Perhaps it is just a sign of the times, but more and more I see only half the Bible getting used. By half, I don’t mean that if your particular edition is 1,432 pages long that we’re only using 716 of them. I’m talking about the dark side of scripture. Not the bad side. There is no bad side to scripture. The dark side.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul reminds us that: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” All scripture, not some scripture. And not only is it useful of teaching, it has utility in rebuking and correcting as well. Identifying and addressing wrongdoing. To me, that means we should use all of it – even the unpleasant stuff. And since January is “All things Bible” I though it prudent to take a look at a few of the darker passages. Especially since this is first and foremost a writing blog, and in writing there must be a balance between darkness and light or there will be no conflict. And if the Bible is anything, it is conflict. Conflict between good and evil, conflict between God and Satan, conflict between God and man, conflict between man and Satan. A classic literary triangle.
I’ll start with the New Testament since, compared to the old Testament, it is quite tame. The heart of the New Testament is Jesus resurrection, as it should be. But there would be no resurrection if Jesus had not been tortured to death by political bureaucrats, far outside the realm of Hebrew Jurisprudence. The beating and death of Jesus was little different than say, a lynching in the Deep South circa 1920, with the Pharisees standing in for the Klan. They may as well have dragged Jesus to death behind a car. And don’t forget John the Baptist’s “head on a platter.” We’ve all heard the story but we might have forgotten the imagery – guards brought John’s head, on a platter, for everyone to see. Then there’s the way Jesus life got started, amid the slaughter of babies his age. I’m just scratching the surface. These aren’t stories. They are things that happened, complete with the blood and stench of death. But the horror isn’t just physical, it is spiritual as well.
We have a feel-good culture these days. We’re supposed to be tolerant. Live and let live. If it feels good, it is good. Sadly, this has crept into our Westernized version of Christianity and we’ve created a feel-good God. And while God is all about love, his love is not what our culture calls love. In 1 John 5:13, John tells us that, “To love God is to obey his commandments.” In some cases, God’s patience with man’s bad behavior runs out with chilling consequences. Remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts Chapter 5? The happy couple, seeing the praise heaped upon others for their charitable contributions to the Apostles, sought to cheat God by claiming they were giving all, but keeping part of their land proceeds for themselves. They were both struck dead for their lie. Can you imagine the shock of those watching? Luke tells us that “Great fear seized the whole church and all those who heard about these events.” Ya think?
God’s patience does have a limit. In 2 Thessalonians Paul describes an attitude so depraved, and so resistant to the truth, that God actually sends these stubborn people a delusion so they will go on believing their lie and so be judged for the wickedness. Translation: God is going to make sure they go to Hell for their wickedness. I find a disturbing resemblance between this condition and what we’re seeing in our nation today.
Of course, the Old Testament is on an entirely different level. It begins with the entire population of the Earth being wiped out because all of their thoughts were constantly on evil. Entire cities were destroyed by fire and brimstone. God commanded his people to slaughter the entire population of opposing cities right down to the chickens. Plagues. Famines. Blood, blood, and more blood. I only hope that our own culture repents before God’s judgement is unleashed upon us.
Everything Bible. It’s a sobering thought. Unlike writers, God doesn’t pull any punches. Many is the manuscript I’ve read where the writer beautifully sets up a scene, and then is afraid to pull the trigger. The beautifully orchestrated scene falls flat. Well, God allowed his own son to die because he so loved the world. The motivation was love. The sacrifice was ultimate. It radically altered the course of human events.
In today’s writing prompt I want to encourage you to “pull the trigger.” This is an exercise. We’re not going for feel-good here. We’re going for darkness. For what is light without darkness? That is the problem with our society, isn’t it? We have no problems. Sickness has been largely conquered. Widespread hunger is a thing of the past. No marauding barbarians. How can you write a story designed to inspire without the counter balance of darkness?
Today’s Writing Prompt:
The river was wide here, like a broad, flat street lying between the towering walls of the canyon on either side. Josiah looked around the tiny raft upon which huddled his two sisters and his ma, while his pa worked the crude tiller trying to keep the raft in the middle and away from the jagged boulders on either side. They knew what was coming from the stories of other settlers. People who’d turned back when their parties were whittled from a dozen to less than half that. The telltale roar of rapids reverberate to them through the canyon, telling them what was around the next bend.
Find out more about John at his website: johncbrewer.com