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Little Words That Make All the Difference

Reading Bible

We are often called upon to help. We, who are a bit more seasoned, a bit more experienced, a bit more knowledgeable about God, his ways, and his Word—we are called upon to answer questions, to resolve concerns, to solve dilemmas. And rightly so. The younger should rely upon the wisdom of the older; the older should seek out and influence the younger.

However, when we impart such wisdom, a few short words make all the difference: “This is me, not the Bible.” It is a distinction that has to do with authority, a distinction between inerrant commands and imperfect application.

Here’s how it works.

He approaches you to ask about a girl he has met, a girl who has caught his eye. He wants to know what he should do. You tell him what the Bible clearly demands and forbids when it comes to relationships, dating, and marriage. Then, as his questions continue and get more specific, you say, “Now this is me, not the Bible.” You are making it clear that you’ve gone from an area of absolute biblical clarity to an area of wisdom and conscience. You are ensuring that both you and he acknowledge the difference.

She approaches you to get help with her transition from an old church to a new one. She wants to leave the first cleanly and join the second properly. You tell her what the Bible makes clear—she must make every attempt to resolve conflict, she must not speak ill of others, she must be part of a church where she can serve and be served. But as she pushes in, and she moves from generalities to specifics, you make it clear: “This is me, not the Bible.” In this you acknowledge your imperfect grasp of the facts, your inadequate knowledge of the inner motivations. You ensure both of you know that you’ve gone beyond God’s clear direction and into those areas of much less certainty.

We often confuse the two. We often act as if our application of principles is as authoritative as the principles themselves. In this way we inadvertently lay burdens on others that are too heavy to bear or perhaps encourage them in their disobedience. It is far better for us, far better for them, if we freely acknowledge when we have gone beyond what God so clearly forbids and demands. We do that with simple words: “This is me, not the Bible.”


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