by Will Johnston
“The Bible says that the wages of sin is death.”
“The Bible says Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”
“The Bible says unless you repent, you will perish.”
“The Bible says…”
I sometimes cringe when I hear those words. It’s not because I don’t believe the Bible. I do.
I cringe when Christians say them to people who don’t believe the Bible. Think for a second about how you view religious texts you don’t believe. If someone were to quote the Koran to you, how would you respond? Would your thought be, “Oh, wow. It was written in the Koran, so it must be true!”?
I’m guessing not. You’d probably be skeptical. You’d evaluate the statement against your own set of beliefs, but you wouldn’t be any more convinced of its truth just because it came from the Koran. Quite the contrary, the fact that it came from the Koran might actually make you more skeptical.
So if we’re not convinced when someone quotes from a religious text we don’t believe is reliable, why would someone who doesn’t think the Bible is reliable be convinced when we quote from it?
So how do we use Scripture with people who aren’t convinced it’s true?
Well, first, we share our own experience and relate the Bible to our lives.
If I’m having a conversation with someone about a business deal, and they mention that they’re considering cutting corners to make more money, I could quote Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”
Or, I could talk about how I try to run my business with integrity, and how that has worked out better for me in the long run. I might throw in that initially I acted with integrity because of what the Bible teaches, and I’ve continued because I’ve found that it works out better when I do.
The great part about the Bible isn’t just that it’s true. It’s that it works. When we follow what we find in the Bible, things do work better in the long run. And when we can show others how it has worked in our lives and keep the focus on the decisions we’ve made rather than using it to tell someone else what they should or shouldn’t do, people are usually a lot more receptive.
Second, we share Biblical teachings that will resonate with people.
If we catch a coworker lying to their boss, quoting Proverbs 12:22 will probably just make them feel judged and upset them. It might be true, but it’s not helpful.
But if we’re having a conversation about homelessness in our community, and we talk about how Jesus told his followers to care for the poor (Matthew 25), the end result will likely be that people think of Jesus and people who follow Jesus as the kind of folks who care about those in need.
Or if we’re having a conversation about what to do when someone wrongs you, and we talk about how Jesus stressed the importance of forgiveness, perhaps we can help change the perception that Christians are judgmental and help them understand that we serve a God of second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances.
The goal isn’t to hide the more difficult to accept parts of the Bible, but those parts tend to make a lot more sense in context. When we pull them out and present them as truth to someone who doesn’t know Jesus without the larger context, we often just put people off.
So, keep bringing the Bible into your conversations, but when people aren’t sure the Bible is true–and that may be some of the people in your small group–don’t just quote it at them, reference Biblical teachings in a way that helps them begin to see the Bible as both true and useful.