Peter once said about Jesus that he alone had words of eternal life. That is exactly where our trouble begins. The primary way in which God communicates to us is through words on pages. Granted, there are some other ways, but most Christians will agree that the Bible is the primary way in which God reveals himself to us today. However, we are not so good with words a lot of the times, especially not with words that were written down several millennia ago.
If Jesus had a movie of eternal life or vines of eternal life, I’m sure we’d be all over that. In fact, some of us can talk for hours and hours about the plot, cast, scenes, and hidden aspects of our favorite movies, but ask us to read portions of the Bible and a lot of us won’t have all that much to say. Why not? Because many of us don’t dive into the Bible the way they dive into their favorite movies or shows.
Whenever we do read the Bible, it oftentimes consists of a somewhat random selection of verses or sections based on today’s reading plan, Bible app or “the leading of the Spirit.” What if you watched your favorite movie or show the way you read the Bible? Would you only watch certain scenes? Would you jump from minute 2 to 45 to 36 to 78 because those contain your favorite quotes of the movie? Would you only listen to the parts where your favorite character is talking? Would you only watch a few minutes out of each episode?
The answer to all these admittedly odd questions is no. Yet, we treat the Bible that way so often. We skip texts we don’t like or understand (i.e. the Old Testament altogether). We have a collection of favorite verses (John 3:16), a favorite speaker (Jesus), and favorite chapters (1 Corinthians 13, Psalm 23). And we are happy to build our life on this very fragmented and incomplete reading of the Bible.
If, however, we treated the Bible like we treat our favorite movie, we might be reading it quite differently:
- We’d read it frequently and in its entirety
- We’d pay attention to the details and nuances
- We’d know at any time where we are in the plot, what happened before and what the current scene will lead to
- We’d have a growing understanding of the characters involved
- We’d see how the different scenes are interacting and interdepending on each other
- We’d be intellectually, imaginatively and emotionally involved when reading
- We’d be reading it togethers with others
- We’d be talking about it to other people
Doesn’t that sound nice? Sadly, Bible reading is often a boring and unfruitful experience for many. I suggest that’s partly because we have lost our ability to enjoy good literature – not to mention the obvious fact that we have lost interest in God. Let’s start with the former and see if we can recover our ability to read texts and enjoy various genres of literature.