It’s important to recognize that when it comes to the Bible, “difficult” almost always means, “contrary to the norms, presuppositions, or expectations of my own culture.” No single culture or people group finds all of the Bible’s teaching attractive—not even the cultures recorded in the Bible itself!
I recently heard a pastor with decades of experience remark that the passage in Mark 7:24-30 is one of the most difficult in the Bible. “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus said. How does one defend this apparent ethnocentrism directed at a marginalized mother who is desperate to find a cure for her child?
Confronting difficult passages is, well, difficult. And the Mark 7 passage is but one of many that we or people in our congregations may struggle with. However, as I’ve taught and preached in my home church, I have discovered this very difficulty can help illuminate the Bible and our relationship to it.
When preaching to myself or to others, I often return to these three good things about difficult Bible passages:
We learn about veracity of the Bible.
In other words, a difficult passage about the life of Jesus (or of any other Biblical “hero”) reinforces the historicity of the documents, because this is exactly the kind of thing writers of hagiography or fiction would avoid.