I read a tweet the other day about the Bible, which left me feeling a bit confused.
The gist of the post was that while the Bible is important, reading it doesn’t necessarily make me a ‘good’ Christian. After all, before the printed press, most people (other than Priests and people who were super educated) didn’t own, let alone read a Bible. They got their spiritual understanding from memorising what they’d been taught at church or by singing hyms. Did that make them worse Christians than you or me?
So in part, I agree. Nothing, apart from what Jesus did can make me ‘good’ but I think it could be quite dangerous to suggest that Bible reading isn’t as crucial as we’d been taught.
So, it’s fair to say that not everyone can read. Some people find it a huge struggle due to disability or a reading problem. Some people are just not natural readers and learn in different ways.
So maybe it’s better to encourage people to ‘absorb’ the Bible. A bit like vitamins (from chewable to sprayable), there’s loads of ways to get it into our system – audio versions, dyslexic versions, masses of contemporary translations (to make it easier to digest) and plenty of others.
How we digest the Bible isn’t important…but I 100% believe that (for Christians), there’s no way around it, we’ve just got to figure out a way to regularly pick up that book (in whatever format).
3 reasons why the Bible is good for you.
1) It’s more than a random collection of stories – it has a plot.
I once set myself the challenge of reading the Bible through in 90 days. It was shockingly hard. Genealogies in particular, are gruelling reading. But, I discovered the Bible has a plot.
It’s like binge-watching a Netflix series; you start to see how all the characters fit together. The story of Jesus makes more sense, when you understand the Temple sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus, or why it was important that Abraham was at least willing to kill his own son. Revelation starts to make real sense, when you read Genesis. It’s so much more than just a hastily thrown together collection of tales – there is a preface, a plot, and a pretty incredible conclusion. But like any Netflix series, if you only watch selected feel-good episodes, you’ll never understand the power of the whole story.
2) It’s a guide book for life.
We’re born into a world where, sooner or later, everything fails or dies. But somehow, the Bible has survived for centuries. It’s an incredible way to test if what you’re hearing is actually true.
Knowing, reading and absorbing the Bible is the best way to stop yourself falling off a theological cliff. You don’t have to understand the Greek or have a knowledge of eschatology, but reading it, gives you a spiritual radar which is the best way to keep on track.
I recently heard a well-known Bible teacher use a Bible verse to illustrate a point. Something about it, didn’t ring true and when I thumbed through my Bible app, there it was, it was taken horribly out of context. I’m sure the speaker was well-intended, but his use of a verse which actually meant something completely opposite (if read in the context of the whole chapter) could have been kinda dangerous. Because I’d read the Bible, I knew something didn’t seem quite right.
3) It makes sense of the senseless
Reading the Bible helps me to make sense of things which don’t really have a reasonable explanation. It’s jam packed full of stories of huge screw-ups, failures, suffering, people who did unspeakable things and it’s also full of faithfulness, the kind of joy which makes no sense in the circumstances, and the story of God, who totally understands what it’s like to be human.
If you’re not a natural reader, why not find a way to engage with the Bible in a different format? Listen to dramatised versions (there’s loads online), watch YouTube versions, read a contemporary translation…but get it into your system. It won’t make you a ‘good’ Christian, but it will make you a Christian who knows the difference between truth and fiction…and no matter how good it is, that’s something you’ll never learn from Netflix.