“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
I never read the Bible alone. Instead, there’s a squeaky voice tucked away in my head that likes to tag along. For the most part, it hums along in time with the steady cadence of Scripture, just waiting. But when something challenging pops up, something that pushes against the way I’m living, the tiny warble begins.
Brace yourselves because I’m taking you inside here.
Me: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires
The Warbler: You don’t need to worry about that. It says “old self.” You’re all brand-spanking new in here. Just ignore that.
Me: to be made new in the attitude of your minds
The Warbler: See. That’s totally you—new times two. Nothing left in here but soapy clean suds.
Me: and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The Warbler: Being like God? Yeah, right! That’s impossible. Not what that verse means. You can only do what you can do. Don’t worry about it. Next!
Me: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
The Warbler: Oh, man! You’re a truthfulness beast of awesome.
Me: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
The Warbler: That doesn’t mean you have to be nice all the time. Do you really want people stomping all over you? You’ve gotta push back and give them some smack when they need it.
Me: Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
The Warbler: All? Pshaw! After the way you acted yesterday, that’s obviously a ridiculous goal.
Me: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
The Warbler: Eh, just focus on the Christ forgiving you part. It’s all about you, right?
Okay, okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration. But from the conversations I’ve had, I don’t think I’m the only one who has such a voice that “helps” interpret Scripture. We all come to the Bible with certain ingrained expectations about ourselves, the world, and God. But God’s Word tends to sandpaper over them… a lot.
Not surprisingly, we push back. We justify trouble spots in our own lives and shift the tough passages to “worry about later” or “not about me” lists. I know I’m good at that.