"The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Ministry of John the Baptist
3 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, 2 “ Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven! ” 3 He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
5 People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. 6 As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “ You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out. ”
In times of conflict, the Bible is often used as a club to beat those whose opinions differ from one's own. We recoil from such usage, yet the Bible actually represents many diverse and conflicting points of view. It is like a library, full of books that speak to all sides of every question.
Like Christians today, the communities and individuals who wrote the biblical texts often strongly disagree with each other. Ruth and Ezra, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Micah and Joel, Deuteronomy and Daniel, Mark and John. What would they say to each other? Do they have anything in common? Each of these voices is firmly committed to his or her specific view of "the truth," whether it reflects a particular place or community, a prophet, a style of worship, or an "understanding" of who is in and who is out.
The author guides us in considering how we can do justice to this welter of disparate voices. What can the Bible teach us about living together? How can we use it as a powerful resource for understanding and for moving beyond conflict?
A study guide and template for creating safe spaces for conversation abou the tough issues in which the bible may be dividing your community is found at the end of the book.