Speaking for GodAs a representative of www.the-church-of-england.co.uk it's important to present a good example to everyone at all times. Even when we are alone in the material sense, Our LORD is never too busy to fix us with His all-seeing eye and generally have a good old nose through our most personal and private feelings - a thought that always gives me a great deal of comfort.
I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone to comb their hair, brush their teeth and dress in smart clothes, but physical appearance is only the simplest factor in presenting a good example for the church. We would do well to remember that a night club with a smart dress code would admit Hitler but not Jesus.
So as well as keeping up a good appearance, in order to really represent the church to it's fullest it's important to know what to say and when to say it. I know what you're thinking; I thought the same at first: "the Bible is the word of God, so all I really need to do is go around spouting that in peoples' faces, and I'll be doing the right thing."
Ah, and would it were that things were that simple my innocent children. The harsh truth everyone has to learn at some stage is that although God's word is perfect, sometimes it's best to pretend it isn't - for the sake of appearances. I'm not saying that you need to avoid mentioning the Bible at all in conversation; just that you should understand a few simple rules before you do.
For example, you can often use Leviticus to entertain at social gatherings. Quoting in extreme detail the proper way to prepare a sacrificial goat for the Lord will enthral any audience, and rightly so. However, if you were to carry on quoting Leviticus, you'd eventually find yourself saying ones of these things, or possibly both:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
At this point, you may become aware of a change in the mood of the crowd. This is because you have made the common but crucial error of mistaking your audience for other Christians! You don't have to tell me: "Hey, I'm just saying what it says in the Bible." I know that, and God would be proud. But unfortunately, to a sinful agnostic, you have said something that sounds rather intolerant, and that is what we must try at all costs to avoid.
We absolutely cannot allow members of our church to be seen as being intolerant towards anything or anybody. I really must stress the terrible effect this has on our public relations. So serious is this state of affairs that we cannot afford to be seen as objecting to even the most straightforward of things, like sex out of wedlock for instance - because we find ourselves surrounded and outnumbered by sinners indulging their unsanctioned lusts every hour God sends! 'The majority rule', 'when in Rome' and similar sayings must be considered carefully, as must our portrayal of the church to others. So, if we return to our hypothetical example, it is time to try and redeem the situation.
We are about to use the best weapon we have in our arsenal, the revered "Metaphorically speaking..." Defence. As far as we are aware this was first used by Moses, the author of Leviticus, in order to avoid a strapping homosexual punching his holy lights out after he had given his first reading of the book. Then, as now, the "Metaphorically speaking..." Defence can be used to get you out of difficult situations, and really should be applied whenever you are dealing with those who are not of the Church. Once you find yourself back in the company of good Christian folk, you can happily forget all about it again. What we're doing here is pretending, so that the crowd doesn't notice just how intolerant the Bible can be. I find it helps to think of it like a game; I call it 'Pretending for God'.
Watch how to apply the "Metaphorically speaking..." Defence to the hypothetical situation where we have upset our audience with Levitical doctrine. The first step in recovering the initiative is to clearly state: "Metaphorically speaking, of course." Then proceed to prattle thus: "That's one of the things I love about the Bible, it's so whimsical, so ethereal in nature. One is delighted by poetic meaning often hidden to the first or even third reading."
This sets you up nicely to either:
1. Change the subject completely by following up with "For instance, in the book of Galatians..."
2. Employ verbal blather, along the lines that: "Many a better man than me has studied the Bible and I doubt anyone here can claim to be a specialist; I mean, has anyone read Thomas Aquinas? I haven't but I'd like to..."
Whichever option you choose, I think you'll find the crisis has been averted.
To deploy the 'Metaphor Defence' to its most powerful effect (which is considerable) you need to understand the following rules:
1. There is nothing in the Bible that cannot be classed as metaphor.
2. Some bits of the Bible are obviously not metaphor - at least not to a 'perceptive person'. These bits though are in a constant state of flux and can be picked at random to suit the occasion.
3. The 'Metaphor Defence' has no bounds. Any part of the text could 'mean' an infinite number of conflicting messages, as it is an entirely subjective medium.
A further example of how the metaphor defence can be applied:
And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.
2nd Samuel 12:15
Anyone familiar with the Bible will know that the baby dies seven days later. I agree with you: God was entirely righteous in slapping the infant to death. When does God ever get it wrong for Christ's sake? If only God went around slapping more babies this world wouldn't be in such a dreadful state.
However, when dealing with people outside the church, we can employ the 'Metaphor Defence', to stop them reacting negatively to the news that God beats babies to death:
Well, this is just a metaphor for showing how delicate babies are; you even have to watch them around God. What the Bible is really saying here is: "Protect your babies."
Yes, but you have to understand that this baby isn't a real actual baby; it's David and Uriah's make-believe pretend child. God metaphorically slaps it and in so doing is saying: "Do not delude yourselves by imagining you have children when you don't really have any."
I think you'll find most scholars agree that what God is doing here is flicking a fly from the baby's face, and it is merely coincidental that the baby dies seven days later. This is an example of the Bible's wonderful complexity.
In fact the baby had been dead for a few hours before God even arrived on the premises. The medical science of that age not being of the standard it is today, it wasn't until 7 days later that the court physicians finally agreed and diagnosed the baby as being dead. God tried to tell everyone - drawing attention to the child's corpse by striking it - but no one paid any attention to Him. The message to take from this passage is: "God knows best."And there you have it; simple stuff but, sadly, so important in this modern day and age of enquiring minds and an unreasoning desire for things to make at least some kind of sense. I hope you'll find the 'Metaphor Defence' of use, but that isn't the main message I'd like you to take from this article.
The main message is: you, as a member of our church, are one of God's public relations officers and spokespersons. And if you don't do a fantastic job on His behalf, everyone will think God is some kind of baby-killing intolerant freak!
Can you allow that to happen? Would you be happy knowing that was what people were thinking about God? Personally I can't sleep at night for fear of it.