'Just Do What The Bible Says' Doesn't Help Hurting People

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photo by Aaron Burden

She sat near me and shared her story. It was her very own yet it has belonged to many of us at one time or another.

She had confided in a pastor, "I'm having a hard time at home. I don't how I can keep doing this."  As she told me about it, tears stung the bottom corner of her eyelids, like years of an unhappy marriage have stung her life.

Her pastor had simply replied, "You do it because the Bible says to." He left it at that. Or maybe he said something more, but those are the words she remembers. It felt unattainable to her.

Why do well-meaning Christians say this to hurting people? Why do we forego loving kindness and put rules before relationship? It only cements a stereotype that deems "Christians" as narrow-minded. It dismisses the real issues people face. Putting rules before relationship implies we care more about the habit than the heart.

Yet Jesus didn't.

Jesus knew every nook and cranny of the "law" (we now call the Old Testament). But that's not what drove him. Love is what drove him- drove nails straight through his skin and pinned Him there until He died for it.

Relationship; not rules.

Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law, He said so himself. And He does so through relationship - with you and with me. His resurrected life offers us the possibility of His indwelling - that is - deep intimacy between His Spirit and our very own. This relationship is the fire that fuels our desire to follow the rules.

I'm a Bible NERD. I read it, study it, and pray it on a daily basis.  But my love of scripture didn't come first. My surrender did. My admitting that I could barely survive, and never thrive, based on my own striving. First, I asked Jesus, "Come inside and change me."

That's the message we need to offer hurting people. The promise that - when hope feels out of reach, the Author of that hope is - Never. Out. Of. Reach.

Should we do what the Bible says? Absolutely. My own messy life is miraculous proof that submitting to God's Word fosters awesome transformation. It fixes things that, in all my years of "fixing," I could never fix.

But that's not the first thing I'm going to say to someone who is hurting. The first thing I'm going to say is, "I'm deeply sorry you are going through this." The second is, "How can I help?"

Why? Because this is how Jesus helps the hurting. When we hurt, He offers us relationship; not more religion.

As those seeking to live the awesome lives God has for us, shouldn't we do the same? We can steadfastly hold the rules in our hearts and free up our hands to reach out with compassion and understanding.

In other words, we can relate like Jesus. This is how we spread the real Christian message of restoration and love.

Has someone ever dismissed your suffering and told you, "Just do what the Bible says?" If so, how did it make you feel? And what would have been more helpful to you in that situation? Leave a comment.