A few days ago I was having a conversation with someone who had just recently discovered that I was a youth pastor. I love that moment, when people look at my bearded self and try to reconcile all their pictures of what a pastor is with what’s standing before them. It can illicit all kinds of responses. Sometimes people will try to convince me that they go to church, which is an interesting first response I think. Sometimes people will try to poke and prod at my theological convictions, trying to discover if it’s safe to have a conversation with me or if I should be labeled a heretic and burned at the stake. Other times the revelation that I am a pastor will simply end the conversation. But this time around, my conversation partner asked a hushed but serious question:
“How do you read the Bible?”
It turned out this was less of a question of interpretation, one of my favorite discussions, and more a question of will power. My new friend had tried a few times to read the Bible from cover to cover, and found himself literally lost in the desert as Moses was recounting law upon law upon law in the Torah. Boredom eventually took over, and he would give up. My friend took comfort when I told him that actually, his story is not a new or original story. I know so many folks who attempt to read the Bible straight through like that, and get hopelessly bored. So, how exactly do you read this book?
My first suggestion to my new friend was to stop trying to read the Bible straight through. The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, not one big one, and so it’s not as necessary to read straight through as say a detective story. Goodness, even I as a pastor get lost in the endless list of laws and regulations in the Torah from time to time! I suggested that my new friend start with the Gospels. Not only are they a bit more likely to hold our attention, they point to a central truth of the scriptures, that all of the Bible, even the rather boring laws, are ultimately pointing to Jesus Christ.
In other words, when we read the scriptures, we experience Jesus.
The Gospels give us a remarkable picture of who Jesus is, how Jesus lived, what Jesus taught, and what great love Jesus showed us on the cross. Paul and the other letter writers of the New Testament put that great story in a theological context for us that helps us understand what it means to live as a Christian. The prophets of the Old Testament point to Jesus the whole way through, setting the stage for his preaching about the Kingdom of God, one where justice would roll down like an ever flowing stream, one where we would do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. And even in those laws, regulations, and rules, we can find with careful examination a God who loves us enough to take care of us, a love that will be fully expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. No matter where you find yourself in scripture, you will experience Christ.
For me, this helps my reading habits of when it comes to the scripture. For too much of my life, I approached the Bible the way I approached homework, and I really didn’t like homework. Reading was a chore, and I wasn’t interested in that chore. But when my perspective shifted, when I recognized that to read the scriptures was an opportunity to meet with Jesus, to hear from him, to experience him, I fell in love with opening the book to meet and hear from my Savior.blog comments powered by Disqus