“Did you know that you are not obligated (by kindness or Christian charity or compassion) to ‘wrestle’ with passages of Scripture just because you know people who don’t want to obey them? Or even because you don’t want to obey them?! It’s true! Seeking to understand God’s Word is a good thing! Seeking to get out from under it is not. Coming to the Scripture to be changed is an act of godly submission—coming to Scripture that we might change it—that is an act of defiance. This is often called “wrestling with it” but in plainer words it is simply mutiny. You aren’t the boss of the Word, the Word is the boss of you. Simple, but not always easy!
There are some very clear passages of Scripture that are very popular to ‘wrestle’ with and very unpopular to simply believe and obey. When those come up in discussion people are always outraged at a simple reading.
‘You clearly haven’t read all of the scholarship that shows Paul never meant that!’ ‘You must not be aware of all the people who have figured out fancy (and dishonest) readings of the text so that we can ignore this!’ ‘You are such a simpleton to believe that it means that and you are so arrogant to act like you know it!’
This humility towards the Word will always inspire charges of pride. Don’t dabble in that nonsense. Scripture itself is inspired, and is profitable for us. Read it all, believe it all — don’t hang on to any precious “freedom” that you won’t submit fully to the text. You will recognize these places by the fact that your feelings don’t harmonize with the clear meaning of the text. How you feel is not the important thing. What the Word says is!
Reading the Bible faithfully (that you might be more and more under it’s authority) will increase your freedom from those who are more and more offended by your submission to it. It’s a special cycle, and one that faithful believers must accept gladly.
In the Word, of the Word, for the Word, from the Word, under the Word—but never try to be over the Word.”
Oh, snap. I read this today and had to share the entire passage. I’ve seen a LOT of “wrestling” lately, but it all seems suspiciously like folks just wanting to have their cake and eat it too, as they say. People seem to like the edginess and non-certainty that doubt brings in, probably because we live in a culture that abhors any absolute truths. The thing is, Jesus doesn’t condemn us for our doubt or questions, He just doesn’t want us to wallow in them forever.
When someone says they’ve wrestled with a certain aspect of faith, but have arrived at an opposing conclusion than the Word itself, I tend to think it’s more of a heart issue than an intellectual one. We have all been there. How many times have we known an answer but wanted to do things our own way?
Rachel Held Evans once said, “Doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves and matures.”
No, it isn’t. Although it’s quite normal to experience doubt, it certainly isn’t the primary tool God uses to grow us. Our faith “evolves” by being rooted and grounded in the truth. Doubt is nothing more than burdensome weight that holds us down and keeps us from running our race (Hebrews 12:2).
Anne Lamott said, “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.”
When did certainty become a bad thing? When we decided that the ‘narrow’ path Jesus invites us to was somehow not the best path. When you open the door to entertain evil, don’t be surprised when confusion pours in.
“And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.’”
JOB 28:28 NASB
It’s edgy to swim around in the waters of doubt, questioning anything and everything the Word says or commands. If people were once made to feel ashamed for doubting, they are now getting to wear their doubt as a badge of honor in most churches. Neither one is helpful.
So wrestle away dear friends, if that’s what you need to do to come out on the other side of a particular verse or issue… God can handle it! He knew just what to do with Moses, Thomas, Peter, John the Baptist, all of them. The Bible is filled with crazy characters who should have known better, but all struggled with questions. Jesus knows, and He doesn’t hold it against us. Just be careful about thinking that He promoted doubting His words as a way to growth or clarity.
What does He want of us? Not perfection, but not perpetual wrestling for the sake of it either. A heart that longs to submit to His authority is a good start. Staying in the fog because we are uncomfortable with the truth isn’t a solution. Doubting or questioning is natural, it doesn’t mean we are less than anyone else and God says let’s go work this out together. Press on and stay with Him because ‘faith (not doubt or confusion) comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Romans 10:17).
Don’t be offended by the Word. Be offended by the sin that keeps us from knowing and believing it. Dig deep, read commentaries, ask questions, wrestle… but know that everything we do as believers must begin with a humble and contrite heart.
Bow to culture with your arrogant arguments, and you will break the heart of God. Find freedom in Christ, and you will lose the approval of man. We can’t have both, and we need to stop acting as though that is an option.
Wrestle when you have to, but don’t forget to just enjoy being a child of God. Man only makes a mess of things, but “it is God who makes things clear” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on scasefamily.com.
Featured Image by Eberhard Grossgasteiger