Thursday, July 31, 2014

St. Paul's #1 Reason to Read the Bible

In Romans 15:4, Paul writes: "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."

I've seen the Bible treated as something to be memorized and recited, as a history book, or as a self-help book or rule book for living (and to be fair, all of these can be found in scripture and have value). There are many who talk about Bible codes to interpret the future or discover the secrets of the universe. But for Paul, the goal is not secret knowledge or personal success, but hope. The scriptures teach us about "endurance" and "encouragement" so that "we might have hope." Hope in the God who has been present and faithful for all those who have struggled with faith and love before us.

In other words, the stories of God's people have been preserved and shared so that we can read ourselves in them and say, "Hey, I'm not the first person to face troubles/have doubts/face backlash for trying to do the right thing/make mistakes." And through that realization, we might find hope for ourselves in the same God who loved them.

I sometimes think of hope as a fluffy, squishy, Hallmark card kind of idea, but for Paul it's bedrock to being a follower of Jesus and core to understanding the Bible. (He uses the word 49 times in his letters, more often than "prayer" or "worship.") Hope enables faith, faith inspires love, and love generates hope.

I've heard and thought about the Bible in various contexts as a love story, a history book, an instruction manual, and a work of literature. Paul insists on another one: source of hope.

“Opened the door, knew what was me; I finally realized: parachute over me.” -Guster, “Parachute”

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