I have a friend who wrote an academic book on how to interpret Scripture. It was very good, and full of a lot of very smart, wonderful things about how different people interpret the Bible in different ways. He asked me to read it, which I was happy to do.
He said, “What did you think?”
I said, “I think you did a good job, but you left out a really significant driver of how people interpret Scripture: job security. Job security defines how we interpret Scripture more than almost anything I know.”
It’s true. Many of us, if we’re being honest with ourselves, interpret the Bible in terms of what’s acceptable. Instead of going to the Bible and asking the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to what’s being said in it, we interpret it in terms of what won’t get us in trouble, stir the pot or make too much noise. We don’t want a controversial opinion that might put us at odds with what’s considered “safe,” so we think of it in terms of what won’t cause a racket.
We come to the Bible with fear and insecurity instead of coming with confidence and openness, knowing that the Holy Spirit lives in us, guiding out hearts.
A New Way to Read
I firmly believe that we need to come to the Bible actually looking to learn and grow instead of simply looking to have our “acceptable” ideas about God confirmed. In fact, I think God intends for our ideas about Him to expand as we grow closer to Him. Isn’t that how all relationships work?
Come to think of it, isn’t that how all ideas work?
Think about it: fifteen years ago, you thought you were right about a whole lot of things you don’t think you were right about now. Your ideas about what makes a good politician, a healthy marriage or a safe home have improved as you’ve grown older and smarter. There’s been movement in your life, because of your relationships, experiences and communities. You’ve grown.
Hopefully, the same will be true for you fifteen years down the road from right now. Who knows how God will have molded and shaped you in the future? What kind of conversations do you think you’ll be having then? What kind of new understandings will God bring you into?
Chances are, you’ll have a lot more new understandings if you get over the idea that you’ve already got it all figured out.
A Lasting Truth. A Fluid Conversation.
Now, be careful about what I’m saying here. I’m not saying facts are fluid. I’m not saying truths are fluid. I’m definitely not saying God changes.
I am saying that our understanding of these things should grow, and our conversations ought to evolve. Our whole obsession with certainty has kept us away from mystery, but our interaction with God is a relationship—and relationships are all about mystery.
Consider how the writer of Hebrews called the Word of God “living and active.” The whole idea is one of movement—of the Word of GOd moving into you and living along side you.
Once you enter into a relationship with a person, things are moving. As I’ve said many times, when you love someone, it changes all the rules. Things are going to change.
And in order for us to be OK with that, we have to be OK with not knowing everything. We have to learn to love the questions, because questions are invitations to relationship.
That’s why Jesus answered questions with questions. He loved to get past people’s dry, philosophical questions and into what was really going on in their hearts. He would take the conversation past an intellectual belief and into the heart of what was really going on. He was making a connection
The Important Thing
Think about how different that is from how we act when we’re approached by someone with a belief we don’t agree with. When we start arguing about beliefs, then it’s no longer about relationship. Instead, it’s about me convincing you that you’re wrong. I only listen so that I can argue. I’m not even really hearing you. You as a person don’t really matter anymore—I’m only seeing you as an idea to disprove. In this flawed attitude, the important thing is to be right.
But when you accept the beauty of God’s mystery, you don’t have to be right all the time. You don’t have to have all the answers. You can love a good question, and know that God can be found in good questions.
So go to the Bible with a humble heart, saying “Holy Spirit, I want to hear what you’re saying to me.” Ask yourself, “What’s actually going on here, in this passage?” Ask yourself, “How is this relevant to the way that I love?” If it’s not something that promotes you ability to love those around you, you might be asking for the wrong reasons. Go to Scripture looking for a relationship that changes you.
Odds are, you won’t be disappointed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. (And be sure to give your email at the bottom of this page, if you haven’t already, so we can keep you up to date on our unfolding conversation.)