All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16
How do you read Scripture? If you are like the majority of faithful, church-going, hymn-singing, blog reading people...the most honest answer to that questions is, "Not very often." At least, not very often outside of Sunday morning. Well over half of people surveyed by the Pew Form a few years ago admitted that they don't read Scripture outside of church. Let's face it, that makes some sense. The Bible might not be nearly as compelling as the latest novel from your favorite author. Not to mention the print is a bit on the tiny side, the pages a bit on a thin side, and a little to much emphasis on, "So and so begat so and so who begat so and so..." And you thought Harlequin romance novels were only interested in sex. Seriously, that is a lot of begating!
Each of us brings a perspective to Scripture. At the church I serve, I have been talking about approaches to reading Scripture. My hope and prayer is that by giving folks some tools for opening the pages of Scripture, it might pique the interest and cause/inspire folks to pick up the Good Book on a day other than Sunday.
There are six approaches to Scripture, you might think of these as six eye-glass lenses you might put on to read or understand Scripture through.
The first is Scripture as a chain. Each verse in the bible is inter-locking, inter-dependent, and equally important. Folks in this camp operate out of the cliche, that a chain is only as good as it's weakest link. Often, this group defends the Bible as being the literal Word of God.
The second is Scripture as concentric circles. Think of dropping a rock in the middle of the water and watching the ripples go outward, further and further from the center. Folks in this camp cling to a verse or idea that is their rock. They might say Jesus' commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is the center or the claim that God is love. Then, when people with these glasses read the Bible, they evaluate how close or how far way the passage of Scripture is from the center. So, the Parable of the Prodigal Son would be close to the center of God is love, many verses in the book of Leviticus...not so much. Maybe past the shoreline of the water.
The third is Scripture as a moral code or ethical guide. Folks in this camp want to read Scripture and for every verse/story come up with one take home message, rule, idea to apply to their life. So, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is...Don't have any kids! Just kidding. It is that we are suppose to forgive. Of course, there are some passages this can take a great deal of mental gymnastics to try to find one kernel or moral lesson from.
The fourth is Scripture as a conversation. The Bible is a record of a dialogue between God and humanity, we are invited to join the conversation. Folks in this camp want to add their two cents in response to Scripture...maybe even debate Scripture.
The fifth is Scripture as embodied truth. Whereas the above four work primarily at the intellectual level, what does my mind say in response to these words? This way of reading works on the emotional level, what does Scripture make me feel? What would my life look like if I took this seriously? Folks in this camp read the Bible with their heart first.
The sixth is Scripture as story, that Scripture is a narrative. By story I do not mean to minimize or discount the Bible's importance. In fact, I believe that stories are the ONLY thing that make us change our life. I can give you all kinds of facts about me...my age, height, weight, college and higher education degrees. OR I can tell you a story about growing up in Iowa...God's heaven on earth. You see the movie, Field of Dreams was a documentary. Or, it was just a really good story about how our family relationships matter and our hopes for what is beyond our life here on earth. "Tell me a story," is a phrase we never out grown.
That is it. Six lenses. Of course, you could you wear a couple different lenses at once, but just as in real life it is hard to focus! Give this some thought and prayer this week. Which one to you find yourself nodding as you read? Which one gets under your skin? Which one do you want to know more about?
May you sense MORE than a trace of God's grace this Sunday as you enter into worship and dwell with Scripture.