at the Bible itself, however, I don’t see that attitude portrayed at all by those who speak of its value to all of life. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 makes over 170 references to the worth and value of the Word of God. The entire theme of this psalm is to extoll the surpassing worth of the Word to all of life.

“Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me
wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
(Psalm 119:97-103).

For the psalmist, the Word of God is his sustenance, his joy, his guide, his way of understanding, and his love. Such a view of the Bible is an example to all of us that the Word of God is sufficient for all situations and all people–even if it makes us uncomfortable sometimes with its clear and life-giving truth.

Yes, we should use the Bible with care, and with an appropriate, loving, and sensitive attitude in sharing it with others, but we should never shrink back from bringing the life-giving Word of God to bear on any life situation we may encounter.

“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 joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Tim Tomlinson,
June 22, 2011

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