Some Uncomfortable Scripture

Unless it’s unavoidable, we humans are really good at ignoring things that make us uncomfortable. Near the beginning of the pandemic, I swore off network news as it was providing 24 hours of scary data and uncomfortable stories. I found myself numbly scrolling through social media, saddened by the state of the world. My anxiety was heightened and I just wanted to escape. And, as I said, I’m good at ignoring it, and I had the privilege of being separated enough by it that I could.

Now, the 24-hour news cycle focus is on a different uncomfortable situation – the response of sadness and anger at the latest manifestation of police brutality disproportionately aimed at black bodies. And, again, because of my privilege, I have the urge and the ability to try and look away.

To think through this with you all on this blog, I need to depend on what I am able to do well. I’m not a politician, I’m not a community organizer, I’m not a police officer. I’m a pastor, a public theologian, meaning I am tasked with reading and sharing Scripture to help us make sense of the world and our place in it, to display the Kingdom of God truths, to equip fellow disciples to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

To do so, I need to lean into the uncomfortable portions of Scripture instead of ignoring them, as I’m tempted to do with the news. These uncomfortable texts may speak to us more meaningfully as we are in an uncomfortable situation. Often, we turn to Scripture for hope in times of discomfort. These texts may provide that in places, but they spend more time calling out unjust leaders, showing the truth and pain of injustice, and calling us all to repent.

So, I’d like to invite you to join me in putting away the privilege of being able to avoid the discomfort. We’ll begin with the minor prophets. This collection of writings at the end of the Old Testament is called the ‘minor prophets’ because they are shorter texts than other prophetic texts like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and not because they are less important. The prophets have the holy task of speaking truth to power and calling for repentance, which makes them really uncomfortable texts. And yet, the living God spoke through these prophets and preserved their words to reach us in the 21st century, so we need to listen.

Open up your Bible, and take the time to read one of these books. I’d recommend Hosea, Amos, or Micah. As you read, use these reflection questions to guide you:

  1. What truth is God speaking that is specific to the time and place of the prophets? I.e. God sending specific plights to specific places.
  2. What truth is God speaking that is more universal, truth that shines light on what I see today in the world? I.e. a contempt for political and religious leaders who uphold tradition while neglecting justice (Amos 5:23-24).
  3. In a book like Micah, which houses a text we use at Christmas to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah (Micah 5:2), how do messianic texts sound in the context of the whole book?
  4. What is God showing us (the target audience of prophets are often people groups and nations, not just individuals) when we resist the urge to turn our faces away from the uncomfortable texts and situations?
  5. What emotions do these books evoke in me as I read them?

I would encourage you to write down thoughts, prayers, and questions that come up as you wrestle with these questions and texts. I’d also encourage you to reach out to me with reflections or clarifying questions, perhaps these blog reflections could turn into larger discussions and Bible studies.

May God bless you as you brave these uncomfortable texts.

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