“I hear you teach Sunday School ,” Jim ventured as he helped himself to the potatoes. We both were visitors at his sister’s farm for Sunday lunch.
“I try,” said I.
Jim grinned, “Well, that’s good. Now, I’ve got a question. Doesn’t the Bible tell us to love one another?”
“Well, I’m trying to love people where I work at the Post Office.”
“Mmm-hmm.” I can be a good listener when fried chicken is around.
“It’s good to cheer up people, isn’t it?”
Jim proceeded, “There’s one girl, she’s married and so am I. But I keep showin’ her my love. Isn’t that what the Bible says to do?”
The chicken traversed my tonsils. I wiped my mouth.
“If I understand you right, no. The Bible says just the opposite. Like, ‘don’t desire your neighbor’s wife.’”
Jim protested that he was just trying to spread love, that everyone should be more lovin’, and that his coworker was loveable.
Our hosts tried basic diversions: the weather, dogs, Uncle Edgar’s car. Jim, however, persisted in pressing for approval for his many activities. “Don’t the Bible say we should be enjoyin’ life?” His brother-in-law translated, “He means honky-tonkin’”.
I recall there was tasty chocolate meringue pie as the conversation lurched to a close. After Jim excused himself from the table, his sister rolled her eyes and sighed, “That Jim, he’s a rascal.”
Driving home, I thanked God that by means of fried chicken in my mouth He had prevented me from approving sin. Two blessings in one stroke! What a mighty God we serve! I was wondering if I could avoid saying other stupid things by keeping my mouth full. Then a rather disturbing question intruded.
Don’t I come to the Bible much like Jim?
I want confirmation, not correction. I want comfort, not challenge.
Just like Jim.
Over the next few days, I roughed out some ways that might make my Bible study less biased. Let me preface this list by saying I applied and continue to apply these attitude adjustments to me, not to others. But I recommend these attitudes.
A few minutes of Bible reading should challenge my views and habits. If I’m not challenged, I haven’t been paying attention. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right.” (1 Timothy 3) This is broad language. Focus. The first correction must be log removal: teaching me, showing me what is wrong in my life, and correcting my faults.
I urge against correction as a goal or practice for Bible study in a group. But I realize this: I need correction.
If correction doesn’t come from my personal Bible study and reflection, then how is God going to correct me? The two main ways left to correct me are painful: reproach from other people, and humbling life events.
Emotions surrounding a decision easily overwhelm. Christian leaders such as Ignatius of Loyola and John Wesley have advised against turning to scripture in times of decision. We see what we want to see. However, my life is full of decision! I might end up not studying at all. Thus, to move toward a more nearly objective state of mind and because I am a nerd, I do the following in a time of decision. Before opening the book I take trouble to formalize a testable hypothesis, its complement, and a significance level for evaluating what I find. I take time to appreciate God, and often find my anxieties quite overwhelmed. It may be useful to review my situation as if someone else was experiencing it.
An essential exercise in time of decision is to open myself to actions I should take if research contradicts my assumptions and hopes. I want to be more open than the guy we kids studied Sunday. In Matthew 19, a rich guy comes to Jesus, asking, “What should I do to assure myself eternal life?” The rich guy was keeping the commandments. So Jesus challenged him to go to the next level: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give all your money to the poor; then you will have treasure in heaven. And then come, follow Me.” The young man went away sad because he was very wealthy.
When was the last time you went to the Bible for confirmation, and got a challenge?
When was the last time you opened the Bible expecting admonitions to do more, and instead got comfort and encouragement?
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.