“If you need a bible verse to show you that murder is wrong, there is something wrong with you.”  I busted out laughing when I heard that comment in a recent podcast,  http://thegodjourney.com, 11/6/2009 episode. The participants were talking about our attitude that everything we say about God, morality, etc.  needs to be backed up by scripture. They also were making the point that many/most believers believe that the scriptures are the primary way to have a relationship with God, and then ask the question about all the illiterate believers and those with a copy of the bible. They also rightly make the point that you can “prove” almost any point you want by “pulling a scripture here and pulling a scripture there.”

A watershed moment in my walk with God was when I realized that well-studied, well-intentioned believers come up with very different doctrinal views. These are people that exhibit good fruit in their lives, not out to pull the fleece over the eyes of poor, ignorant people. It was a watershed moment because I grew up in a tradition that believed that the scriptures would always lead people to the same belief/understanding of at least the core tenants of doctrine: baptism, salvation, sanctification, eternity, whatever. Now I realize that that is not true.

In a recent meeting with some believers where we were discussing where to draw the line on fellowship based on doctrinal beliefs/teaching, I said it was God’s “fault” that there is so much division amongst believers. If God wanted to, he could have produced a Bible that would lead all “well-studied, well-meaning” believers to the same conclusion on doctrine. At this point, I think God left it as vague as he did to test our love for one another. At least that is one of the reasons. I’m sure there are many other reasons.

Jeremiah 31:34 has been ringing in my ears over the last few years and months especially as this subject of Bible interpretation/application keeps coming up in conversation.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

How can we complain if people come to different conclusions about God and his will in their life? There is, of course, much to be said about teaching and admonishing one another, about false doctrine, etc. But when it comes to disagreements between “well-studied, well-meaning” believers, we must give each other space out of love.