When You Teach Controversial Bible Lessons

From time to time, all Bible teachers face the question of how to teach a controversial Bible Lesson or Scripture text. Let’s think about and discuss this problem and some possible solutions for teachers.

Last week I received an e-mail that my Bible Lesson for November 13, 2016 was too controversial. What might teachers do when they think their Sunday school lesson might be too controversial for their students or they get a complaint after class? Perhaps you have some suggestions you can share for others of us on the Forum who teach the Bible when you run up against what may be controversial to some (and even to you)? Below are some things I did.

I posted the November 13, 2016 Bible Lesson before the U.S. Presidential Election on November 8, 2016. After I wrote the Bible Lesson, I thought it was controversial, but I had prayed about it while writing and after I wrote it before I posted it. It was probably the most controversial Bible Lesson that I have written in more than 25 years of writing and publishing my weekly Bible Lessons.

The Bible Lesson was on Revelation 21:9-14 & 22-27. The historical parts of the Bible lesson could be applied to anyone running for political office during the past few years. Here is what I did after receiving the e-mail complaint about my lesson.

I reread the Bible Lesson and asked myself four questions.

First, were the historical comments and conclusions accurate? Answer: Yes.

Second, were the comments and conclusions regarding the Bible verses discussed in the Bible Lesson what the Bible said, even if in a more contemporary statement of meaning? Answer: Yes.

Third, by putting the historical situations I wrote about and the conclusions I drew from the Book of Revelation together in one lesson, could the Bible Lesson be considered controversial? Answer: Yes. I applied the Bible to a contemporary problem and considered God’s plans as revealed in Revelation.

Fourth, even if controversial, were there good reasons for Christians to think about, discuss, or teach the thoughts I wrote about in the Bible lesson? Answer. Yes.

Without having any specific complaints in the e-mail that I received other than it was too controversial, I did reply and state that I believed the Bible Lesson was historically and Biblically accurate.

So, in dealing with controversial Bible Lessons, we need to recheck the accuracy of our Bible Lesson. Is it true to what the Bible says? Second, following Paul’s example, my goal is to teach the truth in love; so, I try to teach a controversial Bible lesson as truthfully and as lovingly as I can, and not to stir up controversy.

What some might consider controversial today in my Bible lesson, but what I believe the Bible clearly teaches, is this statement: “When Jesus Christ comes again, these Christians in heaven (the Church as the Bride of Christ) will return to earth with Him. Together, they will form the Holy City where the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be the temple, so no believer will ever be away from the glorious presence of God. Newly created Christian nations and all their kings will bring their splendor, glory, and honor into the Holy City. To the glory of God, justice, mercy, righteousness, and peace will be established throughout the earth.” Today, there are many nations where different major religions predominate and Christians are an ignored or persecuted minority. Still, the Book of Revelation teaches that after Christ returns to earth all the nations of the earth will be changed and everyone on earth will be Christians. To millions of people today, that teaching could seem exceedingly controversial and offensive, but our responsibility as teachers is to teach what the Bible teaches to the best of our prayerful, studied ability. If we are using the International Bible Lessons Series, we cannot always escape what might seem controversial to others and us. God has called us to teach the Bible.

What suggestions do you have to share when you face controversial teachings, topics, or complaints about the Bible or your Bible lesson?

For the love of God’s Word,
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