Sunday, October 18, 2020

It's Not the Answer Book

This is my Bible.  

It has a 1996 copyright, so I guess it’s a little over twenty years old.  That’s about half the total years I’ve been studying the Bible in earnest.

I won’t claim to be a daily Bible reader.  I’m a regular Bible reader and studier.  I like to have an hour or two if I’m going to dig in.  I do that once or twice a week on my own, sometimes more.  Then I let it percolate.  I think about it a lot while I’m in the midst of whatever else I’m doing, and talk to God about it.  I make sure that I have conversations about it with other believers—plus every chance I get with people who don’t believe. 

I’ve studied it under real scholars, and I’ve stepped out with trepidation to facilitate groups that study and discuss.  I read other books and commentaries and resources by a variety of experts (including those who challenge my theological biases) who help me understand what it meant in its original historical/cultural context and languages.  The Bible constantly amazes me as it speaks to the soul of every person of every time and place.  And I am always aware that I’m in danger of trying to make it say what I want it to say.

Lately I’ve observed that a lot of people want to talk about what the Bible says and what Jesus teaches, especially pertaining to issues that are hot political topics.  The thing is, it’s perplexing the way that apparently Jesus and the Bible validate so many conflicting views.  

If you go to the Bible looking for something to validate your position in opposition to someone else, you will probably manage to pick and choose verses out of context to bolster your own defense.  But if you go to the Bible looking for God, you are likely to find that He validates your worth (and the worth of the person who disagrees with you) as opposed to your opinion. He will send you back into the world transformed and freed to embrace and engage, rather than armed to attack.  

My husband says, “The Bible isn’t the answer book.  It’s the ‘You need God’ book.”  I love that.  It’s a book that doesn’t offer itself as ammunition to shoot down other political stances, nor as bricks and mortar to fortify my own.  It doesn’t offer itself as a scientific journal, a comprehensive history, nor even a socio-political commentary.  It offers itself as a mirror, to show me my need for the God who made me, who knows me thoroughly and loves me deeply and unconditionally.  It shows me that nothing surprises God and that what’s old is always new again.  It shows me that if I really dare to look into it with an open heart looking to know what Jesus has to say to me, I can’t go away unaffected by his compassionate heart.  It shows me that only and always in partnership with him can I become all that he created me to be, and fulfill his purposes for me.  Ultimately, the Bible is the book that points to a God who alone knows and is the Truth that leaves any “truth” of mine undone.  It reminds me He's the one worthy of my worship and trust, the one who, if I choose to follow him, will not lead me astray.

So go ahead.  If you actually want to know what the Bible says, read it.  Read it with an open heart instead of an agenda.  Ask God to teach you about himself through it.  But be prepared to have your mind renewed and your life transformed.

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