People are put off by the Bible

People often read the Bible and are put off, primarily because they expect the book to be something it’s not. Folks want inspiration, comfort, or self-improvement, but they fail to realize that above all else, the Bible is a book about relationships and reality.

Some readers get quite distressed when they find that some men of God had multiple wives and still slept with people other than those women. Supposedly godly people arranged murders, raised rebellious children, killed multitudes in acts of war, owned slaves, constructed elaborate lies, engaged in deliberate acts of deception, and generally acted in less than exemplary ways. These biblical figures aren’t intended to be examples, at least not of perfection or godliness. They are, however, flesh and blood portraits of people caught up in life; sometimes they were walking closely with God, and sometimes they weren’t.

Christians like to say that the Word of God is perfect, and it does perfectly reveal man’s imperfections. There are honest psalms where, besides offering praise to God, the speaker seems to crave vengeance or arrogantly compare himself to other people, and one even blesses those who bash the babies of the psalmist’s enemies against rocks (Psalm 137:9).

Does all this really demonstrate God’s perfection? Jesus Himself said at least a portion of God’s perfect word reflected not so much His perfection as man’s lack thereof when he told the Pharisees that part of the laws concerning divorce were written because of man’s “hardness of heart” and not because of God’s perfect will, which always has been for one man and woman to cleave to one another (Matthew 19:7-9).

I Corinthians 13:9 indicates, “We know in part and prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, they will be done away.” Some of my non-Charismatic friends interpret this to mean that when the Bible was assembled, we no longer needed certain gifts like tongues and prophecy, but I beg to differ with them. The “perfect” refers not to the Bible, but to Christ Himself. A few verses later, Paul, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, wrote, “Now we see in a mirror, but then face to face; now I know in part, then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (13:12).

At some point, we will see Jesus face to face, and when that day comes, we will have full knowledge. Until that time, we have a collection of writings inspired by God’s own Spirit that can be misinterpreted, mistranslated, and used in deceitful ways, but that doesn’t invalidate them in the least. For thousands of years, God’s people have used these written words as a standard against which they can measure their thoughts and experiences, and we do well to consider these writings as nothing less than completely relevant.


Bible reading keeps me on track

I’ve read the entire Bible one or more times in the following versions: King James, New American Standard, Living Bible, The Message, The Way, Contemporary English Version, New International Version and the English Standard Version. Additionally, I have read the entire New Testament scores or maybe hundreds of times in an even greater number of translations and paraphrases, and the same is true for Psalms and Proverbs. I don’t say any of this to brag, but rather to give some hope and perspective.

First of all, a little Bible reading a day really adds up. There have been times when I’ve sat for long periods with a Bible in front of me, but mostly I read just a chapter or two, sometimes in more than one session each day. In truth, it’s usually better not to read very much, but rather to read a little as deeply as possible.

If we cover too much too fast, we don’t really understand what’s there. I remember once reading Philippians 4:4-20 over and over for about a week because I felt there was much in those verses that I needed to absorb, embody, and live out. I’m sure that I still have much to learn from that small section of the Bible, but eventually I moved on and found other passages to ponder, pray about, and incorporate into my life.

Secondly, and most importantly, I’m sure all that Bible reading has kept me pretty much on the right road for all these years. It has saved me from making horrible mistakes, given me the insight to do things right, and it has helped keep me in the faith when many of my contemporaries have strayed.

Even though I’ve spent much of my life as an English teacher, and I’m a real book guy, I’m convinced that the Bible is the only book everyone needs to read. Sure, works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner and all those others teachers have badgered kids about can be profitable, but the only thing all of us really need is the Bible.

Too often people read little devotionals or other Christian books that have some nice thoughts with a little Scripture and neglect the Bible itself. It is the most influential book in the history of world, so a thinking person should know what it says, and a serious seeker of God should read it widely. That means we should read whole books of the Bible, the entire New Testament, and eventually the Old Testament with all its strange stories, lists of dead people, obscure laws, and seemingly repetitious prophecies.

We should also read it deeply, focusing within those pages on verses and small sections while really thinking, praying, and listening to the Holy Spirit, so we can know what those words really mean. If we don’t do this for ourselves, others may try to do it for us, and that isn’t always a good thing.

I’m convinced that reading the Bible for myself and seeking to know its wisdom has protected me from cultists knocking on my door, charlatans and lunatics on television, good friends parroting various deceptions, and well-intentioned church leaders who simply didn’t know what they were talking about.

Oh, and best of all, the Bible has delivered me from my own ignorance and deception. When you get right down to it, we don’t really need others to lead us astray. We do a good enough job of it on our own.

Adapted from Keeping It Between the Ditches