On Cherry-Picking Scripture

I suppose I would count myself as a ‘liberal’ in my theological standpoint. It would appear to others that I consider it fair game to look in Scripture for passages that support my point of view – or even that I particularly like –  while ignoring passages that don’t quite fit with my thinking. This is called ‘cherry-picking’ scripture.

I would answer that by saying that, first of all, the conclusions I arrive at in my thoughts and studies tend to take into account all that I understand about the historical and literary contexts of the passages in question. And you probably know by now that my emphasis is usually on letting believers enjoy the total freedom that Jesus bought for us on the Cross. So the reason I am writing this today is to try to release fellow believers into a Bible-guided life that is full of freedom, but which they can enjoy with a clear conscience. Many believers seem to think that the Bible must be followed word-for-word as a Book of Rules, and of course there are people who interpret those Rules for us and impose them on their fellow believers (and incidentally, in so doing, they too cherry-pick the Scriptures that support their Rules, and ignore those that dont!) The Bible is not a book of Rules; however, and for those who have difficulty in coming to terms with that concept, I would offer here Biblical evidence, from your book of Rules, that support my point of view, which is that Scripture can be – and indeed on occasion should be – cherry-picked.

The Bible is a complex volume of writings, and much of it is written in a contradictory style similar to the Hebrew style of argument. We are encouraged to wrestle with the Bible in order to extract from it what God is saying to us right now. I have written on this at some length in this article and I recommend you read that too.

You see, Jesus Himself cherry-picked Scripture and used certain bits as He wanted to.

For example, Jesus Himself said (in Matthew 5:21, 31 and indeed several times in that passage), ‘You have heard that it is written, [do this], but I say to you [do something else]. He took a Scripture and interpreted it in His own way to make the point He was putting forward. He was not afraid to countermand an existing, established Scripture where He felt it gave the wrong impression of God’s Love.

And as for the passage where He said this (from Isaiah 61:1-2/Luke 4:18):

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”

…He deliberately omitted the following part of verse 2 (Isaiah 61:2b) about ‘…and the day of vengeance of our God….’ [and incidentally this is why His own people rejected Him there and then – because they were looking forward to the ‘liberating Messiah’ verse which He deliberately didn’t use]

So, He used the good bit of the verse – about being nice to people – and omitted the bit about the Vengeance stuff. How’s that for cherry-picking? Jesus Himself cherry-picked Scripture!

In both these ways, Jesus showed that the correct way to interpret Scripture is always through a lens of love, not a lens of unpleasantness. And He showed that the Bible is in fact intended for our use, not for our imprisonment.

So, if you find a particular Bible passage hard to understand, leave it for now. Come back to it later and you may well understand it then. Or not; maybe it’ll be even later. But in the meantime, live in the blessings of God’s promises you’ve already found, and know that yes, you are allowed to cherry-pick!

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