There is a phrase some people use in regard to the bible. A phrase – much like the different creeds – which is a statement of belief. And – much like the creeds – if you can’t recite it, or choose to question it, or say “no I cannot believe those words as presented” … does that make me a bad Christian?
This particular “issue” arose because of different bible versions. One bible version said “that”, and another said “this”. And the view was expressed that one must go back to the Greek instead of “teaching” from a particular version of the bible.
I cannot remember the particular phrase I was asked: “Do you believe that the bible is …” (the snappy phrase is essentially “do you believe the bible is God-given and perfect in every way?”) … And I had to answer “no”.
It is the “and” bit I object to (although there are so many versions of what and who “God is” – perhaps that also makes a yes/no answer less helpful).
I came this morning to the bible as usual. The same “version” held up as not a “good version” (in the discussion above). Today’s verses are these: Matthew 1:1-17 … Jesus’ family tree … the number 14 … which is 2 x 7 … and all the significance that carries.
And my “problem” with that … ? Of “significance” to who exactly?
To me? None whatsoever. To lots of folks I know – none whatsoever. To some – massive! To some – the whole bible is one huge mathematical puzzle to be solved! To some EVERYTHING has a numerical significance! Formulae and sums and a blackboard full of numbers are presented proving this or that. Do I believe that is correct? No idea – but I do know it gets in the way of my relationship with my living Father – it gets in the way of Love (for me). And that is the reason I struggle with so much of “do you agree – do you believe?” – it gets in the way.
Yes and No.
Are you the Son of God? Are you this – are you that – are you saying this – are you saying that – by what authority – are you God? Always “yes or no” being the required answer. And how often did Jesus oblige (a bible scholar can provide the number)?
My Lord asks me to answer “Not many – if ever.” Why is that? Why does Jesus avoid the “yes and no” game?
And if we teach Jesus as the role model – why do we ask so many times of so many things to do with “God Stuff”: Do YOU believe? And always the only available options? “Yes” or “No”.
Why is that?
And why is it that no matter how inclusive we try to be, how non-judgemental, how loving, there (almost always) comes a point where “that question” happens: “So do you believe?” with this or that.
Why is that? Why is “what I believe” such a crucial issue?
Today I am very tired, very run-down, very distracted. Today I believe you are attacking me. Tomorrow or yesterday I was none of those things and I believed we were connecting. Today you are very tired, very run-down, very distracted. Today you believe I am attacking you. Tomorrow or yesterday you were none of those things and you believed we were connecting.
Today’s verses in Matthew have a numeric significance. Today’s verses in Matthew have a church calendar significance. Today Jesus’s family tree has significance. The bible says so because I am told that the bible says so. Why?
Does my family tree dictate that I should be taken more seriously today in this post? Does my lineage add to my credibility in this post?
What I do think … sense … see in these verses … at this moment in my life is this:
Matthew was writing to a particular audience in a particular age for a particular reason. In the hope (the same hope I have in these words) that his words drew others closer to the living loving creator of all. That his words drew those who read his words closer in relationship with a living Father. That they draw each reader towards Love.
Whether or not you “believe” – that is YOUR choice (and that choice will change).
My “work” here is the same as Matthew. To allow my loving Father to breathe through me into these words. In the hope that His breath breathes through you as you read these words. And that He and you do whatever He and you will do with that breathing.
Which means I would never ask you: “Do you believe I am right?” That puts me in the way of my Lord. And how does that allow you to allow Him? And just how does that allow me to allow Him? So just how does that draw you closer to Love?
Which is why I wonder why do we do it so often to each other.