The first time I read the Bible cover-to-cover, I was shocked by what I found. I thought I would have to wrestle with a condemning, torturous God who set the bar impossibly high in order to harm as many people as possible. That’s a common message in some quarters, is it not?
Instead, I found evidence of an expansive, loving God who desires our awareness and genuine love in return.
It was a simple, inexpensive King James Version. Yes, I did sense a harshness in some of the stories, couched as they were in ancient English. But for every verse on condemnation, I found dozens on forgiveness and leniency. For every statement of prejudice, I found dozens on inclusiveness and equality in the eyes of God. I noticed passages commonly used to endorse cruelty were actually there to document ancient crudeness, not to promote it.
What’s going on? Aren’t we all reading the same Bible? The KJV is another imperfect human attempt at translating inspired scripture, erring on the side of sternness where other attempts are accused of leniency. Even so, if I can find more love than hate even in the KJV, why do so many use it to condemn?
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” — John 3:19.
I think it really is that simple. In our fallen state, we love to condemn, set ourselves above others, and see ourselves among the elite chosen ones. If I devalue myself, I’m more inclined to set others even lower in an attempt to feel better.
I will continue to preach the love of God, because I am convinced that it is the correct message. I am convinced by the same Bible used to condemn people and condone hatred. I am instructed to avoid condemning anyone, so I gleefully dwell in the light!
By Joel Tucker
Joel Tucker is senior pastor at Tropical Sands Christian Church. He served as associate pastor five years and became senior pastor in 2006. Currently, he also serves as moderator of the Southern District, Florida Region. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Auburn University. He enters ministry after 20 years in corporate communications and five years of computer programming. In worship, he plays sax, bass, uke, squeezebox and bass fiddle.