That title sounds controversial, right? Like something Trump would tweet. You might disagree with it from the off but let me explain. Bible studies have, it seems, been around since Noah stepped off the Ark. What else do you do when you gather a group of Christians together? It’s always bourbon biscuits and Bible study isn’t it?
Yet reading the Bible and studying it in small groups isn’t actually what it was originally intended for. I know this might shock a few people but we weren’t saved from death and sin just so we could sit in our warm comfy homes and discuss the nuances of scripture.
Scripture was written to provoke, to inspire, to challenge and to enrich our lives. One thing the Christian life should never be is comfortable, it’s never a word that Christ uses and it shouldn’t be what we use.
Let me use an analogy. Say you’re really into travel and you buy several travel guides for lots of countries around the world; Tanzania, Cambodia, Argentina and Hawaii. Then you read them cover to cover, taking in every picture and discussing it with friends, asking about the deeper meaning behind the traditions of the cultures you’re seeing. You look at the best restaurant in Buenos Aires, the Argentinian capital, and the surfing lessons you can book in Hawaii. But then you never actually travel to any of the places you were reading about. I would say you’re missing the point. You see, travel guides aren’t meant to just be read and studied, they’re meant to help you when you’re stuck in a foreign city and don’t know where the best place is to eat when you can’t speak the language. That’s when the travel guide comes alive, that’s what it’s intended for.
It’s the same with the Bible, the scriptures come alive when we live them out. They weren’t written for bourbon biscuit and blanket Christianity. They were written so that radical love could transform this planet, one broken person at a time. In fact, most scripture was spoken well before it was written down, it was a story carried by voices of many dialects, voices that slowed during the serious bits and quickened pace during the exciting bits. The dry ink we have in front of us was the most efficient way (thanks printing press) it could reach the hearts of so many people yet the word’s of the Bible were never meant to stay as dry ink debated in living rooms.
People can often call for more deep teaching in their lives, which since Jesus was a Rabbi and Teacher is an important part of the Christian life, but it’s not the most important and if we only ask for that we’re missing the point. It’s like asking for a travel guide to India without the intention to ever travel there.
It’s deep living that Jesus that calls us into. When he is quizzed about what the greatest commandment he responds that we should love God and our neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). The great commision he gives us is to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:16-20). There’s nothing in there about just studying the Bible and everything about living the Bible. Yes, we need the Bible, it’s so important that we read each page and meditate on what God is saying to us and others through it, but to stop there would be like waking out of a movie halfway through.
I’ll leave us with an example of the example that Jesus showed us. In John we hear that Jesus washed his disciple’s feet. He doesn’t follow that up by telling them to study his actions but instead to live them out:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
So yes read your Bible and study the meaning of what’s being said but don’t stop there, “now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”