Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Harsh Words in the Bible

Last Sunday I preached a particular sermon about mercy and how we, as Christians are to engage it. I also gave some examples when we're NOT very merciful and on a couple of occasions, I said some shocking things. Admittedly that was on purpose--it was meant to keep us attentive to the need to reflect on our own shortcomings when it comes to being merciful to others.

I noticed a few of you wince with one particular example. Interestingly, no one commented after the sermon about my shocking examples. But I readily saw and felt your response during the sermon.

And so today I discovered a fortuitous example of using harsh or hard-to-hear words and examples found in the Bible. Below is a video from Mark Driscoll about such language (he is often fond of using it in his sermons and often feels the affects from those who hear it and hate it).

h/t to Todd Littleton for this video.


Luke said...

Does God use harsh words or is it the writers of these stories? I guess it goes down to what we think the Bible is... inspired in the reading or the writing or both?!

I really agree with that guy and in your use of shocking examples... i'd love to read that sermon if you can post it!


Gabe said...

Haven't heard your sermon, Bo, but I'm a HUGE Driscoll fan. Gotta say I don't mind the harsh language, because I think it "untames" the gospel and communicates it the way Jesus intended. I have used the "bloody tampon"/our righteousness analogy in one of my sermons and it really shocked people! But that's exactly what Scripture says...

In response to Luke, I would say that yes, Jesus used some VERY harsh language in the gospels. To quote Driscoll, Jesus basically told the Pharisees that their mom shagged the devil! Remember when he told them their father was Satan?

As far as the rest of the authors, Scripture was written by inspiration, not dictation. God used the distinct personality flavors and communication styles of each writer to reach a specific group. So yes, their flair came through, to be sure. But God used it and approved it.

Luke said...

i knew i recognized Mark Driscoll! he's got some good ideas and some really dumb ones.. here's an example of a dumb one:

""There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity."

here we see driscoll acting like a cave man. Driscol takes the power of Jesus and makes it into a power that this world can understand... a pissed off guy who's spoiling for a fight he knows he can't lose. that is EXACTLY the power Jesus fought AGAINST! namely the Roman Empire. The same empire that was taken down by Jesus' theology of programmatic nonviolence and covenant with neighbor.

Jesus' power is in the fact that you CAN beat him up bodily, but he'll keep getting back up and offering you forgiveness. you CAN'T beat his spirit nor knock him off his course, even in the face of death. that's true power.

@gabe: where does Jesus use a "your mama" joke on the Phraisees? Must be using a different translation than i am.

Bo said...


Wow, Driscoll said that about Jesus?!'re spot on Luke, I see Jesus as you do.

Still, people see him in so many ways, usually supporting their worldviews. I suppose one challenge we face is discovering the lens by which we both are edified by Christ's words as well as challenged, then we're in a better position to be transformed ourselves.

While I think tattoos on Jesus would be cool, I don't like the sword in hand analogy at all. And, saying that if Jesus were a hippie, then he'd be easier to 'beat up' sounds sophmoric and juvenile to me.

No wonder Driscoll is so controversial. Thanks for sharing this!

Gabe said...

Luke-- I see your point. Jesus said it himself, that He came to serve rather than be served, and give his life as ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). Jesus came to earth as the Suffering Servant, and we see His greatest power as He washes the disciples' feet and embraces His Father's will in the Garden of Gethsemane. So yes--His power is not the way we usually think of it. Men usually hide their weakness with outward expressions of "power"; Jesus redefined power by surrendering it to the will of the Father and coming to earth as a man. There was no weakness in him. Humility is not weakness; it's power under control.

I think Driscoll is trying to update Christ's resume, so to speak, by pointing out that He will not return as a marginalized Galilean peasant or a helpless baby in a manger, but rather as a conquering King. I think he's trying to correct the perception that says because Christ came in weakness, He must BE weak. When Christ is seen this way, His commands are not taken seriously. His call is not heeded. And men like Mark (and myself) cannot follow an internally weak man. Paul said it this way: "...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death" (Philippians 3:10). In other words, to truly know Christ is to know His power AND the humility in which He suffered. One without the other is out of balance. Indeed, it is Christ power that enables us to suffer. Does that make sense? In that light, I agree with Driscoll's commentary. Christians need to know how big their God is.

And the "your momma" joke was creative license; it's not spelled out in the text! ;) Driscoll emphasized the implications of what Jesus said, trying to explain why He was so offensive to religious people.

Bo-- ah, the conversation begins! ;)The lens you speak of (through which one views Jesus) MUST be the Word of God, the Bible. Without that standard, people are free to worship the Jesus of their own choosing--which is dangerous.

Bo said...

I love this dialogue but remember, this is a church blog, so be nice. It's for interesting tidbits discussed in and around the church's faith tradition. If you want a freer opportunity to rant, go to my personal blog. Email me and I can give that info to you. My email is

On a side note, and since you brought it up, Gabe, according to the Bible, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:14) not the Bible itself. The Bible contains the words of God, yes (or those we attribute as such).. but it isn't the Word of God specifically.

You said, "Without that standard, people are free to worship the Jesus of their own choosing--which is dangerous." I ask you, who is this dangerous to?

There are already a plethora of different interpretations of Jesus. Even with the Bible being the standard by which one interprets God, so many traditions, so many denominations, so much religious crap bantering back and forth. Everyone seems to think their Jesus is worth fighting, killing, and dying for. As a result, it all makes me wonder if believing in a Biblical standard of Jesus isn't dangerous in and of itself. It sounds like Driscoll might enjoy that. Luke and I don't.

In a very real sense, I wonder how those who were tortured during the witch hunts, the Inquisition, and those expelled from houses of worship would interpret what is really 'dangerous'?

Luke said...

"we both are edified by Christ's words as well as challenged, then we're in a better position to be transformed ourselves." -Bo

absolutely! Christ is both loving and challenging! what a hard line to walk, but Jesus does it with such grace (pun intended) that I can't help but stare in wonder and try (poorly) to mimic. thanks for the response.

" I agree with Driscoll's commentary." -Gabe

i can't. anyone who reads the gospels can see Jesus' power is not of this world, so Driscoll's caveman "Man's-Man" depiction of Christ is both offensive and extremely off the mark. it's so off the mark, it borders on dangerous.