When The Bible Doesn’t Quite Make Sense: Tackling The Tough Passages

When The Bible Doesn’t Quite Make Sense: Tackling The Tough Passages

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I love the Bible. I think it is a beautiful, life-changing and powerful book. I am convinced that it is important for us to read the Bible regularly – and to introduce it to our kids (you can read more on that here).

However, despite its beauty, power and importance, there’s something else about the Bible we need to acknowledge –

It can be hard to understand.

There are many parts of the Bible that I wouldn’t necessarily classify as “kid-friendly.” I’ve been reminded of that over the past few weeks as I’ve been preparing to give Bibles out to kids in our church. A quick glance through some parts of the Old Testament is a reminder that the Bible records acts of violence, immorality and war that are not ‘G-rated.’ Some of its prophecies, psalms and words from Paul are, at first read, confusing and overwhelming.

So what should we do?

Do we simply avoid the hard-to-understand parts?
Keep giving our kids story Bibles until they are in their twenties?
Hope our pastors will deal with all the tough questions?

While all of those are indeed strategies, I’m not convinced they are the best ones. I am convinced that in order for us to fully appreciate the Bible, we must fully engage it. That means opening up the parts that are difficult to read, boring or confusing, and being willing to wrestle with them.

How do we do that? What does it look like?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve been reminded of the importance of doing this over the past week or two. We’ve been working through 1 Peter in our church over the summer, and this past week, I was slated to preach! I had the privilege of walking our church family through Peter’s instructions to slaves and masters, as well as husbands and wives! Talk about an overwhelming text. As I studied and prepared for that message, I was reminded that we can’t just skip over the parts of the Bible that are hard. We need to dive in to them and learn, with God’s help.

Before we dive into these passages with our kids, I think we first need to dive into them ourselves. We need to have a plan of action for wrestling with some of the harder parts of Scripture. Here are some suggestions.

Acknowledge that some parts of the Bible are challenging.

For many of us, the first step in digging into difficult texts is simply acknowledging that they are difficult.

Some of us struggle with pride – and don’t want to admit that there are parts of the Bible we don’t understand.

Some of us have been taught that doubt and questioning aren’t what good Christians do – and admitting we have questions about a particular passage is a challenge.

And some of us have just skimmed past the difficult parts – never engaging or asking the questions because we just don’t want to go there.

Whatever the reason, it’s important for us to acknowledge that yes, some parts of the Bible are challenging. Whether because of the language they use, the events they record, or the concepts they teach, there are some parts of the Bible that will raise questions for us. And that is okay.

Find some good tools to do the digging.

I am so thankful for the wide variety of resources that exist today to allow us to wrestle with the Bible and understand it more deeply. While I believe the Bible on its own is powerful and life-changing, I also believe that finding and using good tools can help us better understand it.

The tools you like best will depend on how you learn and how you are wired, but let me share some of my favourite (affordable!) tools:

  • Blue Letter Bible App: This is one of my go-to apps and sites for quick Bible study. I personally prefer the app, but whatever works for you! You can select your translation, type in the passage you’re looking for, and then select a verse or phrase. You then get loads of options – it shows you the Greek or Hebrew word, what it means, where else it’s found, and some simple commentaries on the verse! It’s a great tool.
  • The Bible Project: I am a HUGE fan of the Bible project! I love their straightforward, simple way of unpacking big Biblical concepts. I regularly watch their videos when I start studying a new book of the Bible. They also provide some great small-group studies, word studies and a really good podcast! I highly recommend this one.
  • Craig Keener: I love Craig Keener – he is one of my favourite biblical scholars. While I recommend ALL of his work (any of his commentaries are amazing!), his blog is a great starting point for quick queries. You can use the search bar to find a particular text or topic, and he unpacks the background precisely and powerfully.
  • Gordon Fee’s books: I was introduced to How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth and How to Read the Bible Book by Book in my undergrad Hermeneutics class. I have referred back to these books time and time again, and recommended them to many friends! They are a great introduction to the different styles of the Bible, the background of the books, and some important ways to read it.

These are just a few of the tools I like to use. There are so many other great ones out there. It’s important to remember though that not every tool is a great one. Everyone comes to the biblical text with a perspective, bias or worldview – so it’s important to understand what that is before you dive into a resource!

Have a great community to wrestle through the questions with.

I am convinced that one of the best ways to wrestle with the tough parts of Scripture is in a safe community of other believers. Whether it’s over coffee with a close friend, a late-night chat with your spouse (okay, maybe I’m the only one who does this), during a small group or a Bible study, you need to find people who can wrestle through the questions with you.

I believe the Bible is best read in community – and the prayerful perspective of other believers can help steady us, guide us and give us wisdom! If you don’t have a community like this, I challenge you to find one. It can be one other person or a group – but this is such an important part of asking the hard questions we often miss.

As we do these things, I believe that while we may not find all the answers – we are on a journey to better understanding the Bible’s more challenging parts. As we do that, we’re in a better place to handle these conversations with our kids – but that’s apost for another time! Stay tuned for next week as we unpack how to tackle these tough passages with our kids!

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