One of my battles since becoming a christian 40 years ago has been all the apparent contradictions in scripture, as is made obvious by all the differences in theology and doctrines. And always new ones rearing their ugly heads!
Way back then I determined to get to the bottom of this, otherwise I could not say I had "integrity" as a christian. So I've always tried to view scriptures as part of scripture, always taking the step back from the trees to see the forest. I never realised what an amazing path it would be to try and keep that level of perspective! We are constantly bombarded with what the nearest tree looks like, and how many observers demand that all the trees are the same! And then they try to tell you what the forest looks like based on their view of one or two trees.
Whenever I have spoken out to question a tree's importance in the scheme of the whole forest, I get some interesting reactions, as if I'm suggesting that the tree is something other than what is staring us in the face! Many have spent most of their journey gathered around one tree, or wandering around a picturesque stand of pines, or a glade of willows, or a patch of thorns! And others venture on through the forest to find other trees searching for one that looks better and provides better shade, or lets in more sun, or good protection from invading hordes of nasties. Hopefully you get my drift!
What if we could rise above the trees and see the whole forest? What if God said only Jesus will lift you up high enough to see it all! What would the forest look like from such a great height? Would we see individual trees any more? - maybe some shapes and outlines as they merge into the big picture.
So how do we read the bible? Is it possible that we are so obsessed with being biblically correct and finding scriptures to fit our ideas that we can't see what all scripture really says? Maybe when Paul said all scripture is beneficial he meant "all", as in when you look at scripture in its entirety and not individual scriptures.
The big picture is of a God who wanted to share himself so much that he created creatures of free will that could love him without coercion, without seeing his glory, that would find him in the wonder of his creation and recognise that He IS love. Creatures that could choose to become one with Him in their own uniqueness. And He created this huge plan and set it in motion - a plan involving love, redemption, sacrifice, pain, loss, joy, all to bring us to a place of incredible peace and unity where we experience Love - who is God - who is Love. Jesus is the centre of the plan, all of the purpose of life in heaven and earth hinges on Him who was before the foundations of the earth and for all eternity. He who brought the fullness of love into his creation, his people, transformed them, and now lives in them. The fullness of ALL He is, all glory, power - the entirety of the triune God, in these fragile bodies. Made for this purpose. Made for this unity. Made for love.
This big picture is there staring us in the face, if we can step back enough to see it. If we can stop getting obsessed with doctrine after doctrine and embrace the simplicity of God's grace, the centrality of Jesus and his "too good to be true" love for us.