I love the Bible. I love it in all of its difficulties. In all of its marks of humanity, it still carries the breath of God. In all of its difficult passages and complicated theologies, it tells a powerful story.
The Bible is a rich and diverse collection of ancient Hebrew literature, all centered around the Hebrew experience of God. It embraces struggle. It exemplifies the faithful without hiding their misdeeds. The Hebrew writers celebrate the joy of seeking after Yahweh, while also documenting their pain and suffering that sometimes occurs directly under God’s nose. It relays a plan of restoration and redemption for humanity, while also acknowledging that that restoration and redemption rarely go smoothly.
In the Old Testament, we get the story of a cheating spouse, who is constantly recalled and reclaimed by her jilted lover. In Jeremiah 3, God actually writes Israel a certificate of divorce for her adultery, but he takes her back anyway. In Exodus 19, God lays out a covenant with the Israelite people, saying, “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples.” Yet when they break his laws and disobey his commands, he still keeps them as his own.
The Old Testament testifies to a loving and patient God. A God who strengthens and protects, but also a God who meters out justice. When his people reject him, he gives them exactly what they want and distances himself. When they cry out to him, he responds with rescue, restoration, and redemption.
When I read the witness of the Hebrews in their relationship with God, I can’t help but want to join in.
In the Gospels, we get the story of God who sacrificed himself to become the lowest of the low. He rejected all earthly forms of power, and became a servant to those who deserved no servants. He submitted himself to those who had no claim to power over him. He gave justice to the oppressed, and healing to the broken. By the end of the Gospel stories, he took on the brokenness of the whole world in order to bring healing and restoration for everyone.
When I read the witness of the apostles in their relationship to Christ, I can’t help but want to join in.
In the rest of the New Testament, we get the story of an early church, seeking to share the Gospel and live out the workings of the Holy Spirit in the midst of persecution and hatred. The Church followed God and rejoiced in their persecutions, always being sustained by God, even when individuals among them were tortured and killed for their beliefs. Disciples such as Paul wrote letters to encourage the early Church to rejoice in the transformative power of the Christ, confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about new creation.
When I read the witness of the early Church in its relationship to the Holy Spirit, I can’t help but want to join in.
And that pull to join in the story is what the Bible is.
It’s not a rule book, with dire consequences for infractions.
It’s not the Last Will and Testament of God, with no further revelation since God finished writing it.
It’s not an object of faith, necessary for salvation.
Rather, the Bible is a collection of testimonies about how God has worked in the lives of his people throughout history, and a promise that he will continue to work in the lives of his people moving forward. The Bible compels us to join in the story of re-creation.
Because the whole power of the Bible is that it’s telling a current story, not a past one. And if we have a high view of scripture, we won’t relegate the Bible to past revelation, or rules to live by, or even a divine object of faith. Rather, a high view of scripture is one that allows it to play out in our own lives.
A high view of scripture lets us read stories like Creation and believe that the same God who spoke light into darkness continues to speak light into our lives. Further, it moves us to speak light into other people’s lives.
A high view of scripture lets us read the Exodus story and know that God continues to deliver us from oppression, injustice, and evil. Further, it compels us to help deliver others from oppression, injustice and evil.
A high view of scripture lets us read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and believe that God continues to forgive our iniquities and call us into his submission. Further, it requires us to forgive others and submit ourselves in service to our enemies.
We can know that we have a sufficiently high view of scripture when people can testify that God is transforming and redeeming us, even if they never crack open a Bible to read for themselves. Paul talks about that in 2 Corinthians 3, saying “You are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.”
The Bible is the opening chapters of a story we join in on. So join in. Be a part of the testimony. Let people find God in us the way we found God in the pages of the Bible.
May we join in the testimony, showing others the great news of the God we serve.