Friday, February 06, 2009

Letting the Bible Speak

Several years ago when I was working for a large denominational organization, I was frustrated by a certain part of the Personnel Manual. I said to my supervisor, “This is an ambiguous statement.” He replied, “It’s not ambiguous; you just don’t agree with it.” He was right.

I think this is appropriate when we consider the Bible and our study of the Bible. On one hand, we naturally come to our reading of the Bible with preconceived ideas. Those ideas are based on our culture, the preachers and teachers we heard growing up, the books we read, and our own personal prejudices. These preconceptions often block God’s ability to speak a fresh word to us through the Scripture.

We forget that the Bible is more than an ancient book. It is the living Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says,

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV)

Too often we come to the Bible already knowing what we want it to say. When we read the Bible, we may be looking for information when God wants us to find inspiration. We are looking for an answer, when God has a question there for us. We may be looking for comfort when God really wants to use it to make us uncomfortable.

On the other hand, since the Bible is “living and active,” it can speak to us in ways unique to our life circumstances. I can revisit passages that I read when I was a young person and have a completely different understanding of them. I cannot teach or preach about Romans 8:28 the same way that I did twenty years ago since I have gone through the experience of losing loved ones to illness and death. Life happened to me and it happens to you. Life provides us with experiences that let the Spirit offer new insights to us from the scriptures.

Although there is a coherent message and unity to the Bible, we limit God when we settle on only one application of a portion of Scripture to our lives. The Bible is as relevant to our lives as the morning newscast—perhaps even more relevant.

No comments: