For two months, I've been reading more Scripture on a regular basis than I have in a long time. As part of my Year of Renewal project, I've been reading the parashah, haftarah, and Revised Common Lectionary readings for each week.
Reading so much scripture has been great; it's made me wonder and it's made me question. It's made me think of connections--and disconnections--between what I am reading and in other books I am reading (Galatians, What St. Paul Really Said). I see themes that tie together and themes that contradict each other.
A couple of weeks ago I tweeted:
Finally starting to say no to doing classes and "Bible" studies out of obligation & will spend the time doing things that bring me life.
— Kelly J Youngblood (@kjpyoungblood) August 25, 2014
This was referring to the fact that I haven't signed up for one class at church. Not Sunday morning, Sunday evening, or Wednesday evening. There are some great options that are being offered. They just aren't for me at this time. I miss reading and studying my Bible and I'm planning to take more time to actually do that.
I have spent far too long going to various groups or activities because I feel obligated to do so: to meet people, to have a social outlet, to spend time with other adults. But I often still find that something is lacking. It's like I'm attending a salad luncheon when all I want is a steak dinner.
Then I read this article by Ben Irwin on Q Ideas in which he states
"We buy a lot of Bibles. We just don’t read them. And if we do, it’s usually a verse here or a chapter there. We don’t read; we cherry-pick. And cherry-picking is a guaranteed path to a miserable reading experience."
That's exactly what we do. We read a verse here and there, or have a topic and find all the verses that we think go along with that topic, and we ignore whole chapters and books and context. We want to skip right to application. I'm so tired of doing that. I'm tired of reading, say Galatians 1:3-5
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
and skipping over it, or just thinking, oh, ok, Jesus died for our sins. What's next?
Why, when we read the Bible, do we tend to not ask questions? Such as:
- What did Paul mean when he says "present evil age"?
- What was considered evil in that period in history?
- How does Jesus giving himself for sins set people free? What did it mean then? Is it connected to Luke 4:18?
- How did Paul define sin?
Those are six questions about one small part of these verses that we usually skip over, if we even read them at all, because usually we'd rather just get on to an inspirational verse that we can memorize to pull out when we're feeling down (or a verse for when we want to prooftext something).
I think part of the problem is that we see the Bible as our self-help guide and we're looking for 3 steps to stop worrying or 5 ways to grow faith or 7 ways to parent Biblically. But the Bible is so much more than that, and treating it as a self-help book can detract from what we can experience if we actually were to read it for the benefit of reading it and what we can learn and how we can grow through that process, and not just for a quick few steps about how to do something.
How do you read the Bible?