Mutilated Verses and Christian Wallpapers

Open my laptop and you will probably find a Christian wallpaper gracing the background.

That’s right – I am that clichéd guy who downloads clichéd wallpapers with encouraging Bible verses on them, accompanied by cheesy images.

If it’s “husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the church”, I am sure to have a glossy picture of a newly-wedded couple, holding hands, walking away on some boulevard.

If it’s “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, it’s the gritty image of an athlete sweating it out on the track.

If it’s “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”… you got it- sheep!

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Lots and lots of sheep in a super-green valley (Why do I imagine sheep and not cows? I am Indian, I should imagine cows, right?).

I’ve been downloading free Christian wallpapers even before some of you working professionals began going to college. Though background images ranged from borderline cool to humungously cheesy, I was largely faithful in using Christian wallpapers.

How some Christian wallpapers disgrace Biblical truth
It was much later that I began to hear and understand that verses on some wallpapers were not really faithful to the original message of respective passages in the Bible.

For e.g,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, (Phil. 4:13) right?

Even my Strength of Machine Elements exam, right?
And the complicated project that my manager presented today, right?

Apostle Paul probably didn’t write Philippians 4:13 with career goals in mind. He was in prison and was writing to the Philippian church that he had learned to be content in varying situations(Phil. 4:11). This included both abundance and hunger (Phil. 4:12). But the typical Indian evangelical remembers this verse for their life’s “upward spiral” ambitions. The “downward spiral”, as Vivek Jones calls it, though was the direction of the Lord Jesus’ life.

That’s how verse-mutilation and incorrect teaching disgrace Biblical truth. This can’t be really blamed on wallpaper-creators alone. Many pastors blatantly disregard the context and dish out teachings that misinform congregations.
Here’s a cheesy Christian wallpaper I created-

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Notice how I smoothly leave out the first half of Isaiah 43:1 so I can say what I want to say, not what the Bible says? Verse-mutilation! Notice how I used the *cute little kid* to garner attention? Marketing! 😀

The Curious Case of Isaiah 43:1-2
We think God in this passage is promising us deliverance from terrible trials and problems because He has redeemed us. Now there’s great truth to that statement; God will deliver us from hell and eternal torment because He has justified us in Christ and is sanctifying us until Kingdom come.

But most of us would think of Isaiah 43:2 as something to use when we face some serious illness, a paralysing family problem or a nerve-wracking job hunt.

So let’s ask that good question: in what context did Isaiah write this?

Isaiah 42:24-25 explains the not-so-cheer some context:
Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? So he poured on him the heat of his anger and the might of battle; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.

Israel, God’s people, were being disciplined for their selfish desires and heinous sins. After many patient warnings, the Lord God poured out his anger and sent plunderers upon His people who did not love, trust and obey Him.
Yet they did not take that painful lesson to heart (Isa. 42:25)!

But like a beloved father and an eager bridegroom, God comes to Israel, a people whose hearts were adulterous in their relationship with the only Holy One worth trusting. And that’s when Isaiah 43:1-3 come in. God says that He would protect them miraculously and would give up then super-powers like Egypt in favour of puny Israel (43:3). In later chapters, God reveals His plan to send His holy servant to be crushed for their crimes. Now, that’s pure love!

See how the preceding “bad” verses make the good verses exceedingly good? It is in the bitter context of a people who could have never measured up to God’s law and who deserved just condemnation from a impartial Judge that the Good News becomes really sweet!

Thus the message of Jesus, the God-Man who sacrifices himself to rescue God’s people from sin and death becomes precious, strong and true enough to bring everlasting hope and power to change the once unchangeable people!

But How Can Sad Events Inspire Christians?
You’ve got to be kidding me.

ALL of Christian faith is founded on the most mysteriously sad event in history!! Mysteriously sad, because even the most brilliant minds have failed to fathom the mystery of Jesus’ death at Calvary.

We think it’s about physical torture, but the Bible talks about His spiritual torture for being made sin before God (2 Cor. 5:21).

We think Jesus was killed by the Roman soldiers, the Bible talks about God being pleased to crush His Servant (Isaiah 53:10).

And yet, the resurrection of Jesus stumps everyone including his disciples. Out of death comes life, and out of sorrow Jesus brings joy. Let’s not shirk that Godly truth, in exchange for insipid worldly inspirational posters that promise perpetual happiness now.

The Bible’s aim is not to merely inspire. That might be the aim of the usual guru or philanthropist. The Bible is here to challenge and transform us and help us direct our constant worship from our lives and interests to things of Jesus (Matt 6:33, Matt 22:37)

So, what do we learn from the Isaiah 42-43 connection? A funda that all Christians need to remind one another as frequently as possible:

1. Never make a verse say what its original author did not intend to say.

2. Always seek to know what the passage meant to the original audience.

In light of all this, what happens to my inspiring Christian wallpaper from Isaiah 43?

Well, I decided to change it to this verbose-looking but more faithful wallpaper.

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Sure, this is probably not as appealing as short, half-verses adorning stock images out there. And sure, I still intend to download cheesy Christian wallpapers wherever I find them, but I better double-check their faithfulness in presenting God’s message!

P.S – I remember some exceptional wallpapers at Challies. You might take time getting used to some of them, but check it out!

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