I’m one of those people who can see two sides to every argument. Sometimes that’s an advantage but often it leads to terrible indecisiveness.
In the 1980s, during the Miners’ Strike, the singer Billy Bragg penned a song entitled “Which Side Are You On?” The theme of the song was that you either sided with the miners or with the government, but not both. But the thing is, I have always been able to see some truth in both of their arguments. And both sides were too intransigent.
For Lent this year, I’m reading through the New Testament in 40 days. Yesterday I was reading Matthew 3 and I came to this verse:
“He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” Matt 3:12 NLT
I’ve read that part before, but this time it made me sit up and pay attention.
You see there’s a lot of what Jesus said and did that is comforting and pleasant to read. That our Father on heaven loves us, that Jesus will carry our burdens, that we don’t have to worry about where our provision will come from, and so on.
But then there’s the tough stuff too. The parts about judgment and eternal damnnation for those who aren’t saved. Passages like Matthew 3:12 are not easy reading. Jesus never meant them to be.
A little later on, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says this:
“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me…” Matt 12:30(ff) NLT
And there it is, the point hammered home. You’re either with him, or you’re against him.
You either believe both the pleasant passages and the tough ones, or none at all.
We can be guilty of skirting around, or rationalising away, the harder parts of the Bible. And we must still be diligent and not fall into the lazy theology of thoughtless literal interpretation. Considering the audience and context is vital.
But there it is in black and white. No room for indecision, for seeing both sides of the argument. For taking some of scripture as true and rejecting the less palatable parts.
I’m only two days into this journey back through the NT and I’m already this challenged! I asked Jesus to reveal himself in new ways through my reading and he certainly has done.
But no matter how uncomfortable it made me feel, I know where my faith and loyalties still lie.
It’s something we all need to ask ourselves. What about you? Which side are you on?