Every Wednesday and Sunday I drive past a billboard that tells drivers that they “deserve more than 15 minutes.” It’s an ad placed by a local agent of a rival of the insurance company that invites consumers to give them 15 minutes and save 15% of more on auto policies.

The billboard bothers me because it’s such a bad misreading or even misrepresentation of the intent of the company’s slogan. The idea isn’t that a potential client will only be given 15 minutes. Instead, it’s the consumer who is so busy he or she only has 15 minutes. It’s a promise to give something worthwhile without a lot of hassle, energy or time.

The local insurance agent, trying to get business away from a national company, represented them as saying something they did not intend. He’s like a good many people of a certain theological stripe who purport to be Bible believers. Yes, they read the Bible, know its stories, can quote “chapter and verse,” and have a prooftext for everything. But they haven’t really listened to what the scriptures say. They come to them with their minds already made up, clouded with cultural prejudices. The prooftexts they cite are pretexts for their own animosity and hatred and fear.

A blog I read recently put the matter succinctly. These folks are reading the Bible accurately, said the author (Aaron Taylor), but they are reading it in the wrong spirit. Whatever we find in Scripture must be read through the lens of Jesus, the Word of God. How did he live? What did he teach? How did he read his own scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament?

The blogger cited the story of a couple of Jesus’ disciples who wanted to call down fire from heaven on a town, like Elijah did. “[T]he disciples took the story literally, meaning they believed that the story applied to them in their day in the same way that it applied to another people at another time and place.

“And Jesus nailed them for it.

“Jesus said, ‘You don’t know what kind of spirit you are of’” (see footnote).

When we use the Bible to justify our hatred and rejection of those who are different, our oppression and disdain of our neighbors, our pursuit of our own selfish agendas (religious or political), then we are misreading it. We have the wrong spirit.

That’s so obvious it’s as if it were plastered on a highway billboard.

Note: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-taylor/was-jesus-a-fundamentalist_b_1504987.html

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.