Making sense of the Bible

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 1 John 2:1

the view from Nazareth
the view from Nazareth

This morning’s scripture reference comes from the Bible Gateway website; it’s their verse of the day. The Bible Gateway provides easy access to just about every translation (and paraphrase) imaginable, as well as a host of other resources, including a link to this blog on their “blogger grid” page.

I’m grateful for Bible Gateway’s ministry.

JOHN MAKES A FUNNY: I have just a couple of thoughts to share this morning. First, I’ve got to say the scripture reference made me chuckle. The writer – John – says that he is offering instruction… counsel… advice, so that his readers “will not sin.” He follows that optimistic overture by writing, “But IF anyone does sin…”

If??? How long had John been locked away on that island? I know, I know, there’s nothing wrong with striving for our best, swinging for 1,000, or – like my Methodist friends – working toward perfection. But inserting the word “if” anywhere near the word “sin” fails to ring true when we consider the overwhelming evidence of the human condition.

Jesus is not my advocate “if” I sin; Jesus is there for me because I sin.

I’m a very positive person. My writing always points in the direction of belief, and encouragement, and hope. But the reason I’m so positive, the reason I live and love with such enthusiasm, is because Jesus has restored my relationship with God. It’s not a backup plan in case I sin, but a complete re-framing of my relationship… because my complete separation from God is a fait accompli without Jesus.

Now – because of Jesus – I live as a fully engaged child of God. I still sin, yes, but the relationship is secure because of Jesus. Jesus has not saved me from something so much as I am saved for so much more!

THE BIBLE: My second thought this morning is about the Bible itself. The Bible is the narrative story of the evolving – and sometimes devolving – relationship of humankind to the Creator.

The Bible is full of accounts of how people have responded to God’s ongoing initiatives. There are stories that demonstrate progress in that relationship, and then there are stories that illustrate just how poorly we listen.

Our opportunity, as 21st Century followers of Jesus, is to become a part of the ongoing story of redemption and of love. “The Canon” may be closed, and church councils will not be adding any new books to the collection. But – and this is important, friends – we can live out our relationship with God in such a way that the truth and the fidelity of the Word of God is made evident through the witness that is the story of our lives.

The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. – 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Try thinking about the Bible as an amazing story of creation, promise, disappointment, hope, struggle, redemption, reconciliation, and the invitation to a New and Living Way; a story that we are invited to become a part of; a story we can live with passion and with living hope.

In love, and because of love – DEREK

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