My material grandmother had a peculiar rule of thumb, according to my mom: she never allowed anything to be placed on top of a Bible. Absolutely nothing! Not a highlighter, not a pen, nor even a bulletin could grace the surface of God’s Word. This practice that once seemed strange to me, now seems to be making more sense. Now, several decades later,I too have decided to retrain myself into following this practice… Why? Well, let me begin at the beginning.
Sometimes, the phrase “Word of God” isn’t as clear as we would like to think. When we think “Word of God” typically what pops into our heads is The Holy Bible or the Holy Scriptures. We often think of it as the written Word, however, this does not encapsulate the entity of this phrase. The “Word of God” does properly represent The Bible, but it is not limited by what’s written. It also includes The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. “The Word of the Lord” was around long before Gutenberg’s Press. In John 1, we see Jesus referred to as the Word that became flesh. The Holy Spirit is what is moving the Word of God into action in Acts 2. Therefore, the “Word of God” isn’t merely a book, but is God, in all three persons, along with the written Word of God. So, the revealing of God’s Word didn’t end with the Apostle John writing Revelation, but rather, still continues today, because God is still working.
One of the things that is absolutely impossible for us to do, is to read The Bible without biases. It’s going to happen. I read The Bible as an American Christian, because that is who I am and that’s what I know. An African Christian will interpret Scripture slightly different because who they are and all they know is how to be an African Christian. There are biases that happen against our will because that is all we know, and I think we need to come to terms with that and understand it and simply be okay with it.
There are other biases we bring to The Bible when we read it that we can help and change, but often we choose not to do so. For example, a Wesleyan comes to The Bible with a Wesleyan bias and a Calvinist comes to The Bible with a Calvinist bias. A conservative comes to The Bible with a conservative bias, and a liberal comes to The Bible with a liberal bias. A feminist comes to Scripture with a feminist bias and a complementarian comes to The Bible with a complementarian bias. These biases aren’t bad in it of itself. It’s important we know exactly where we stand, or else that old quote may become a reality, “If you don’t stand for something, you’re going to fall for everything.”
Where these biases get in trouble is when we aren’t willing to listen to reason, and we start to throw verses and chapters at each other, as though we are monkeys throwing poo at each other. Personally, I’m not going to be won over to the likes of a monkey by being splattered with poo, anymore than I will be won over to the likes of an opposing side of theology by being splattered with Scripture. But this isn’t even the main problem. The main problem is actually this: when we are verse-poo throwing monkeys, we take the authority of Scripture away from the Trinity, and we therefore, turn all authority over to us and make ourselves the “experts.”
I’m not a fan of the theology of “age of accountability”, in fact, I despise it. I understand people came up with it to help grieve the lose of children, and by no means do I believe any child is condemned to hell because they are too small to ask Jesus into their hearts. Rather, I struggle with the concept of when a child turns 12 or 13, they understand and therefore can make a decision. First of all, some of my best theological discussions happen with a 5 or 6 year old. Secondly, a 12 or 13 or 14 or 15 year old can’t fully understand the Gospel either. For crying out loud, I am in my 30s and I don’t understand how the Trinity works, or why God loves me, or exactly what will happen at the end of the world. God is so much bigger than me. What I do believe is that God meets us exactly where we are at–right in our little corners of the world. He doesn’t expect us to go to Him, He’s always been the God who came to us. And in order for Him to speak to me, I need to humble myself to a place where I can hear Him.
I’ve never been an expert at understanding God’s Word. However, truthfully, I’ve had my share of being the verse-poo throwing monkey, and it’s an easy place to put myself. All I have to use is my ego and pride, which I have tons of that I store away for a rainy day, aka: the day I feel enormously insecure about myself. I’m trying to bring myself to the place where I know what I believe, and my spirit is willing to teach someone about what I believe, but as for flinging poo–nope! I really want to abandon that practice!
I think one of the strongest ways we can show the Word of God authority is by being willing to unlearn something we have always been taught. Over a decade ago, I was introduced to a theology of Revelation which excluded a rapture. I had always been taught there was a rapture. I had always been told there was a rapture. I had always believed there was a rapture. Suddenly, to learn there was no rapture was shocking, and honestly, it took a few years to unlearn what I had always been taught, and then it even took a few more years after that to formulate my own beliefs of Revelation to the point I could teach them. Deconstruction and reconstruction of Scripture takes a lot of time, and understanding, but more than anything, it takes a lot of humility and seeking of God.
I have truly been challenged to give up my verse-poo throwing monkey ways which is really hard to do because golly gee–I love to be right. And my pride loves to be right. And my ego loves to be right. And when I’m right, I feel powerful… well, actually “powerful” is the wrong word… I feel… uh… authoritative. That’s it! I feel authoritative when I’m right! However, when it comes to the Word of God, the very last place I need to be is in authority, rather I need to be under the authority of the Word of God. This requires me to admit that as much of a Wesleyan I am, there is Scripture to support Calvinism. I may be wrong, but you know what? That’s okay. God never said we had to get it right. He said we had to love Him and love people. Getting The Bible right isn’t going to save me anymore than following all the laws of the Old Testament. It’s that I’m seeking to find out who God is that matters. In the words of one of my friends, “It’s all about the journey.” And it truly is. It’s about the quest for God, not actually arriving at being God.
An ordinance is a spiritual practice we do outwardly to show or remind us of something that has taken place inwardly (yes, that’s an ordinance, not a sacrament, there’s difference, but that’s another blog for another time). My new ordinance is to make sure nothing sits on top of The Bible (which is hard to do because I nonchalantly do it all the time!), but this is to serve as my reminder to be humble before the Word of God. It’s my reminder, that as much as I can, not to bring biases to Scripture before I read it. It’s a reminder that everything and anything goes under God’s Being. As a result, I hope this to be a reminder to stop the poo-verse throwing monkey ways. I hope I will take God’s Word seriously, and that I will learn what I need to learn and that I will unlearn what I need to unlearn to follow God in a more dedicated way.