Misuse of the Bible

 I was reading a post over at Reclaiming the Mind over the misuse of Matthew 18:20 by a woman who was praying.  I have been trying to not be offended by what I consider a misuse of a verse, because it very well might not be a misuse for them.  Plus, the number of times that Jewish people have told Christians that we are misusing or misinterpreting the Old Testament to prove Jesus is the Messiah, should humble all of us a bit.

This article stood out a bit to me, since I am charismatic and I hear this verse used a lot.  Here is the offending verse:

Mat 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

C. Michael Patton, who wrote the article does a good job at showing how starting in 18:15, Jesus is talking about how to address those who have “sinned” against you.  Jesus says we should first speak to them alone and if that does not work, you should take two or three witnesses to address the issue and hopefully you will regain a brother/sister in Christ.  Patton points out how this is patterned off Deuteronomy 17:6, which directs the use of two or three witnesses.

To Patton, it is wrong for the person to take 18:20 out of the context of dealing with issues like these and instead use it as some sort of prayer formula to get what you want from God.  He even refers to this practice at a form of idolatry.  Many of his readers agree with his stance and liken it to a sort of witchcraft.  I fully agree with what they are saying, if this is indeed being taken out of context, but I have a question about his allegation.

Mat 18:19-20 Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.  (20) For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”

When you include verse 19 into the mix, verse 20 no longer reads as if it is addressing the confrontation of a person who has “sinned” against you, unless you are trying to come together in agreement to ask the Father to do something to this person, which is not very nice.

So, is it really a misuse of the verse or did Patton misread the passage and lump too many verses together? 

One thing that is both empowering and frustrating with the Bible is how we can take a verse or two and apply it to what we are going through.  Now I have seen many passages taken out of context and used for evil against others, so I truly see why context is so important. 

If the Bible is supposed to be the living word of God though, will it always be held to historical context or could the Holy Spirit use a verse or promise in a context that pertains to what you are going through in that moment?  Is that not what we are claiming about the Old Testament?  That God revealed Jesus through it but we can only see that from the power of the Holy Spirit?

For me, I see 18:19-20 as a promise that if several people come together in agreement in prayer, then God would fulfill that request.  I do not see that it means that Jesus is more powerful or more likely to answer us when there is a group, as that would severely restrict the need or practicality of private prayer time.  Instead, I see it as a promise that if several of us can agree on something, meaning that we are in agreement with each other and God, then the prayer would be answered. 

In the Deuteronomy 17:6, these two or three witnesses were staking their life on the claim that the person being accused was in the wrong.  For two or three people to agree in prayer, in theory, these people will be talking to each other and discussing if what they are being asked to agree upon is within the will of God, as they see it.  It is highly unlikely, that you will get two or three people to pray for someone to leave their marriage so that you two can start dating.  It is likely however, that these people will agree on a job to be provided.  I have been asked to “agree” with others in prayer before when I knew what they were asking for was wrong, so maybe additional context is needed.

The Blah Christian Life

My mind keeps trying to process several thoughts lately and they basically all tie in together into one concept and that is the lack of a changed life among many Christians. When I say many, I actually mean most. I am included in on that list, so this is not a case of pointing out someone else’s offense.

One of the big problems we have is the desire to be individuals. We want to maintain the fact that we are who we are and Christ is here to make us better people. A better version of who we were. More righteous maybe, but still the same person. We hear the words that God is doing a good work in us as he conforms us to the image of Jesus, but if you look, there are very few similarities to Jesus at all. They may be the most praying and Bible reading people around, but you never see a full submission to God.

This is one of the biggest problems I have with Christianity. The concept of individuality should not be a part of the belief system. Not sure if I will be able to explain this quite the way I want to, but let me try.

I think it really goes back to salvation. We are each responsible to make the choice in accepting salvation. There is not the ability to just grow up in the church and inherit it or to be born in to it. Each person must make the personal and individual decision to be saved. To accept Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the basis of the Christian faith, but salvation does not adhere to that one person. Salvation is extended and given to the Church. The collection of believers as a whole. While a person might be saved, they are saved because they are a part of the group. For me then, that should extend that we as Christians are not individuals as much as a part of the body of Christ. Our attitudes should reflect that.

Often we see Christians not wanting to be a part of the body. They will go to church and hang out with church people, but you do not see the real transformation that should be occurring. They forsake the holiness of God for a shadow of it that can conform with their lives. Being a Christian gives them some peace of mind of where they will go when they die and they are better people, but they never truly submit to Christ. Jesus is not their Lord and Savior. He just acts more as their savior and a symbol of what they should strive to personify. That is not how it should be.

The holiness of God should transform us. Our lives should be distinctly and drastically different than those around us. I try to envision this and I know it is different for each person. I do not think there is one right version of the holy life, outside of a total dedication and commitment to God. Every area of their life should reflect this attitude. They do not partake in crude jokes or conversations. They love people for no apparent reason and go out of their way to be a blessing to them. Prayer and meditation on God becomes a focus. They do not have check lists to make sure they are being holy. They act this way because they can not conceive of another way of life. God is not a part of their life, He has become their life.