Monday, February 15, 2010

Eat This Book: Indigestion!

For most of us, our first experience with the Bible is sweet; we find ourselves in this book, and that is so wonderful.  We acquire a taste for the promises and blessings of God, we learn to appreciate the sound counsel and direction for our lives, we memorize a few psalms that we can recite in dark and lonely times and find comfort.  There is so much here to delight us...

But sooner or later we find that not everything is to our liking in this book.  It starts out sweet to our taste; and then we find that it doesn't sit well with us at all; it becomes bitter in our stomachs.  Finding ourselves in this book is most pleasant, flattering eve; and then we find that the book is not written to flatter us, but to involve us in a reality, God's reality, that doesn't cater to our fantasies of ourselves.

There are hard things in this book, hard things to hear, hard things to obey.  There are words in this book that are difficult to digest.  John got a severe case of indigestion...

It is far too common among us to develop a problem-solving habit of approach to the Bible, figuring out what doesn't seem to fit and then sanding off the rough edges, so that is slips into our ways of thinking more easily.  We want to use it for comfort, and if it doesn't work comfortably we reconfigure it so that it will.  One good friend warns his students against becoming expert text-nicians.  Text-nicians learn this text, master it inside and out, so that they can repair it when we sense it's a little "off," so that it will run smoothly and get us where we want to go with our needs and wants and feelings...

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers.  And that is certainly correct.  The text of the Bible sets us in a reality that is congruent with who we are as created beings in God's image and what we are destined for in the purposes of Christ.  But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.  The Bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book.  Eat this book; it will be sweet as honey in your mouth; but it will also be bitter to your stomach.  You can't reduce this book to what you can handle, you can't domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with.  You can't make it your toy poodle trained to respond to your commands.

~Eugene Peterson

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