Since I was a high schooler I’ve been bugged by what is commonly called “pick and choose” when it comes to the Bible. 30 years later convinces me that (1) we all do this and (2) we need to talk about something underneath it all: HOW we pick and choose. I believe that Christians have always read the Bible carefully and have “discerned” how to live the Bible out in the world today. But this runs smack-dab into the face of perhaps the most common attitude that many Christians think they are using when it comes to “applying” the Bible. Here it is:
1. God says it.
2. I believe it.
3. That settles it.
In The Blue Parakeet
we address this entire issue of picking and choosing (what I’d prefer to call “adopting and adapting”) and how it is that we have learned to apply the Bible. It is a process of discernment. I don’t believe those three numbered points above are how we actually apply the Bible — unless we want to use it has a hammer against someone else.
This is how we apply the Bible most of the time: we see what the Bible says and we discern how to live it out. What we do is try to live out today what we see in the Bible — and we need the guidance of the Spirit in the context of the community in order to do this right.
Take, for an example, footwashing. The text of John 13 clearly shows Jesus expected his followers to wash the feet of others. He didn’t expect them just to do acts of service for one another. But, because of cultural shifts and the like, we “discern” from a specific act (footwashing) and a specific command (to wash feet) that the way to “apply” that today is to take a visitor’s coat, offer them something to drink or eat, and usher them to a comfortable place in our home. That act of “discernment” is what our book explores.
To ask this question means we have to look at some very difficult passages, passages that we read and know deep inside that we don’t practice that verse as it says, and I call these passages “blue parakeet” passages.