The Bible is an amazing collection of writings. They were collected over hundreds of
years. Reading the Bible thoughtfully
reveals that there is a wide variety of styles and forms within this sacred
treasury. One can find history, poetry,
hymns, letters, sermons, legal documents, and more. Within the books themselves there are many
literary classifications to be found.
The gospels feature parables, teachings on prayer, personal reflections
and family trees. Understanding all of
these is not an overwhelming task but it is one that requires that we take the
For example, Jesus has a conversation with a wealthy man
about eternal life. Jesus tells him that
if he wishes to be complete the man must sell all that he has and give to the
poor. This is a beautiful and powerful
story, one that tells us much about ourselves and our attachment to things that
don't matter much in the long
However, if we interpret it literally we will have to
conclude that eternal life, entry into heaven, is predicated on whether or not
we will sell all that we have and give it away to the poor. I have heard stories of wealthy people doing
this in order to serve the least of these.
However, their motivation was not a desire to gain eternal life but to
love and care for humanity at a deep and intimate level. In other words, they understood Jesus
instruction, not literally, but seriously and spiritually.
If we are going to understand biblical teachings, the
serious approach is the one we must take.
If we dont, literalism will
lead us to strange and sometimes dangerous conclusions. If we take the Bible literally I will be able
to argue in favor of polygamy, slavery and the death penalty for Boy Scouts who
make fun of bald preachers.
Seriously. I'm not making
Instead, if we bring open minds, open hearts and open
spirits to the Bible, learn to study it in context, pay attention to the
various genres and genuinely seek to understand what this word is saying today,
we will be amazed at the beauty and power that we find. As your pastor, there is nothing I do that is
more serious or more inspiring than this singular task.
Grace and Peace to you,