The Only Real Reason to Read the Bible: Part Seven of “How I Read the Bible, And So Can You!”

child-reading-BibleWhen I interpret Scripture I go through a process, almost second-nature by now, that includes, suspending my assumptions about the nature of the Bible; not letting my previous instruction about a passage inhibit something new and different coming out; letting the original writers have their voice and their say; looking past what a writer means to what he is trying to accomplish; and then interpreting everything in light of the revelation that is the person of Jesus.

Now comes the hard part, and this part definitely isn’t second nature. It’s an effort each and every time.

The last, most important, and most difficult step is to adjust. After I’ve done all the above and come to my best understanding, in light of Jesus Christ, of what a passage says, I have to adjust. Alter. Change.

Why else read the Bible?

Not that there aren’t other reasons why people read the Bible. Some people read the Bible because they’ve been told to. They’ve been told that’s what good Christians do and they want to be a good Christian and so they read it even though they don’t understand 90% of what they are reading.

Some people read it so they don’t feel so lost when they listen to a sermon or attend a Bible study class.

Some people read it so they can appear intelligent when they attend a Bible study.

Or so they can appear spiritual.

Some people read the Bible to find support for what they already believe and how they are already living their lives. They are always successful in finding such support.

Some people read the Bible so they can use it as a weapon against the forces of evil in our culture, and against other Christians who have succumbed to liberalism or whatever else they’re opposed to which they feel is trying to lead the church astray.

Some people read the Bible because it is an interesting collection of books with layers and layers of meaning, insights into the human condition, and often beautiful if not soaring passages of extraordinary poetry and prose.

Some people read it because it brings them peace and comfort at the beginning and/or the end of a stressful day, or during a time of extreme difficulty.

Some of these are, obviously, better reasons to read the Bible than others, and they can be affirmed. I read the Bible for some of these reasons as well.

In the end, however, the reason we read the Bible is for change. That’s why it was written.

It wasn’t written to affirm the status quo but to challenge it. Things, including you and me, aren’t what they should be, and God wants to do something about that.

So after I come to the best understanding of a Bible passage that I can, I am faced with the need to adjust in light of my understanding.

I might have to adjust my interpretation of other passages of Scripture in light of my new understanding. This is one of the fun things that happens to me all the time.

Passages are very intertwined with one another as the biblical writers were constantly alluding to other passages, often without an explicit reference.

I might have to adjust my view of the world and the people in it. The Bible was written to, for, and about a small group of people in a small part of the world, but it is cosmic in scope.

It is about the universal human condition and how God addresses it, which is also universal.

I might have to adjust my view of God. That’s difficult. That can be traumatic, even if the adjustment is from that of a cruel, vindictive, punishment-dealing dictator to that of a loving, forgiving, grace-dealing Father.

The damage from the former view is so deep that often counseling is required for healing to occur.

But more than anything, I have to adjust the way I live my life, and that’s never easy. Good, solid biblical interpretation requires a good bit of effort, but it’s a piece of cake compared to adjusting my life in light of the revelation of God in Jesus.

That’s why following Jesus isn’t for wimps.

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