When I raised my hand to declare that I disliked — no, hated — the Law, I surprised even myself. It was at a retreat discussion about Pslam 19 which describes the Law as sweet like honey. To me, the Law tasted bitter.
I’d subconsciously suppressed that the Law and the entire Bible as an extension was something with which I wanted only a loose connection.
- I found the stories dusty and drab in their straightforward narrative styles.
- I feared reading the offensive Books of Law and conquest because they made me uncomfortable. Paul wrote stuff that seemed to conflict with my personal values regarding women.
- I thought I knew all the important stuff because I grew up with Sunday school stories. I’d lived life by a moral compass manufactured from those base-level teachings, not bothering with evidence or details, nor the less-famous Bible passages.
- I justified my inability to open my Bible by reading a dozen Facebook memes per day that contained one-liner verses about love (and certainly not wrath!).
- My inability to faithfully and consistently read the Bible led to frustration and anger at myself. I felt like a failure as a Christian. It was a sore topic.
I don’t think I was alone. We speak openly in the church about how few Christians actually read their Bibles. It’s really no wonder why people outside the church question whether we even know our own scripture. It’s because many of us don’t.
Only 11% of Americans have read the entire Bible, according to a LifeWay survey. They follow this with, “Those with evangelical beliefs are more likely (49 percent) to read a little bit each day than those without evangelical beliefs (16 percent). Protestants (36 percent) are more likely to read every day than Catholics (17 percent).”
It’s not only about reading the verses; so many of us neglect to study the written, cultural, and theological contexts of the Word. Without studying the context of societal sex roles and privileges of the early church in Ephesus, one could say women shouldn’t hold leadership positions. Without taking prophecy fulfillment and surrounding scripture into consideration, one could say Jesus encouraged arming ourselves with weapons with the intention to “defend” Him. Without studying theology and the exile from Zion, we could say we are promised a materialistically prosperous life if we are faithful to God’s plan.
I began analyzing my broken, distant relationship with the Word when I went to Jordan and saw the profound effect the Bible stories and their lessons had on Muslim, Syrian refugees. They:
- were hearing scripture for the first time, with fresh ears.
- knew the cultural implications — the countercultural, radical messages — were shocking because Middle Eastern culture really hasn’t changed that much. They viewed scripture through its proper lens.
- believed in the miraculous more than most Western Christians I’ve met.
Their eyes grew wide while we shared that Jesus said a man’s disabilities weren’t a punishment, that the Prodigal Son was warmly received in his homecoming, that a God-who-became-man wept over the death of a human and then sacrificed Himself for those who hated Him.
Honestly, I couldn’t think of a single time (until recently) that I was surprised by a Biblical story or teaching.
During our free time, the team in Jordan visited sites from the Bible like Mount Nebo and Umm Qais. From a distance, we viewed the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. I stared at these places, felt their ancient dust, and urged the old Sunday school stories to come to new life.
It didn’t work. I had no special connection to those stories.
That changed when, after a tough day of serving refugees, I finally opened my Bible to read Luke 3:3-6 which tells of Jesus bringing new life to the Jordan Valley. In a place of oppression where thousands streamed in to escape slaughter, Jesus continues walking and working. I saw proof in the gleeful laughter of the children refugees, in the Christian church that selflessly sacrificed for Muslim neighbors, in the sparked eyes of those who heard His stories. Finally, I looked over the Promised Land and felt my eyes water.
I’d like to say I returned home and began reading my Bible, but that took months. I’d pick up the book and set it down without bothering to open it. I’d open my Bible app and almost immediately switch to Instagram. I frustrated myself. I hated that I hated the Word.
Finally, I came to the realization I needed, painful as it was: I couldn’t love God properly while hating His words.
As someone who at least tries to love God, this distressed me. So, I prayed.
God, I want to love you. And I really don’t as much as I want to. Help me to not only accept your Word, but crave it. Help me to absorb it and need it and want it.
When we earnestly, selflessly, and faithfully ask for things that contribute to our spiritual growth, God will give the gift.
And so He did.
In my next post, I’ll tell you what changed.