Friday, May 14, 2010

The B-I-B-L-E

During Lent, my mom sent me a list so I could read through the New Testament in nine weeks. It was a really good experience. My time in the Bible has been abominable lately, so it was good to have that regular reading to do. I confess that I bogged down a little bit at the end (Revelation is just tough for me to get through -- should have made that at the beginning instead of the last week!), but overall it was a good time. Getting back into a regular pattern of reading the Scripture was good for me. (And in case you're wondering, I read online at BibleGateway.com and I read the Contemporary English Version.)

So anyway, my relationship with the Bible has changed over the years. Back when I was first really "saved" (for me, a bit of a process when I was in 7th and 8th grade, really culminating the summer of 1988), I could read the Bible for hours. It spoke to me a lot. My first Bible (a Thompson Chain Reference) was underlined almost solidly through most of the Gospels and the Psalms. It was all very lovely and easy and straight-forward.

Fast-forward to college. For about the first two years of college, I don't know if I cracked open a Bible more than once or twice. I didn't go to church, I didn't really do much of anything related to anything spiritual. I certainly don't have the most interesting stories, but I've got at least a couple that I don't want my kids to hear about any time soon. It wasn't that I didn't believe, I just completely neglected my faith.

Then I got a job working with the Newman Center on campus. I got the job so I could afford to call Jason once a week (that was back in the olden days when cheap long distance was $.25/minute). But it ended up being a way for me to reconnect with the Church. I probably wouldn't have thought that it would be a Catholic church that would bring me back (especially as someone who had grown up in the LCMS!), but nevertheless, being a part of a faith community again really helped me get my bearings. But if you've ever crossed the divide between Protestant and Catholic, you know that they approach the Bible in a much different manner. So my easy, straight-forward reading of the Scripture was challenged a good bit.

As an adult, we've shuffled around to a number of different churches. And again, each of them had a different way of reading and interpreting the Bible. Things in one church that were no big deal, were quite a big deal in another. Things that one church embraced, another church would call a sin or heresy. A verse promoting unity would be used as a club to beat you up for having an individual view about something. A verse about submission would be used for daring to voice an opinion that was different from the pastor. Nothing was easy. Nothing was straight-forward.

So where am I now?

Well, I kind of see my Bible like our GPS (her name is Karen and she's our computer wife). Provided all of the satellites are working and the maps are up to date, it's right. It knows the right way to go. It's got the correct information. And it's a great tool, especially in going somewhere that you've never been before.

But.

Sometime the satellites are obscured. Karen doesn't work well in Jason's car, because of some kind of coating on the glass that keeps her from working correctly. Sometimes the maps aren't up to date. Sometimes everything works fine, but it's set for footpaths or to avoid toll roads or something like that. You can Google "blindly following GPS" and see one story after another of a GPS leading someone down a path that is not where they intended to be, sometimes with really disastrous results for both them, and other people. Not because the GPS was wrong, but because the person wasn't paying attention to their surroundings.

I think sometimes we approach the Bible the same way. I'm not saying that the Bible is wrong -- not at all. I'm saying that maybe we're wrong. We read a verse and because of our upbringing or hurts in our past or just not reading it in context, we end up forming a view about God or the Church or non-believers that isn't correct. In this article, Jason Boyett sums it up so well. He says,
I believe the Bible is God-inspired and perfect in what it communicates. But the “God wrote it, I believe it” brand of inspiration fails to account for an important kink in the process: People are idiots. While the Bible’s message may be perfect, those of us reading it are unequivocably not.
Yeah, that's pretty much it. I get the context wrong. I'm completely ignorant of the history or culture of the people group the letter was written to in the first place. I insert my own version of God into what I'm reading and pass that off as His Holy Word (TM). And I think that when I do that, I can end up down a path that is not the one that God intends for me at all. Sometimes I even take other people down with me.

So how do I sort it out? For me lately, I've been approaching things with a more wide view. Does my interpretation follow the golden rule? Is my interpretation loving? I think it can be good to talk about deeper things than that, but I'm trying not to get too wrapped up in things beyond that.

What about you? What guidelines do you use for reading the Bible? Do you have any Bible reading habits that you'd like to share? (And if you're really feeling brave) How have you used the Bible wrongly?
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
 
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