Perhaps one of the most cinematic scenes in all of Scripture comes in the heart of the book of Jeremiah, chapter 36. Here, the king has received a scroll containing the words of the prophet Jeremiah. As he listens to it being read to him next to the fire, he cuts off the scroll every few lines and burns it up.
And isn't that how we do it, too?
He could have waited. He could have had the entire scroll read to him, then decided it was not worth keeping around for whatever reason and heaved the entire thing into the fire all at once. How dramatic that would have been! What a statement he would have made! It's the way the atheist makes a bold statement and throws the whole Bible out the window, all at once. Or in the garbage.
It's blasphemy, we say. Heinous! How dare someone take the whole word of God and just throw it away? How dare this king set it on fire and destroy it? But the king doesn't do it as a whole; he does it little by little, line by line, piece by piece. Which leaves us crying out, but wait! He hasn't even heard the whole thing yet.
Yet, we're doing exactly the same thing. And we may be doing it more in our current day and age than it has ever been done before (maybe; maybe not). Because we who are Christians take the Bible seriously...but not all of it. We believe it is the Word of God...but there are some things we're not sure about. We preach Jesus...but not all of Him. We talk about the words...but are willing to bend what they mean.
We take our bibles, line by line, and we throw some of them into the fire. Things that don't fit with the life we're trying to live. Or things that the culture finds offensive. Or parts that we find indefensible. We take it and edit it and whittle it down until all that's left is whatever seems palatable and a pile of ashes, and we say that's still okay - that what we have left is the Word of God.
But it is oh, so much less.
And then we try to teach from that, and we can't. We try to live by it, and we can't. We try to love by it, and it's just not possible. We've destroyed so much of it that we haven't heard the whole thing any more. We've tossed so many lines away that what we're left with leaves too many gaps.
Then, the world tells us that our Bible doesn't make any sense, and you want to know something? They're right! It doesn't make any sense. We've edited out the parts of it that make it make sense, that make it radical and revolutionary and remarkable, and it's left us with just a nice neat little story much akin to some kind of fairy tale that makes us smile and feel good and trust in a story that turns out all rainbows and sunshine, but we're missing the meat of it. We're missing the very heart of it.
Because it was difficult, and so we threw it in the fire. Not all at one, but line by line, piece by piece, little by little as it became just too much to bear. And now, without it, not only do we not have the whole story, but we've got nothing. Nothing.
No wonder so many of us are struggling to build a faithful, righteous, sanctified life around that.