We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 1 Corinthians 4:2
While taking Gross Anatomy in medical school, our education and testing was all done with cadavers – donated human bodies. It was a hands-on experience during which I learned to identify muscles, nerves, and blood vessels by touching everything. Before one test though, we were explicitly instructed not to touch the exhibit for one specific question. When I got to that body part and question, there was even a little sign by it saying, “DO NOT TOUCH”. I understood the rule, but still, I needed to move the specific nerve to be able to identify it. As I touched it, I looked up to see the professor glaring at me. Despite knowing the rule, I employed my selective hearing and simply ignored it for my own purposes. That rule applies to others, not me. My professor was not impressed.
I often read the Bible like this. When I come across a passage that condemns pride or hypocrisy, I immediately think of ten other people to which it applies. As I meditate on a verse, planning to write on it the next day, I find myself thinking about how those individuals should, but will never read tomorrow’s blog entry. It’s a lesson I need to learn repeatedly, but when I find myself thinking like this, I must turn my attention from others and focus on my own deficiencies. What is God saying about my life in this passage?
It’s often tempting as Christians to practice selective hearing in reading the Bible. We read about sins with which we don’t struggle, and we embrace those verses, condemning the failures and struggles of others. When we get to the parts that address our flaws – pride, lust, greed, selfishness – we turn our attention to those who are worse than us. When it comes to parts about loving our neighbors or helping the poor, we simply ignore Jesus’ commands. We pick and choose passages, employing selective hearing, tampering with God’s word, making it fit our view of the world.
In reading the Bible, I must always point it first at my own life. As I daily read and pray, I force myself to ask what it is that God is saying to me. What do you want me to get out of this? What do I need to work on? God may well use me to speak into the lives of my neighbors, but first, I must always be transformed by his word myself.