A lover who is separated from the beloved doesn’t let a love letter just sit on the kitchen table unopened for days on end with the ever-growing pile of junk mail, but instead quickly and eagerly opens it upon its arrival, reading and rereading it until the ink is nearly worn off from use. Scripture is a love letter from our Divine Bridegroom … we too should eagerly and often read the Scriptures and hear there the voice of our Beloved speaking to us. Tim Gray, “Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.”
Bible engagement isn’t something we master overnight. “Exposure to the contents of Scripture does not necessarily lead to a transforming encounter with God’s Word,” says professor of theology J. Todd Billings. The Bible reveals while it hides and hides while it reveals. To engage the Bible successfully with our hearts, heads and hands requires much more than reading the Scriptures, listening to sermons, or memorizing some verses.
It can be a challenge to engage with the Bible. In fact, the reality for some Christians may look like this: Commit to reading the Bible every day. Do okay for a while. Fail. Try again. Do okay for a while. Fail again. Try again. Do okay for a while. Fail again. Give up.
Maybe one of the reasons why some people fail in their efforts to read, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word is because they think it’s about them; about what they need to do to please God, how they can get Him in their lives, or how to be right with Him. That’s getting it back to front. Bible engagement isn’t about our prosperity, safety or gratification.
For others, it may be that when all is said and done, Bible engagement doesn’t really matter. In their heart of hearts, some Christians secretly wonder if reading the Bible makes a difference. They look around and see nice people who aren’t Christians and Christians who aren’t nice people, and say to themselves, “Why should I read the Bible?”
When I took to the streets and asked people why they don’t engage with the Bible, most people responded, “Because I don’t have enough time.” On the surface, this may be true. Our lives are often frenetic. On the other hand, we’re rarely too busy to surf the internet, watch television, or meet someone for a cup of tea or coffee. The truth is we think we have better things to do and we prioritize our time accordingly.
The more fundamental reason why people fail to connect with the Bible is sin. Some people shy away from reading the Bible because they’re sustaining their lives in their own strength. Our independent spirits don’t want to confess the need to be dependent on God. Pride, lack of obedience, an unwillingness to submit, and a skewed view of God result in us not doing what we should be doing.
Here’s the bottom line: Bible engagement thrives when it’s about Jesus, not when it’s about us. “He must become greater; I must become less” John 3:30. To engage fruitfully with the Bible we must look to Christ, and not ourselves. Author and pastor Eugene Peterson says, “One of the most urgent tasks facing the Christian community today is to counter self-sovereignty by reasserting what it means to live these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.”
So Scripture is given to us to reveal Christ. Christ is the theme, purpose and interpretive key to Bible engagement. He is the motive, the means and the message. Yes, Bible engagement is challenging, but it isn’t complicated. Quite simply, if our relationship with Christ is healthy, our Bible engagement will be healthy.
© Scripture Union Canada 2020