The Bible tells me what?
Published 12:01 pm Saturday, November 10, 2018
by Nathan Decker
“It is not the things which I do not understand in the Bible which trouble me, but the things which I do understand.”
– Mark Twain
We call it so many different things: God’s Word, the Holy Scripture, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. In our culture the sacred text has been used and misused for centuries. The Bible has been treated as a sacred talisman for making us tell the truth in the courtroom. It has been used to justify slavery, abusing women and beating children. In graduate school we spent an entire day talking about “terror texts” within the Bible. These verse tell stories of babies getting their brains bashed out (Psalm 137) and a father offering his own daughter to be gang-raped (Judges 19.) Some wield it more like a weapon than the tool of faith it was intended to be.
It might be easier to begin by saying what the Bible is not. More often than not, we are asking the text questions the stories do not answer. The Bible is not a science book. Asking the Bible to tell us the origins of the universe is unfair. The stories of creation and the beginning of the Gospel of John do not answer questions of timetables or what happened to the dinosaurs. This would be like asking someone from the 1930s how a cell phone works or what the internet does.
The Bible is not a history book. It contains history, but this is a told history by a people who are theologically interpreting their history through a God-lens. Listening to the story tells us as much about the people telling the story as it does about God. If we were to tell the U.S. history the same way the Bible tells history it would reshape and color our understandings about who we are as Americans. We might say that God whispered into the ears of those Pilgrims on the Mayflower.
We might say that God sent the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor as punishment for our sins. Occasionally you’ll still hear Christians interpret history this way. Pat Robertson said the Katrina hit New Orleans because of the sins of the city. When we read the Bible, it is important that we hear it not just through our own ears, but also through the ears of those who first told these stories.
So, what is the Bible then? The Bible is God’s beautiful story of broken people encountering God’s stubborn love. The Bible is the story of God blessing Adam and Eve after the Garden. It is the story of God protecting Cain even after he killed his brother. It is the tale of God still loving King David even after his affair and abuse of power. It is the story of God sending Jesus to show us love in the flesh and helping us reinterpret our understanding of God’s presence. Jesus told the story through grace, mercy, and compassion.
The Bible is God’s story to us. A story filled with broken people who, like us, are struggling to understand their place, purpose, and potential. The Bible is the story of us. It reminds us of who we are. It gives us hope to what we can be. It offers the story of salvation to those who will open it up and hear God speak. I challenge you to take a look at what God’s story is telling you. Start in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Listen to the love story that God is telling us. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
“Jesus loves me, this I know… for the Bible tells me so.”
NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.