Ah the Bible. The Christian manual. The how to guide for how to live a Holy life. A list of long, unpronounceable names and instructions and rules and…I’m almost falling asleep thinking about it.
It’s not every inspiring, let’s be honest. Not, that is when the only way we think about the Bible is as a very long and boring instruction manual for Christians without even the helpful pictures that IKEA provide.
The Bible is probably the most misunderstood collection of writings ever. One of the biggest reasons for this is in how we treat it as one large book that was written roughly around the same time by the same people and should all be read in the same way.
But the Bible isn’t simply something you can open and take out bits and pieces and assume they all mean the same. It consists of completely different styles of writings, written by around 40 different people over a period of roughly 1500 years. Think about that for a second. If you took 40 Christians (let’s not even get into the fact that the vast majority of the writers of the Bible weren’t even Christians) and put them all in a room today, they would disagree on a great number of things. Let alone taking 40 Christians separated by countries, class, sex and a whole load of other factors I haven’t bothered to think about from over 150 centuries.
Would we expect the writings of a writer today and a writer from the year 515AD or from a writer in the year 3515AD to feel the same, to have the same essence, to be understood in the same way? Of course not. Yet this is what we do so often with the Bible.
The world changes, attitudes change, we understand the world in a vastly different way than we did even 10 years ago.
So we start with an understanding of the Bible being a vast library of literature that simply can’t be understood the same way throughout.
The biggest way we wrongly assume we should read the Bible is as an instruction book. A lot of it is of course devoted to how we should live but even these are not given as rules in which we are to blindly follow.
Rarely is there an instruction in the Bible, that is not intended to bring out or reflect something deeper within us rather than just a system to be followed. Or when Jesus talks, he rarely gives flat out belief statements about issues but asks questions and tells odd stories and speaks in riddles; all designed to evoke something within us about what it truly means to be fully alive and present in God’s Kingdom.
For example, how do you become saved? Depends which book of the Bible you read. Take your pick.
If reading the Bible doesn’t bring us closer to a more Just, Peaceful, Loving and Graceful World we need to rethink it. (Tweet this)
These are the things in the Bible that are timeless.
The Law found in the Old Testament for example was designed to bring about these characteristics in the people it was given to. The odd commands about the kind of material they were to wear and the intrinsic methods the people had to go through to prepare food all had a higher purpose than simply the clothing or the food itself.
They were never the purpose.
They were only there to guide the people to their purpose.
So are we literally meant to let people take advantage of us and not complain because Jesus told us to turn the other cheek? Or is this an invitation to think creatively about how we can change perceptions for our enemies? By completely catching them off guard and breaking out of the black and white parameters of revenge and justice to something more wonderful.
Or do we need to have a fully comprehensive understanding of the Trilogy? Do we need to understand exactly how Jesus is God and who this third wheel is in the Holy Spirit? Or does it teach us about self sustaining community where everyone’s needs are completely met and jealousy, envy and hatred can’t exist when everyone is loved unconditionally?
Is Jesus asking us to become meek and poor and mournful in Matthew 5? Or is he also showing us how upside down the world has become; showing us a glimpse and invitation into what God’s Kingdom will truly look like. Where the things we believe give us life, like money and success will turn out not to be where we find life at all.
And when we pursue these things, everyone will be free.
So if you’re bored or fed up with the Bible, maybe like me you had fallen into the trap of believing I had understood everything I could out of it. That when read as a manual for Christian living we miss out so so much. That truth is not about gaining information about certain behaviors or beliefs but about how we become fully conscious and fully awake to ourselves, the world and God.
May you find that in the Bible. May you find Hope and Peace and an escape from the ways you have been taught about God and the Bible that have left you frustrated and angry.
May you find life.
For more on how to read the Bible as more than an Instructional guide for Christians check out