Ever find someone else’s mail delivered to your box? Usually when we receive a neighbor’s post, it’s junk mail. Nothing curious about it. Imagine finding some old letter hidden behind a baseboard in your house. It might be intriguing at first but without any personal connection or historic significance, you would lose interest. Now, what if it were a note from from John Adams to his wife, or George Washington to George III? No doubt that would hold interest–historic, even personal interest.
Let’s take it a step further. Consider your reaction after discovering a letter from your great, great, grandfather to his son about the title to a piece of real estate in downtown Manhattan. Here you find not only historic significance and a personal connection, but also a future promise of great wealth for you and your family.
This last example comes close to people’s response when they begin to see the personal relevance of scripture. As with the analogy of finding an old letter, it requires 1) the belief that truth presents itself in history, 2) a personal connection, and 3) an evoked sense of hope that these writings speak to your future. Past history, present relevance, and future hope.
Apart from these, no stack of “how to” books on reading the Bible will do much to enrich your reading of it.
Periodically, someone will ask–
Question: “Do you interpret the Bible literally?”
Answer: I interpret it truthfully. For example, I don’t think that when Jesus referred to himself as “The Gate,” he meant he had hinges. At one point, Jesus says to his close followers, “Though I have been speaking figuratively…” (John 16:25). He explains how in his teaching, he uses stories and illustrations to represent bigger themes.
The question about “taking the Bible literally” has a flawed premise. It ignores the fact that the scriptures include a wide variety of writings (genres). Some books are straight history, others are poetic, still others use hyperbolic images to represent truths which extend into mystery.
Some people read that explanation and think it’s a lot of “Deja Moo.” (They get the feeling they have heard this bull before). However, reading the Bible faithfully–reading anything faithfully–requires us to look at the author’s original intent. Ask yourself how it worked out the last time you did not make the effort to understand what someone in your household actually meant by what they said?