Re-read the Bible – A Challenge
How often do we stop to consider just how incredible the Bible is? I don’t think we do. Certainly the way the Scriptures are read
in churches suggests we don’t quite ‘get’ them. We can happily plough through great chunks of text without a pause or quiver of lip. I have heard people stand up and read the Crucifixion narrative in the same tone of voice they might recite a shopping list. I have heard people bark out the Beatitudes with no passion or awe for the words they so casually read. I’m not a crazy crazy Bible basher but I really think we’ve missed the point of this amazing book. Here are some examples (all from the NT – the OT is also awesome but very complicated and I’ll deal with that at a later date):
1. The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14
Um… wow? This is the most blatant statement of Incarnational Theology in the Bible and we can read it without going ‘WOW’?! This text is incredible, earth-shattering, utterly utterly beautiful. This verse tells us that God became Man for our sake, took on our frail human form to live and eat and suffer with us. And for us.
2. You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Matthew 5:43-44
To anyone who tries to tell me the Bible is no longer a ‘relevant’ text I show them this verse. Love your enemy. Surely if the Bible was out-of-date and irrelevant we’d have managed to do all the things we’re asked. Have we managed this one? Evidently not. Should we? Well, that’s for you to decide. Personally, I think this verse stands at the centre of why Jesus is such a Revolutionary. In 1st Century battle-scarred and oppressed Palestine He comes out with this. Revolutionary, dangerous and radical. Think about the word ‘radical’, from the Latin word ‘radix’ – meaning ‘root’. Something radical is something that sits at the root of truth. Jesus’ words are radical because they penetrate to the root of the matter. Love. Above all else, love. Think that’s easy? Try it. It’s not.
3. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
You knew this verse would be in here, didn’t know? And that’s because it’s a bloomin’ wonderful verse. Paul was never better. But do we ever stop to consider this really and truly and fully. There is NOTHING! NOTHING that will separate us. Not one single thing. A friend once said to me that if anyone says that what they’ve done is too bad for forgiveness, it’s like they’re saying the Cross wasn’t enough, which is the ultimate arrogance. When I’m feeling like that, I read this passage and remember that Paul was a horrible git before Damascus.
4. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
The Short and Sweet Guide to Being a Christian. Also know as ‘The Great Commission’. It may be short but it’s not very sweet. This command was given to the disciples and think how many of those came to sticky ends (hint: all except one). This is a potted guide to the rudiments of following Jesus but it’s a very big command in very few words. Just like the other passage from Matthew, this is really not as easy as it first sounds. We’re being asked to risk it all. We’re to take the Gospel to ALL NATIONS, not just the ones with hot running water and central heating. Not just the ones that don’t bomb each other. Being a Christian is not going to be easy. This passage makes that very clear.
5. Jesus prayed, ‘Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing’. Luke 23:34
Picture the scene. You’re dying. You’ve got nails in your wrists, your feet. Your side has been stabbed. You have sharp thorns digging into your head. You are baking in the hot sun. You are strung up next to common criminal, an ignominious death. A shameful death. Outside the city walls. Roman soldiers are casting lots for your clothes. And in all of this you ask for forgiveness for them. You intercede for those who are killing you. There’s nothing else I can say on this one. Stop and think about it.
Do you see what I mean? You could pick almost any chapter from the Gospels or the Epistles or any other NT text and meditate on it for weeks and weeks. Some make a single book their life’s work. The Bible has so much in it, it’s easy to do that. It changes over time. We read it differently with shifting moods and experience. This is part of the mystery and majesty of the text.
My poor old bashed Bible is looking rather forlorn and it’s peppered with colouring pencil scribblings. Isn’t that the way a Bible is supposed to look?
Perhaps this Lent, pick up your Bible, read a few verses and see what you pull out of them. You will be pleasantly surprised, I hope.