Come one, come all, to the gold-paved streets of freedom. For too long, you’ve heard every Bible phrase cited as an absolute because it’s convenient for the legalists and religious tyrants who crave control. But it is not so. There are many Bible verses which can be ignored in many circumstances.
By what authority do I say you can ignore something in the Bible? Why, the Bible, of course!
1. Judge Not.
Matthew 7:1–“Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Old-school lingo).
Let’s start with a classic, used by Christians and non-Christians alike to dodge the bullet of you-dun-messed-up. “Hey, you can’t judge me, Bible says so!”
Actually, it says “Do not judge, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
This isn’t about declaring what’s right or wrong; it’s about hypocrisy and condemnation. It’s “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, thus sayeth the Lord.” You have every right to point out evil. Just remember that God will point out yours, too.
2. Women can’t lead
1 Timothy 2:12–“I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. Let them listen quietly.”
Sounds pretty cut-and-dry sexist, right? Until you read the book of Judges and find God brought up a woman named Deborah to be a judge right alongside a history of men. So clearly this is not an absolute rule.
Why have it at all? Well, remember that this was a single letter to a single man in a single church. Some scholars think that church was having trouble with women twisting the gospel.
So if women cause trouble, they’re told “Shut up.” If men cause trouble, they get killed (Saul, David, 98% of the kings of Israel…). So not fair (#justjokingpleasedontkillme)
3. Women should submit
Ephesians 5:22, Peter 3:1–“Wives, submit to your husbands.” (roughly paraphrased)
Somehow, this got turned into “Women, submit to all men.” Again…Deborah.
This is a command for wives of husbands, not women in general, and even that isn’t absolute. A Christian woman’s first allegiance is to God, not her husband or anybody. And more than that, Peter’s command tells men to treat their wives properly so that “your prayers may not be hindered.”
Translation: You mistreat your wife, she can cut off your contact with God. Snap!
4. Obey Authority
Romans 13:11a–“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
The one that’s been used to oppress Native Americans, black people, gays, and anybody else who wasn’t part of the status quo. Cuz Jesus.
Except that early church totally defied every single order to shut up about Jesus. Jesus himself defied the Pharisees. He also resurrected, which technically means he defied the Roman order to die.
Dissenters appear all throughout the Bible and the chronicles of good and righteous men. At some point, God tells us to choose between him and the “governing authorities.”
5. Turn the Other Cheek
Matthew 5:39–“But I say to you, do not resist and evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other also.”
If this was absolute, God would have no power to judge sin. All sin is a slight against him, so shouldn’t God turn the other cheek and let everyone into Heaven?
No. Because this verse is about asserting squelching revenge, not justice. It’s about forgiveness and longsuffering. It’s not a command to bend over and spread your cheeks for everyone who asks.
Jesus is not above hyperbole.
6. Sell All You Have
Luke 18:22a–“Sell everything you have and give it to the poor…”
That citation alone should tell you the importance of context. This is not a command to every single Christian to give all their crap to Goodwill and live in a box. It’s an extreme lesson in generosity, one that first and foremost applied to this rich young ruler, who it seems had a lot of value in his wealth.
It’s also not the Gospel of Joel Osteen, where you give to his ministry, then pop open your umbrella for the rain of diamonds sure to come. Give because you want to.
Generosity is good. Driving your family to your new home under the bridge–complete with burning trash can–probably a little zealous.
7. Dress Appropriately
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Okay, to be fair, God did give us clothing to cover our nakedness and there are many verses about what to wear. However, God also made our bodies, so we shouldn’t think of them as completely evil. And the clothing verses are so culture-specific that it’s hard to find one that’s still relevant!
The whole thing is about modesty as not to entice lust. Three problems:
a. Modesty comes from the inside out, not just clothing.
b. Different cultures, times, and peoples have different ideas on modesty.
c. Modesty cannot combat lust. Fully-dressed women have been ogled, raped, and otherwise dishonored.
Christians need to be more concerned with self-discipline than clothing. Just because a woman’s bulbous cleavage is spilling out of her baby sister’s tank top doesn’t mean the dairy farm is open.
8. Don’t look like the world.
[Too many verses to count]
All throughout the Bible, Christians are called to be different. As a result, Christians have shut themselves up in little hobbit holes marked by what they don’t do rather than what they do.
“Don’t cuss, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex until you’re married, limit marital sex as much as possible, actually just never let anyone know you have a sex drive whatsoever, don’t play video games, don’t watch R-rated movies, don’t do art because they paint naked people, don’t listen to any music except Casting Crowns, don’t play sports if you’re not going to point to the sky or do a Tebow, don’t go to public school, don’t read comic books, don’t read anything but Amish fiction, and don’t eat anywhere that isn’t Chik-fil-A.”
They forget we have to live here. They forget extremes are not norms. They forget that everybody’s walk is different. They forget that if we want to save souls, we have to go find them. And they forget that Jesus himself was accused of being being a drunkard, a glutton, and a demoniac.
Just because the world does something does not make it automatically bad. Just because I like rock and metal doesn’t mean I play records backwards so I can research Satanic prayers. Just because a man drinks doesn’t make him a drunk. Just because a woman wears a flattering dress does not make her a crusty ho-bag.
We aren’t called to hide from the world. We’re called to go into it and make it better. Make better art, better businesses, better company, better friends, better worlds. To do that, you have to hop in. Don’t fret; you can find Jesus in bars, pot shops, and strip clubs. Or at the very least, you can bring him there.
Did I miss any?