Unfortunately, this gracious gift from God is sometimes used in ways that God never intended. It can be used as a “proof text” to accommodate one particular belief or another. It can be used as a weapon to attack persons or groups of people who are disliked by other persons. It can be treated only as a piece of literature, analyzed and parsed and studied but unregarded as the word of God.
Neither do those who DO regard the Bible as the word of God go without their share of controversy. Some groups refuse to trust or even to associate with folks who do not use a particular version of the Bible. Great fights have arisen over issues as small as whether a particular use of pronouns is proper or not. In particular, the English version of the Bible completed in 1611 during the reign of James I of England is considered by many to be the only proper translation. Others accord that same place of prominence to the New International Version, the English Standard Version, or another favorite. The truth is that no translation of the Bible is perfect or acceptable to all readers.
Still, for all the controversy that has centered around the Bible in our times and in centuries past, God has seen fit to preserve these Scriptures. I am convinced that if God had wished for his book to be passed down to us in a radically different form from what we have, He certainly could have brought that to pass. Imagine the controversy, though, if we actually did have the original scrolls or parchments or other tablets on which the Bible writers had penned their inspired words. Where would we keep them? In Jerusalem? In Rome? In Greece? In London? How about New York? Or Nashville? What do you think? And if we could decide where to keep them, how would we keep them? Would they be on heavily guarded display, like the Mona Lisa in the Louvre or the U.S. Declaration of Independence in the National Archives?
I’m afraid that sometimes we forget that God’s book is important because of the message it contains. And that message is one of love. Amazingly, God so loved the world that He extends to us the opportunity to live with Him—not just in heaven someday, but right here on this earth. “The Bible is all about human life with God. It is about how God has made this “with-God” life possible and will bring it to pass (Life with God Study Bible, p. xxvii). Think about it—the Bible begins with a record of human life with God in face-to-face, individual relationship. As the Earth is populated, most people turn away from God, so God chooses an individual family and chooses to bless the world through them. That family grows to be a nation which passes through ups and downs, times of tragedy and triumph, times of reverent obedience to God and times of great disobedience. Still, they are God’s people to bring to the world the greatest of all gifts—Jesus. Jesus is Immanuel—literally, God with us. For a few years people on earth got to live with God right in their midst. Since Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension, we have had the privilege of living with God in our hearts.
God with us! Imagine the greatness of that fact! And that grand story is revealed to us in God’s word, the Bible—not so that we can fight about it, or use its words to prove one point or another, but so that we can learn to become more and more like the One who is at the center of the story.
For the spiritual formation of a human being, there is no greater aid than the Bible. We should read it, study it, meditate upon it, memorize passages from it. Those exercises are all highly profitable. Most of all, though, we should let its message of love to seep into our hearts, our minds, our total beings.
There now! I’ve talked for a long time. Will you talk to me? How does this story of love feed your soul?