Lately I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to judge the entire character of a person based on an isolated comment on social media – especially if it’s related to politics. All the assumptions you can make, the stereotypes, the judgments, come easily. Intent and inflection are utterly lost.
I was talking to my mom recently about how hard it’s been to maintain certain friendships since Trump was elected, and which political views, if any, ought to be considered relationship dealbreakers. She said something that really got me thinking (I forget sometimes that she still has much to teach me): “There are some people I’ve made a conscious effort to keep in touch with even if I find some of their politics abhorrent, because I have the ability to see the whole person. The same people who voted for Trump also made meals for us when your father was sick, walked our dogs, and helped out in other ways when they didn’t have to. I have to think that there’s still goodness in them.”
I have the ability to see the whole person. The whole picture. In a roundabout way, I realized that that is the same way I feel about the Bible: some parts, like the rape, the genocide, and misogynistic laws, I find abhorrent. Other parts, like the Psalms, the Beatitudes, and parables, are beautiful.
But when it comes to people, you can’t discard the parts you don’t like – you take them or leave them as they are. And the Bible is the same way.
In the same way that long-term relationships allow you to see the entirety of a person, flaws and all, we have the ability to see the bigger picture that Scripture points to. We can see the good, the bad, and the ugly laid bare between two covers. There is beauty and ugliness and progressive steps forward and regressive steps back, but with an arc that bends toward justice — towards the good.
With people, we can see their progressive revelation, if you will, from young and naïve to mature and well-rounded. We witness their bad choices and how they learned from them. We see how they can screw up and still do good things.
And in biblical history, we see how the influences of a violent and patriarchal culture affect Israel’s understanding of God, and how He worked through them anyway, because He, too, saw the Bigger Picture. The entirety of what they were and what they could be.
Maybe that’s a simplistic way of looking at it, but that conversation gave me much to think about. I don’t expect people to be perfect before I can love them, and I don’t need the Bible to be a warm and fuzzy book throughout in order to still be useful for teaching, rebuking, and growing.