Here we go people! It’s the final installment of my six-part series on being transformed by the Bible.
In part 3 I wrote about the danger of studying the Bible alone. Today’s post is on the importance of other people reading the Bible with you.
But first, a story.
A few weeks ago, my lovely wife and I were in Dallas preparing for this year’s Urbana Student Missions Conference. We will be Bible teachers at this awesome event. We gathered with about 35 other people to study selections from the Gospel of Luke.
Each day, the group would sit at tables and use the inductive method to study each text. And each time we gathered, we sat at different tables with different people. Here is an example of who was in the room:
- Canadian college ministers
- A Kenyan
- Latina staff who will be leading their studies in Spanish
- College ministers from all over the country
- Men & women who have worked for decades in foreign countries.
- First generation Asian-American women
By the end of the week, I began to realize how much I gained from being in that room with all those people. They saw things I would have easily missed but didn’t thanks to the input of people who were very different than me.
And lest you think it was this glorious double-rainbow of diversity where everyone sang Kumbaya in six different languages, let me tell you that it was HARD. There were tears. There were misunderstandings. We had to skip a whole session to address the different tensions and offenses that had happened.
But was it worth it? Do I think the group and therefore, the conference, will be better for it?
We need community when we study the Bible. We need other people. And we need people who are different than us.
1) The Bible has always been communal
All those “you’s” in the Bible? Those are plural.
Moses spoke the law to the whole assembly. They all heard it.
Psalms were sung by groups of pilgrims on journeys to Jerusalem.
Paul wrote letters to churches.
What makes us think that now, in the 21st century, we have finally reached a point where we don’t need other people? Why do we think we can do it so differently than everyone else has throughout pretty much ALL of history?
2) You can’t see your own biases
I was telling a friend a story about how excited I was that at this Urbana conference a Kenyan would lead American students in Scripture.
His first reaction was a scowl.
“Yeah, but they have so many biases when they read the Bible,” he said.
Now, I didn’t say anything in response, but my first thought was, “yeah? So? You do too. You just think yours are right.”
Most of the people who read this blog are White Americans. Not all. But most. And one thing White Americans are notorious for is thinking their own cultural biases are neutral.
We bring just as many false assumptions to our own Bible reading as anyone else. That is why we need other people who will see things that we miss and then lovingly correct us when we are wrong.
You just have to be willing to hear what they have to say.
3) Healthy Application Always Leads You Into Community
How many times have you heard someone say “I just need to read my Bible more” or, “I just need to pray more”?
Those are great, but you do enough of them and you will realize that the whole point is to get you to engage in community. It is to help you love your enemies. It is to help you seek the peace and welfare of your neighbors and your city.
Since the Bible pushes us into community anyway, we might as well read it and study it together!
So here is my challenge to you:
- Begin reading the Bible more with other people!
- If you do read it on your own, never do so without sharing what you are learning with someone else
- Invite other people to live the story with you.
Which of those do you want to do this week? How are you going to do it?