Peter Kreeft

The Two Most Revolutionary Verses in the Bible

What do you think are the two most revolutionary, powerful, life-changing verses in the Bible for Christians today? What do you think God most wants Christians to know and appreciate and live today?

It would be in the Bible because the Bible is God's complete data bank for all time that the church computes from. She enlarges her "deposit of faith" from within, like growing a seed, not from without, like adding a new wing onto a building.

Probably the most important verse in the Bible for unbelievers is John 3:16. But what about believers? What about believers today?

Today is very different from yesterday, even a yesterday as recent as the 1950s. I ask for two verses because the church is sadly split today into right and left, conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and progressives. What does each need most? What does God want each to know?

How could we possibly know what God wants? Only because God has already told us. That's what the Bible is. If we immerse ourselves in his Word, we get to know the One who speaks there—his character and will and strategy—and we get "the big picture." And that "big picture" gives us the perspective to guess intelligently at what's most needed now.

So how would you answer that question? What would your two verses be?

I'll tell you mine, and also the reason for my selection, and then you can apply it to yourself. If the shoe fits, wear it.

First we need to know we are split—what a conservative is and what a liberal is. We need to diagnose the disease before we can prescribe its cure.

Sometimes humor teaches best and says the most in the least words. Each of the following witty definitions makes a serious point.

  1. A conservative is one who is enamored of existing evils; a liberal is one who wishes to replace them with new ones." (Ambrose Bierce)
  2. A liberal is someone who doesn't believe in evil, except for the evil in conservatives. A conservative is someone who does believe in evil—except for the evil in conservatives.
  3. A conservative is a liberal who just got mugged. A liberal is a conservative who just got arrested.
  4. A liberal and a conservative were scheduled to exchange their brains and their hearts in an experimental operation. But no one could find a conservative who would give up his heart, or a liberal who had any brains to give.

What do these political jokes have to do with our daily walk with God? They show one thing that gets in the way: political partisanship, political categories. The saints are neither liberals nor conservatives; they're Christians. They're little Christs. They're like Christ. They don't fit political categories. Christ was hated by both the right and the left of his day—by the dogmatic Pharisees and the skeptical Sadducees, by the Herodian collaborators and the Zealot revolutionaries.

For Christ, being perfect man, had a perfect head and a perfect heart, a perfectly hard head and a perfectly soft heart. He practiced what he preached about being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. One thread running through the definitions above is the double point about head and heart. We need a conservative head and a liberal heart.

The strong point of conservatives is that they conserve. They are faithful. They keep the faith. They are anchored in the faith. Their weak point is that they tend to be pugnacious and angry and graceless and merciless and loveless.

The strong point of liberals is their soft heart, their compassion. Their weak point is their soft head, their lack of principles, faith, fidelity, and anchors. They are strong on mercy, but weak on justice and on objective and unchanging moral principles—strong on love but weak on truth.

But both love and truth are absolutes. For they are eternal attributes of God. And in God they are not divided at all, but one thing. That's why Jesus was both tough and gentle at once. He is a true gentleman, both gentle and manly, like a medieval knight. This is what every woman's heart desires in a man. It's also what every man desires in a woman. It's the kind of love that's designed to last a lifetime.

The saints, being little Christs, also have two absolutes: truth and love. They have hard heads and soft hearts. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are good examples. Listen to them, not the media stereotypes of them, and you will see the pope's soft heart as well as his hard head, and Mother Teresa's hard head as well as her soft heart.

So now we know the patient and the disease. What's the prescription? What verse would God want every conservative to meditate on and pray over for a month? And what verse for every liberal?

Here's my guess. First, for the liberal, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111:10). That's lesson one. Without it, no lesson two. The very thing liberals try to eradicate from religious education—fear, holy fear, awe, wonder, and worshipful submission—is the very foundation of all religious education, all wisdom. With this holy fear go all the rest of the things liberals miss: supernaturalism, miracles, authority, obedience, absolutes, distinctiveness, hierarchy, height.

A great rabbi, Abraham Heschel, said, "God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake." Anyone who meets God knows that. Only experts and professors deny it. Anyone who meets the real God as distinct from the comfortable Chum invented by middle management bureaucrats and administrators "falls at his feet as though dead," as John did in Revelation 1:17. Liberals must learn to die that blessed death. For God announces that "no one can see me and live" (Ex 33:20).

Conservatives too must learn to die, a different kind of death: to smugness and satisfaction and "dead orthodoxy." Their verse is Matthew 25:40: "Truly, truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

Suppose we really, really believed that? How would our lives change? Suppose we learned to really see Jesus Christ in the poorest of the poor, as Mother Teresa does—in the homeless bum and the schizophrenic and the AIDS patient, and even in the drug addict and the criminal and the sodomite. How would we respond to him or her? Would we pass the person by, like the priest and the Levite, or would we be good Samaritans? How would that change our lives?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But it is not the end. Love is the end. Faith is the root, but love and the works of love are the fruit of the plant that is the Christlife. If conservatives forget the social gospel, they forget the greatest thing of all, for "the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13). The son who said the wrong words but did his father's will is not as bad as the son who said the right words but didn't do them (Mt 21:28-31).

Only God can teach these two lessons. Liberals can't teach conservatives to love. Only the Holy Spirit can. Pray to the Holy Spirit to teach both, and to heal the terrible tear in the body of Christ today. And pray that he teach you what you most need. Meditate on the verse you need most every day for a month, and see how your life changes. Then you will see how the world can be changed.