“I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!” (Galatians 5:12).
There are many who hold a romanticized view of the Bible as a kind of “love letter” delivered by the Creator and addressed to the members of the human family. In fact, one online query for the term “The Bible is God’s love letter” returned well over 25,000 results. (1)
While God unquestionably expresses His love for humanity through Christ, it may be unwise to characterize the Bible in such a manner. For instance, how many love letters are likely to contain the following references, all of which are found within the pages of the Scriptures…
“Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:9 NIV).
“She lusted after their genitals—as large as those of donkeys, and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions” (Ezekiel 23:20 NET).
“You stupid Galatians! I told you exactly how Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross. Has someone now put an evil spell on you?” (Galatians 3:1 CEV).
Similar examples include the brutally honest depiction of life without God as found in the book of Ecclesiastes and the apocalyptic imagery contained within the book of Revelation. Then there is the Old Testament book of Lamentations, an account that chronicles the anguish of those who were forced to live with the consequences associated with their rejection of God.
Its important to recognize that Biblical critics often seize upon such references to mock and undermine the faith of young or unsuspecting Christians who have been taught to believe that the Bible represents a kind of love letter. (2) Galatians 5:12 presents us with similar example: “I wish that the people who are upsetting you would go all the way; let them go on and castrate themselves!” (GW).
This shockingly graphic depiction reveals the depth of Paul the Apostle’s infuriation with those who were inflicting spiritual injury upon the Galatian congregations. Yet as one source observes, “While some commentators appear reluctant to believe Paul would utter such a condemnation, such would actually be a better fate for these opponents than the one he calls for in 1:8–9…” (3)
But lest we think such graphic imagery is uncharacteristic of Christ, we may wish to pause to consider the following message from Luke 17:1-3…
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves” (NIV).
(1) Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=%22The+Bible+is+God%27s+love+letter%22
(2) Each of the Scriptural examples given above have been taken out of context, thus making it easy for Biblical critics to use God’s Word to disparage those who place their trust in Him. Those who are surprised to discover the existence of these references within the Scriptures may not be ready to “…give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). Rest assured that Biblical critics are well aware of these verses and others like them- and we should be ready to explain their meaning in context with humility, wisdom, maturity, and reverence. In the words of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (MEV).
(3) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1017). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.