Are You A Cherry Picking Christian?
Cherry picking is elevating a verse of scripture above other verses and holding it up as a standard of righteousness that everyone must adhere to.
The Proof of Your Love—king and Country.
Are You A Cherry Picker?
Sometime last century the Higashimura family invited my family to go cherry picking. If I recall correctly we went to Cherry Valley. I think that’s when I started calling Sherry Higashimura, “cherry.” It was fun walking through the orchards, the fruit was ripe and ready for picking. Dozens of trees to choose from and I enjoyed moving from tree to tree selecting what looked like the best cherries to be had. I liked selecting the cherries that I wanted, bypassing the ones that didn’t get my favor.
The question has been asked, “Why do Christians cherry-pick?” I guess my answer missed the mark when I said because personally, I like cherries and it fun to pick them on a nice spring day. That obviously was not the kind of cherry picking they were asking about.
Cherry picking Christians have the tendency to elevate selected verses of scripture in order to confirm their spiritual practices, beliefs and I fear prejudices. The accusation has been leveled at the Church that its members cherry pick scripture to justify their own personal moral views and then throw those cherries at others.
Cherry picking is a criticism often leveled at Christians. For instance, right now a social hot button is homosexuality. In some faith community’s acting on same-sex attraction is the most horrendous sin possible. Scriptures that seemingly condemn homosexual behavior as an abomination are elevated while scriptures, for instance, that reveal gluttony as disgraceful are ignored. [Proverbs 23:2, 20-21, 28:7; Ezekiel 16:49]
Today I want to focus our thoughts on the problem of cherry picking the scripture. The habit makes the trap of hypocrisy easy to fall into. This is especially true if you take the Bible literally. The Bible always requires interpretation. Online you will find a teaching “Is The Bible Reliable?” in which this idea is developed. What happens is a verse gets cherry-picked and held up as a standard of righteousness, while other verses of scripture are ignored or declared as non-applicable. There is a solution to the problem, but you may find it challenging to work it that solution.
Cherry Picking is not only a symptom of an ignorance of proper methods of biblical interpretation but also of egoism. For it puts an individual in the place of judge and jury and sometimes executioner, and the gavel goes down with “it's in the Bible, it’s God’s word, right there in black and white.” I know what’s best, and the scripture supports me in my opinion, therefore I am right and you are wrong. Or even worse, I am righteous and you are a sinner. Then a little humility kicks in, OK, I am a sinner too, but I’m headed toward heaven because I believe the right stuff, you on the other hand not so much. Just a little humility sneaks into our self-righteousness.
It's much easier to take the scripture at literal face value than having to actually do the work of interpreting the scripture. Proper interpretation is hard work and we would rather have someone else tells us than for us to do the work ourselves. Then make a rule and demand that it be adhered to.
Leviticus 18:22 (MSG)
"Don't have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.
Couple this verse with
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NIV)
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Mix them with your own personal values and you have the right to condemn homosexuals. You get to throw cherries!
While at the same time you ignore--
Leviticus 11 that reveals that eating oyster, clams, scallops, muscles, shrimp, and lobster is detestable and not to be done.
You ignore the prohibition concerning mixing meat and dairy. That’s right, eating a cheeseburger is a sin, based on an interpretation of Exodus 23:6.
You ignore wearing clothing made of two kinds of material. While Leviticus 19:19 says the practice of wearing a cotton and rayon shirt is a sin.
You ignore the prohibition against bling and braids (1 Timothy 2:9), wearing torn clothing, you know jeans that have that slash look (Leviticus 10:6), eating bacon (Leviticus 11:4), and getting a tattoo (Leviticus 19:28).
You ignore the prohibition of getting remarried after divorce (Mark 10:11-2), working on the Sabbath, which is, by the way, Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunset.
Do you see the problem?
James 2:10 (MSG)
You can't pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God's law and ignoring others.
In the New Testament there is one command that Jesus gives to his disciples:
John 13:34 (NIV)
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another…”
When Jesus was asked what was most important, what rule or standard or law must be adhered to, He answered love.
Mark 12:29-31 (NIV)
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
Disciples of Jesus are lovers and growing into better ones. Not rule keepers, not judges, not oppressors, but rather lovers who obey God because love motivates them to do so, who treat others with respect and desire to help others when the opportunity arises because love motivates them. Lovers don’t cherry pick and then compel or force people to believe as they believe.
The way you overcome cherry picking is to evaluate your evaluations of scripture in the light of love. I have found it challenging to do so.
The way you overcome cherry picking is to do Bible Study, to discover the meaning of what a particular author of a verse meant in the words chosen to convey his thoughts, the culture in which this was written, the audience to whom it is written, the circumstances it addresses. You know you need to do this when you read a verse and then throw it at those who don’t adhere to it.
The way you overcome cherry picking is to make it personal. Do what you understand to be right according to the light that God has given you. There is no need to convince, manipulate or force others to believe as you do. You see this principle in action in the writing of the Apostle Paul:
Romans 14:6-8, 15 (MSG)
What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other…. if you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don't eat, you're no longer a companion with them in love, are you?
Don’t let the rules you keep define who you are, let love, love in thought, word, and deed be how you are known in public.
But what about our standards, our rules for purity and holiness and righteous living? What about our codes of Christian Conduct, guiding in what is acceptable and unacceptable for a member of our group? Do we not keep those and ask that those who join with us keep those same guidelines or do we just allow everyone to do what they have determined is OK with God?
We take the exclusive claims of the inclusivity of Christ and exclude those for whom Christ died because they don’t behave as we want them too. This is wrong. Christ died for sinners.
Matt 9:12-13 & Luke 19:10 (NIV)
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. … For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Because of His association with detestable undesirables Jesus enemies said of Him “'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners"”
(Matt 11:19 (NIV).
What about our standards? What about the behavior we uphold as righteous? I say hold them. These are guidelines from the elders. There is wisdom in them even if you don’t see it. Keep them. I also say keep them to yourself. I have chosen to live by the guidelines laid out in our faith community’s constitution. But those who have not accepted it as a guide, why do they need to know how I have chosen to live out my faith? What they need to hear is the gospel. What they need is to experience your love. What they want is your encouragement. What they could use is your friendship. If you’re dispensing love, you won’t throw cherries.
The critics say Christians cherry pick. The critics observe that the application of certain scripture to life while ignoring other verses is hypocritical. To answer the critics, yes there is a whole lot of cherry picking going on. The verdict is that it’s wrong to do so. Integrity demands that believers stop throwing scripture cherries and reach out with the good news of the Gospel, “that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I'm proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy” (1 Tim 1:15-16 (MSG).
Jesus, Friend of Sinners –Casting Crowns
Stop cherry picking and definitely stop throwing those cherries at people who do and think differently than you. Know what you believe, why you believe, have a clear conscience before God. Do your own work. Do your own study of the scripture, a worker “who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15 (NIV).
Paul gave his student Timothy this advice:
2 Tim 2:14-17 (MSG)
Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they're not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.
Cherry picking is poison to your soul. Before you know it you’re throwing those cherries. Remember love is to motivate all that you do. Love is strong while also being gentle and kind. Love does not compromise, but it also does not hate. Be a lover, not a cherry picker.