Psalms 34; 146, Jeremiah 7:21-34, Romans 4:13-25, John 7:37-52
Here’s a question loaded with potential paradox: can the Bible, which warns us against idolatry, itself become an object of idolatry?
Let’s consider the Pharisees in today’s reading from John. As they tried to determine who this Jesus person was and what he meant to the Jews, they consulted their scriptures. We tend to peg the Pharisees as villains, but in truth they resembled some of today’s Christians, struggling to obey every jot and tittle of their sacred texts. The Pharisees knew Jesus as a Galilean, and therefore dismissed him as a messianic candidate since their sources said the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. No prophet at all was expected from Galilee. Yes, they were ignorant of the facts surrounding Jesus’ birth, but weren’t they also guilty of ignoring the evidence in front of them, evidence the less pious correctly accepted? The Pharisees idolized their scriptures over the Truth before them. Those same scriptures we revere today.
Ever seen the bumper sticker that reads: “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it”? We like to believe we would have seen things differently than the Pharisees, but our bumper stickers say otherwise. Perhaps it’s not the Bible itself we idolize, but our confidence in our own understanding of it. This tendency is not limited to either conservative or liberal readers of the Bible. While the former may forego nuance and context, the latter can deconstruct it to the point of meaninglessness. Exaggerated self-confidence wears no particular political stripe. Sometimes we all prefer certainty to mystery.
If we close our minds to new understanding of scripture, we may miss the Truth in front of us. We do not trust God because the Bible says to—we trust the Bible because we trust God. Many life experiences will not fit our understanding of scripture. At these times we do not abandon scripture for ease or convenience, but would be wise to humbly heed the advice of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Comfort: We are meant to wrestle with scripture.
Challenge: Meditate on how experience defies your expectations.
Prayer: God of holy mystery, I trust you above anything. Amen.
Discussion: How has your relationship with the Bible evolved over time?
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