Friday, May 19, 2017

Interpretation of the Heart

This week, we've seen how easy it is for some of these subtle differences to sneak in and completely change the way that we read and understand the Scriptures. It ought to pierce our conscience how easy it is for the heart of the Scriptures to change when we do these sorts of things. And I think it all started when we twisted the question of what the Scriptures have to say to what the Scriptures have to say to me, as though the whole of the Christian faith centers on our own personal experience of it.

Just a friendly reminder: God is bigger than you. 

The overwhelming majority of Christian history is a testimony to men and women, clergy and laity, monks and mechanics all trying to figure out what the Bible says. They've tried to put it back in its own context, taking it to the streets of Jerusalem, the deserts of Sinai, the shores of the Jordan River to figure out what God was saying to His people and what it all meant. The overwhelming majority of Christian history has wondered what it was that Paul's audience would have heard when he spoke in Acts 17, how Elijah would have spoken under the threat of Jezebel's thumb, how Abraham and the Lord negotiated their relationship from the promise to the promised land. We've been trying to figure out how God spoke, what He said, what He meant. We've been trying to figure it out because we've known that the Scriptures reveal something about God, but they also reveal something about us. They tell us who God is, and they tell us who we are.

No longer. Those are just not the questions that contemporary Christians are asking, at least not in the mainstream. Not in the majority of our pews. Today, Christians are asking how God speaks to them, what He says to them, and how faith best becomes meaningful by understanding or practice. For today's Christian, our starting point has become our telling the Scriptures who we are and then trying to figure out what that means for them. 

I cannot overstate how dangerous this is, not to mention scary!

This kind of modern theology has given us permission to dismiss large portions of the Scriptures as not being "relevant" to us. We pick and choose which words make sense for our lives and toss the rest, claiming that God spoke them, perhaps, but for another audience. Do you realize that the most-read version of the Scriptures today is not the NIV or the KJV? It's the "All-About-Me." It's our own version, our own translation, whittled and worn down to just that handful of passages that seems to fit with what we already embrace and expect in our lives. 

It's brought us to a place where we sit in the same pews, but we're no longer reading the same Scriptures. We look at each other, listen to someone quote some eloquent word of God, and we say, "That's not in my Bible." And it's not. Because we've edited it out. It may be the word of God, but it's not the word of God to us, so we've trashed it.

And then we spend most of our lives trying to construct a meaningful faith out of what we have left. Let me just say this without apology: if your faith is only meaningful because you've made it so, then your God is not big enough. 

There's not one word in all of the Scriptures that says that anything that God does in all the world depends upon your interpretation of it. There's not one breath that God utters that says, "Gosh, this will be so perfect if they just choose to make it so." Your life is meaningful, your faith is meaningful, because God made it so. Because God Himself is meaning. 

It's meaningful because God created it. It's meaningful because God is present in it. It's meaningful because God invested in it by sending His Son to walk the earth and by sending His Son to carry the Cross. It's meaningful because on one Sunday morning, there was an empty tomb. It's meaningful because God is sufficiently big to make it meaningful, not because you've come up with some interpretation of it all that "makes sense" to you. Not because you've formed and fashioned a faith that matters. 

Faith has always mattered, not because of those who believe but because of the One they have believed in. And if that's news to you, it's time to pick up a full version of the Scriptures and read the parts you're prone to skip. 

Sorry to sound harsh, but it has to be said. We've come to a place in our faith where we have convinced ourselves that it's up to us to interpret the Scriptures, but that has absolutely never been the case. Unlike every other writing in all of existence, the Scriptures interpret us. We don't bring our hearts to the Bible; the Bible brings our hearts to us. 

So we have to get back to an honest, faithful reading. We have to get back to asking the right questions, which are not what these Scriptures mean to me, but what these Scriptures mean for me. We have to stop asking how the word of God fits in with who we are and start seeking to discover how the word of God exposes who we are. And it reminds us who He is - 

So much more and so much greater than we give Him credit for. 

No comments:

Post a Comment