….If it is it’s not a very good one. Sure we have the 10 commandments, but then we have King David, a relative of Jesus who cheats, lies, kills people to get to their wives, causes wars and altogether gets up to no good.
And God considers David a man “after his own heart”?
Let’s not even start on the Disciples.
The problem with reading the Bible as a manual is that we inevitably will use it to say what we want it to say. So we start keeping slaves or putting women down in church or telling gay people they are going to hell.
But the Bible is much more than this.
The Bible is my story, it is your story. It is an invitation to see our lives in people who have gone before us. To see ourselves in their successes and failures. It is to see ourselves through the eyes of communities like the ones we live in now. How we read the Bible imaginatively will shape mankind more than following a set of rules ever could.
But more than anything it’s an invitation to see ourselves through the eyes of a God who has unleashed us from rules and is inviting us to live in the freedom of knowing that no matter when we screw up, we are loved. To show us that working for our own good rather than serving others will end in disaster. That life is found not in arbitrary lists but in a “welcomed by God” life that is for everyone.
Not just liberals, not just conservatives, not just pro choice, not just pro life, not just those in favor of or against the death penalty, not just those who think we’re going to fly off to Heaven some day, not just those who think you are going to hell, not just those who fight to protect their theology, not just those who are afraid of those who are different or foreign.
Because all of those require a set of rules and lists. You do this and you’re in. You think like this and you’re welcome. Neatly packaged.
But Jesus invites everyone who is tired and weary to come to Him. Which is anything but neat and tidy.
It’s also not a rule; it’s a letting go of the structures we’ve built on acting a certain way and beginning to be ok with not being ok.
By removing ourselves from the daily pursuit of trying and instead living in the freedom that is everyone’s.
This is why the good news has been lost to so many. It sounds great at first, then we try and live better, mess up and are made to feel like actually it turns out it did all depend on our performance. When our spirituality has been based and structured around rules for so long, we begin to see them as the point. When they are anything but.
Jesus reserved His harshest words for those who were religious and spent their time telling people that they were wrong. Alternatively, Jesus reserved His most loving words and actions for those who were poor, those who were sex workers, the people hurt and burned by religion, the homeless, the sick and the foreigner.
The very people who hadn’t or couldn’t follow the rules.
This is why the religion of many has become stale or lost. Church institutions have told them that they are sinners and disappointing God. They’ve been told that they can’t continue down this road or else they’re going to be lost.
But the one thing that can change all that; the one thing that can open us up to a God who cares for people just like us is to see ourselves through God and not man. To see that even if you’re an illegal immigrant, even if you are a porn star, even if you can’t break the addiction controlling your life for years or even if you doubt that God even cares at all,
in the end,
we’re all people after God’s heart.