By Tracy Simmons
Last year the most popular scripture on Biblegateway.com was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
We asked our panelists what their favorite passage was.
VIEWPOINTS: What’s your favorite scripture and why?
Matthew 25:31-46. This is one of my favorite scriptural passages in the New Testament. For me the message is very direct and clear. The kingdom of God is not about what you think, what you believe, but the kingdom of God is how do you treat one another. I am not sure why the goats always get the short end of the stick, poor goats.
Those who think they are religious and righteous are the ones who are missing the boat, so to speak. “When you did not do it to the one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” For me, this passage calls one to practice mindfulness. It calls one to “walk their talk” to be authentic and to truly, fully, completely love all people. And not just the good people, not just one’s friends, or not just the one’s you like. But to love the transient person who asks for a handout on the street. To love the alcoholic who is so addicted they are caught in one of the most insidious traps. To love the person whom you politically disagree with vehemently, is the call of the kingdom of God.
It is easy to say you love all people, but what do your actions say. What are the passing thoughts in ones’ mind? Are we aware of our every thought? This passage also speaks to me of the amazing aspect of the divinity living within each person. “When you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Now, personally I do not believe in hell, and I believe in God’s most merciful and compassion nature. I believe the “eternal fire” is a metaphor representing not being in the presence of the divine. If there is a hell, it is of our own making. When Jesus proclaimed the Good News it was not about a new religion or a new faith. The Good News is very simple; The Kingdom of God is here now. Thus, we are not to wait until we are perfect, or wait until we are in heaven, or wait for anything to start treating every person as a unique and wonderful creation of the divine.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I have quite a few favorite scriptures; possibly some of my favorites are also yours. I Googled John 3:16 and was not completely surprised to learn, at least according to Wikipedia, that it is “one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse. It has also been called the ‘Gospel in a nutshell.’ ”
Another of my favorites might be less familiar to some of you; it is from The Book of Mormon. Ether 12:27 says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” It gives me great comfort to know that my (many) weaknesses are part of God’s plan and can be made to serve his purposes. It is amazing to think any area where I am weak could potentially become one of my strengths (me, patient? me, brave? me, a morning person?).
My theoretical belief in this scripture is complete but my personal belief is still developing. Over my 58 years, I have indeed been made aware of my weaknesses (I have four children, so that’s a given) and that has humbled me substantially, though not completely; I’m also still working on the faith/grace aspect. I haven’t become a scriptorian (yet!) and my self-control is often AWOL, but I don’t gossip like I did at 20 and I learned to drive in Barcelona (OK, that one’s not exactly a spiritual strength, but trying in any area helps us improve in others, right?) So I still have hope that eventually I will see this wonderful scripture fulfilled in myself.
Romans 11:36. This verse is my life verse because it always grounds me in the truth of God’s sovereignty. This chaotic world gives plenty of reasons to doubt God’s goodness and power.
This passage helps me keep an eternal perspective on what and who this life of mine is all about, especially on the days when I’m struggling to understand what’s going on.
It’s like a small compass that helps me stay on course and navigate this path of life.
Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–13 is famously used in weddings and etched on Christian decor. The more crucial section, the first three verses, are often skipped. These verses are my favorite because they always shift troubling religious conversations.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NRSV).
Some family friends attend a Christian church in Northern Idaho where the pastor teaches that Jews are outsiders to God’s new covenant in Jesus and are unsaved. Over the years, it has been harder to be around this couple. They have acquired a condemning attitude towards people who believe differently and a zeal to sway others to their way of thinking. My parents have been distressed and confused over it. Then one day our conversation turned to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3. A silence filled the space. In that moment I saw in their eyes compassion instead of condemnation, wonder in place of knowledge, love not anger, and being human together rather than being right.