The Bible is not “hate speech”.
The now infamous Instagram post by former rugby player Israel Folau, in which he quoted from the Bible, resulted in his sacking and an ongoing legal battle.
Bible Society Australia does not support or reject Mr Folau’s decision to use the Bible in this manner. However, we are concerned by suggestions that even photocopying the same passage from the Bible would have been equally a problem.
The Bible should not be used as a weapon. The Apostle Paul writing in the New Testament reminds Christians to “let your gentleness be known to all” (Philippians 4:5). But nor should it be censored.
While some of the concepts presented in these sacred texts might seem out of step for our contemporary culture, Christians do not simply reject them. Instead, we seek to study, interpret, consider, pray over the Scriptures considering them within our own context as well as the context in which they were written. We wrestle with them!
The Scriptures are not meant to make me feel comfortable. The Bible challenges the wealthy. The proud. The greedy. The unjust. Those who gossip. Who spread untruths. The powerful who ignore the needs of the powerless. It challenges governments and rulers who ignore God at their peril. And it even discusses sexual morality.
The Bible makes clear that all of us – that is every single person on this planet – are imperfect! We all fall short of the glory of God. Does that shock you? It doesn’t shock me. I know how imperfect I am!
But the Bible is about humanity’s relationship with God. It captures the flaws and the beauty of people. It is ultimately about God’s love through his Son Jesus Christ, but it also presents a way of living, that at its ideal is selfless and focussed on ‘the other’. This is summarised in the two great commandments, “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31)
None of us live up to this ideal – Christians and non-Christians alike – but it shouldn’t stop us striving for it. Part of that striving is in the dialogue, in our shared values and in our pluralism. Society is more likely to flourish when it listens to different voices.
Bible Society’s mission for the last 202 years has been to champion the Bible to share the love of Jesus. We advocate for the ongoing voice and wisdom of the Bible, as one of these voices in our society.
Melissa Lipsett is Acting CEO of Bible Society Australia