Have you ever wondered why Christians can be poles apart in their understanding of the Bible? It’s as if they were reading completely different books! I suppose the reasons for this are many, but one of the biggest culprits is this simple rule: truth taken out of balance becomes error.
It’s possible to focus so much on one aspect of the Biblical message that it becomes distorted. For example, when some people read the Bible all they see is God’s holiness and wrath. It’s no wonder, then, that they view God as a harsh judge ready mete out punishment for every offense, no matter how small. His love and mercy are so pushed to the side that they almost become irrelevant. On the other end of the scale there are those who are so fixated on divine love and mercy that they end up downplaying His hatred of sin. They’ll agree that God isn’t pleased when we disobey, but He certainly won’t get into a tizzy over it, will He? Won’t He just forgive?
Both of these extreme views base their beliefs on Biblical truth. The Bible does indeed talk about God’s holiness and wrath, as well as His love and mercy. These facts aren’t contradictory – they simply show us the fuller picture. Unfortunately, we humans tend to focus on what we agree with and disregard what we don’t. This happens on many levels (think politics), but the Bible is not immune. The danger, though, when it comes to spiritual truth, is that we end up with a distorted understanding of what the Bible says, and ultimately, a wrong view of God.
So how can we avoid falling into this trap? First of all, it helps to be aware of the situation. We can’t solve a problem if we don’t know we have it! But beyond this, it’s important to always seek the big picture. We can’t simply ignore verses that are inconvenient to our point of view. It’s vital to make the effort to consider everything the Bible has to say about a particular topic.
Going back to my example for a second, when we take into consideration all four truths about God, we are then able to understand the work of Christ on the cross. We see more clearly how His holiness and wrath required sin to be punished, while His love and mercy led Jesus to pay the penalty in our place. Truth in the correct balance enables us to comprehend God’s Word more fully.
What if we can’t reconcile certain concepts? (the debate over man’s free will versus God’s sovereignty comes to mind). That’s where humility comes in! There are things we will never completely grasp. After all, how can a finite being fully comprehend the divine? When this happens, it’s best to simply admit that we don’t know for sure.
Understanding the Bible correctly is, to a large degree, a balancing act. It’s putting all the truths that God has revealed to us into the right perspective. I suspect that all of us have some belief that’s out of whack. But if we strive to keep the big picture in mind, if we account for the complete image that the Bible paints, then we will better understand what God desires to communicate to us. We’ll avoid the lack of balance that is so damaging to our spiritual life.