I used to walk to the pulpit and hold up the Bible and say, “I have nothing of value to say except what is written in this book.” I now regret saying that for a variety of reasons that might become apparent if you have read my book, “Apparent Faith,” or heard me speak lately. By the way, I like to say “apparent” these days — did you catch that?
Depending on our backgrounds, we attach varying degrees of emphasis to the Bible. This collection of letters and poetry and various other forms of literature have been deemed by some to be the “Word of God” even though the Bible itself gives that title to Jesus in the Gospel of John. Some would ignore the Bible completely, but I would agree with Paul (very simply) that the Bible is “useful.” I also believe that it is “inspired” but I find no evidence to suggest that it is infallible. Brian Zahnd suggests that Christianity is like a tree that grows out of the soil of Scripture. Pete Enns points to Walter Bruggemann’s characterization of Scripture as compost for new life.
These definitions actually are closer to how Jesus portrayed the Scriptures (which at that time was only a collection of scrolls, possibly similar to what we call the Old Testament).
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)
The life is in Jesus, not necessarily the Scripture. The soil and compost are important, but they only lead to the life that grows out of them.
At the transfiguration of Jesus, he is joined by Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets). Together they represent a good portion of the Old Testament. The most interesting thing about this passage is when God says, “his is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!
Sometimes the Bible can be confusing, but I do not find Jesus’ words to be difficult to understand. They are challenging to live by but very easy to comprehend. He says:
- Love God
- Love you neighbor
- Love your enemy
- Do to others what you would want them to do to you
- Turn the other cheek
His life demonstrated things like compassion, love, mercy, and grace. These are the things that bring life! When I live this way, life is not hard to understand.
I no longer treat the Bible as an idol. It is useful and I am thankful for it because it points me to Jesus! And, Jesus points me to life!
I am finding I really do have something valuable to say.
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