Facebook is notorious as a place where conversations devolve into anger and accusations. I typically use my personal timeline as a place to interact in a more fun than serious way and rarely do I have long conversations there.
Until recently. I'd posted an article about an atheist's take on the portrayal of atheists in the movie "God's Not Dead" and it set off quite the conversation. Through it all though, people remained civil to each other. It made me think that miracles do happen.
And then a friend send me a private message asking me what I thought about some verses in Matthew, and later that night I was able to spend some time looking at them and reading them in the context of the gospel as a whole. As I explored the topic of the Kingdom of God throughout the gospel, I found my faith being reignited--and I didn't even know that it needed to be. With the text in front of me and my thoughts about it and what I've read on the subject forming in my head, I felt myself coming alive.
It really makes such a huge difference to look at verses in context. I know I am guilty of being lazy and not doing that at times, especially if it's a verse that I really like for some reason, but when I do actually put in the effort to learn the context, it ends up meaning so much more to me than just taking a verse here and a verse there and thinking I know what they mean because I've heard it in a sermon or have seen it on a calendar.
As I wrote up my notes and thoughts, I even learned something new. I had always known the verses when Jesus talks about only going after the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and I had known the verses at the end of Matthew about making disciples of all nations, but I had never really looked at the progression of getting from one to the other, and as I noticed that, I could visualize how Jesus' movement started so small and narrowly focused, yet then opened up to include all people everywhere.
And that's good news.
Because we often think of the Bible as a guidebook, we have a tendency to look at it as abstract pieces of information on how to live. And while I do think it teaches us how to live, I don't think it's in the way of a checklist; it's more holistic than that. It's easy to check off memory verses without understanding them or hold up a reference at a sporting event. But I constantly find myself wanting to go deeper than that. For many people, the way I read and study the Bible would probably be considered too boring or difficult, because it doesn't provide automatic answers or advice. But for me, when I do this, I find that the Bible opens up the world of faith to me in ways I don't experience any other way. It forces me to look at big pictures and challenge any suppositions I unknowingly have. It causes me to think, to question, to wrestle. Most of all, though that, it causes me to focus on God more than if I pluck out a verse.
I think the Bible is beautiful, and am thankful for the conversations it fosters and the way those conversations make me look harder and dig deeper.