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Teaching the Hard Stuff

What objections do your students have to the Christian faith?

If you had asked this question a decade or two ago, many objections would have had to do with ‘proving’ the Bible is true. Did Moses actually split the sea (or God through Moses)? Is the flood a metaphor or did it actually happen? How can we prove that Jesus rose from the dead?

If you’re still teaching on this stuff, changes are you’re answering questions no one is asking anymore. When you ask students now about hard stuff, things from the Bible or the Christian faith they don’t understand or have doubts about, the answers are completely different. Most of their doubts and struggles and objections will have to do with moral issues.

Homosexuality. Sex in general. The violence in the Bible. The ‘law’ in the Old Testament, especially the laws dealing with moral issues like slavery or the position of women. Stories that don’t seem to make sense, like Lot’s daughters, the two guys killed when preventing the Ark from falling down, Sodom and Gomorrah.

So what do we do with these issues? Do we skip them?

Teaching the hard stuff isn’t easy. But if we want to teach the whole Bible, then we also have to talk about passages that make us cringe, about stories that make us uncomfortable, or laws that create an incredible tension. If we believe God ‘created’ the Bible and gave us the books we have now for a reason, then we cannot ignore those parts we don’t like or understand.

It starts with acknowledging we don’t understand everything. There’s nothing wrong with admitting we don’t fully understand the Bible. On the contrary, I think there’s a great freedom in admitting we don’t ‘get’ it all and do not possess all the answers. It points towards a God who is too big for us to comprehend with our human minds.

Secondly, wrestling with God’s Word means wrestling with God, which is a deeply spiritual practice. Too often we at least make it look like we have God all figured out, like we know His character fully. But these hard passages help us to know God more and better. There’s a reason for these laws, a deeper meaning behind the stories. When we honestly try to discover this and unpack the deeper truths behind what makes us cringe, we increase our knowledge of God.

More importantly: the hard stuff is what matters to students, what can prevent them from becoming all-in for Christ. I remember a conversation I had with a high schooler a while back. One of his best friends had just come out as gay, and he struggled with what his church taught about homosexuality. He told me he could not stay loyal to a faith that taught him that his best friend was going to hell. Aside from whether or not his interpretation was correct, or if his church ever said this in so many words, his reasoning pointed towards a true stumbling block for him in his faith. He did not want to ‘belong’ to a God who hates his best friend for something he didn’t choose (his words).

Teaching the hard stuff matters. It shows students that it’s okay to have doubts and that it’s okay to wrestle. But more importantly: it helps them to get to know God better. If all they hear about is the New Testament Jesus, they will never fully grasp the concept of holiness for instance, of godly wrath and anger. They will never fully understand our calling as Christians to live a godly life amongst ungodly people. And they will never fully see the heights and depths and width of God’s love and grace.

God gave us the hard passages for a reason. He has a purpose for including the stuff that makes us angry, confused, or ashamed. Lean into your discomfort, embrace the cringe-factor and step out in faith. Teach the hard stuff. Your students need to hear it.

How are you teaching on difficult passages right now? What can you do to talk about the objections your students have towards the Christian faith?

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