While the Bible is the sacred Word of God, it’s not a sanitized book. The Bible is full of controversial topics that can be difficult to talk about. You may see some of those topics as taboo – forbidden – in your conversations with others. But it’s important to honestly address all the topics that the Bible includes. If people you know ask about a taboo Bible topic, you should be able to talk with them about it. There are ways to discuss taboo Bible topics well.
1 Peter 3:15 urges: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. You can’t predict when someone will bring up a controversial Bible topic. But you can prepare yourself to have loving, respectful conversations with people about any taboo Bible topics. Here are some key Bible topics that are often considered to be taboo, and how to talk about them successfully.
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Doubt is a natural part of the human experience, and the Bible features many passages where people are honestly grappling with doubt – such as the Psalms. When talking with others about their doubt, it's important to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. Don’t judge them for doubting. Acknowledge that doubt is a common experience and that it doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of faith. Foster an open and honest dialogue about faith struggles. Honestly share your own doubt experiences and how you navigated them. This shows that you understand what they are going through and that you are not judging them. Encourage those experiencing doubt to actively seek answers to their questions. Let them know that you are there to listen and to support them. When you don’t know the answer to something they ask, just admit that you don’t know, but pray for the Holy Spirit to guide them. Encourage people to spend time in prayer and meditation, seeking wisdom from God and allowing space for personal growth and understanding. Remind them of God’s unconditional love for them. Point them to resources that can help them deal with doubt, such as books, websites, or counselors. Encourage them to pursue awe-inspiring experiences that help them notice the wonder of God’s work in their lives. Be patient as they work through their doubts. Let them know that you will support them no matter what. Navigating doubt is a deeply personal journey, and each person's experience will be unique.
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The Bible contains a number of passages that deal with sex, including some that may be considered explicit, such as the celebration of love between a man and a woman in the Song of Songs. Also, the Bible mentions troubling sexual behavior like rape and incest, and features some verses that condemn homosexuality. This has led to great conflict and controversy. Discussions about what the Bible says about sex can be considered taboo, due to differing interpretations of biblical passages, cultural norms, and religious beliefs. Rather than arguing with people about sexuality passages, listen to their feelings about those passages and validate their feelings, even if you don’t agree with them. Keep in mind that the Bible’s broader message is one of love that emphasizes compassion and equality. Emphasize that God has made all people and loves them all unconditionally and equally. Remind people that God wants them to live healthy lives that help them grow in holiness. But refrain from judging people for how they express their sexuality. Only God is qualified to judge others. Be respectful of diverse perspectives on sexuality, and be willing to engage in open and thoughtful conversations about it. Even if you disagree with someone's interpretation of the Bible, it is important to be respectful of their beliefs. Also, focus on biblical principles, not just the specific rules. The Bible contains a lot of specific rules about sexuality, but it is vital to understand the principles behind those rules. What does the Bible say about the importance of love, respect, and consent? How does the Bible view the human body, and why? Be prepared to answer people’s questions about the Bible's teachings on sexuality in sensitive and respectful ways. Give people time to process what you are saying. Don’t be offended if people disagree with you. Simply do the best you can to answer their questions and pray for them as they learn more about biblical sexuality.
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Violence fills the pages of the Bible, yet the Bible also presents an overall message of peace. The Bible describes graphic violence in our fallen world, including wars, murders, and genocides. Some people find this violence to be quite disturbing. Bible passages about violence can raise important ethical questions – especially in light of the Bible’s teachings that emphasize peace, reconciliation, and turning away from violence. Many believers and scholars engage in discussions about the role of violence in the Bible, the historical context of warfare in the ancient world, and the broader themes of justice, mercy, and compassion in a violent world. These discussions often reflect diverse perspectives. When discussing violence in the Bible, listen carefully to people’s views on violence without judgment. Let them know that you are there to understand their perspective. Focus on the principles underlying the specific examples of violence in the Bible. How does the Bible view violence as either justified or sinful, depending on different situations? What does the Bible say about the importance of grace, mercy, and forgiveness?
Be prepared to answer people’s questions with gentleness rather than harshness. Acknowledge and validate their difficult emotions as they wrestle with the Bible’s messages on violence.
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The Bible deals with death in a matter-of-fact way, but it can be a difficult topic for many people to talk about, so they often avoid doing so. Even though death is often treated as a taboo topic, the Bible has a lot to say about death. It acknowledges the pain of death, presents guidance on how to navigate through grief, and proclaims that real hope and eternal life are possible through a relationship with God. Conversations about death can be highly personal and emotional. Approach these discussions with a heart of compassion, a willingness to listen, and a genuine desire to offer comfort and support. Use language that is gentle, nonjudgmental, and compassionate. Avoid using language that might come across as judgmental or dismissive of their beliefs. Acknowledge the fear and sadness that death can bring, at funerals and beyond. Don't try to pretend that death isn’t scary. Instead, point out how the Bible offers hope for the future, even in the face of death. Share the Gospel message with people who ask what you believe about heaven. When people are open to it, you can share Bible verses that provide comfort and insights about death. Verses like John 14:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, and Revelation 21:4 may be helpful. Highlight the message of hope, comfort, and eternal life that the Bible offers in the context of death. Emphasize that God's love and presence are with us in both life and death. Let people know that you’re there to support them anytime, whether through conversation, prayer, or simply being a friend who is willing to listen. Offer to share books, articles, or other resources that delve deeper into what the Bible says about death, so people can explore the topic at their own pace.
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The End Times
When the Bible discusses the End Times – the fulfillment of God’s plan for the end of the world – it does so in prophetic passages that can be challenging to understand. Discussions about the End Times can touch on fear, uncertainty, and differing views on the future. End Times conversations can be about many topics that the Bible mentions will occur near the end of the world on Earth – including war, suffering, judgment, resurrection, and the return of Jesus Christ. Interpretations of these passages vary widely among different Christian denominations and theological perspectives. Some emphasize a literal reading of prophetic texts, while others view them as symbolic or metaphorical descriptions of spiritual truths. While the topic of the End Times can be controversial, it often serves as a reminder of the importance of faith and perseverance in the context of God's ultimate plan for creation. It’s important to avoid spreading fear or anxiety when discussing the End Times with people. It’s also vital not to jump to conclusions about the complex topics involved. When Jesus discusses the End Times in Matthew chapter 24, he describes his return to Earth but warns in verse 36 that, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” The Bible doesn’t give any specific time in history for End Times events. Trying to guess when they will happen is just a waste of time. So, avoid speculating about timing when you’re talking with people about the End times. Instead, focus your conversations on how to prepare well for the End Times. Talk about what the Bible says about strengthening our faith, fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives, and becoming the people God wants us to become. When people ask you about specific End Times events, answer their questions when you can, but when you don’t know, just admit that. Point out that we don’t need to understand the details of future events. What’s most important are the principles of how to live faithfully to prepare for the End Times.
It is important to remember that the Bible is a complex and multifaceted text, and people interpret it in many different ways. What is considered taboo can vary widely among individuals and religious communities. Some people are comfortable discussing these topics openly, while others may find them challenging. Engaging in respectful and informed conversations can help bridge gaps in understanding and foster constructive dialogue. It's essential to approach these discussions with empathy, respect for diverse perspectives, and a willingness to engage in open and thoughtful conversation.
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Originally published Wednesday, 23 August 2023.