Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Reverence for the Word

I had a good conversation with a friend today who is working on a book. One of the themes we touched on is one we've covered often: How the Word of God applies to all areas of life, or as I prefer to put it, We can apply our whole life and every area of it to God's Word.

We were discussing how many people don't believe this these days, and we weren't just talking about non-believers either. Even among Bible-believing professing Christians who adhere to doctrines like the inspiration of Scripture, there is not always an embrace of the idea that the Bible is practical for all things. All things should be in subjection to God's Word. Nothing exists without God's Word. God is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).

As we were talking, I wondered if Christians don't completely believe the Bible does apply to all things because they're not sure it can apply to all things. One more step back from that: Do Christians fail to believe the Bible can apply to everything because they lack reverence for the Word of God?

I have two stories by which I intend to illustrate that our reverence for the Word of God may not be as high as it appropriately could be. Both stories reflect how important words are in relationships.

Story #1: I know a man who received a letter from his father when he left home. He loved his father dearly, and this was clearly evident in the effort he put in to memorizing that letter from his father. He didn't want to forget a word, and knew every word meant something from the man he knew loved his son.

Story #2: In the early days of a couple's relationship and considerations of marriage, the two committed to never considering or even uttering the d-word, divorce. To borrow a principle, “let it not even be named among you” (Ephesians 5:3). Not even as a joke. Never touch the subject, get anywhere near it, or allow it anywhere near you.

To me, memorizing Scripture is one of the highest forms of reverence one can have for the Word of God (and one of the most useful). Sure, one can memorize with no reverence in their spirit at all, but for those who do so voluntarily, I think it can be very reverent.

Just as some utterly avoid using the d-word, so I take great care in ever saying anything that would denigrate a fundamental and reverent form of learning God's holy words.

I rarely hear the average Christian talk about Scripture memory at all, so this comment is mostly directed at Christian leaders. Most of the time I hear mention of Scripture memory today, it's either not in a positive light, or in a less favorable light.

Scripture memory is a favorite punching bag when comparing against other things by which Christians want to judge others. I remember once reading a Tweet that went something like, “If you've memorized books of the Bible and you don't know your neighbors' names, you're doing it wrong.” No I'm not. I live in a transient area, and people in apartment buildings get nervous when someone they don't know unexpectedly knocks on their door. I learn more names at building parties instead, and I often have no idea if they're neighbors or not. The “doing it wrong” statement is about as useful as saying, “If you get up early and you don't eat tomatoes, you're doing it wrong.”

Another one I hear is, “I don't care if you've memorized books of the Bible; I want to hear about Jesus in your life,” as if (a) it's only one or the other, and (b) how many people who don't know the Lord have bothered to memorize books of the Bible? Yes, trusting Jesus as your Savior is of ultimate importance. My issue is not with that, but with unnecessarily and irrelevantly pitting that against Scripture memory and reverence for every word, every jot, and every tittle of the Word of God.

The problem is not limited to attitudes toward Scripture memory. I've been amazed at the number of Christians who want to bypass a truth clearly presented in Scripture and in an effort to do so raise questions of “interpretation.” As my friend and conversation partner today once noted, 95% of the Scriptures are pretty clear from just a plain natural reading. To whomever you attribute the quote, there is wisdom in the saying, “It is not the things which I do not understand in the Bible which trouble me, but the things which I do understand.” Sometimes things are indeed hard to understand, but this may not be because of the Bible. My great-uncle was once asked, “How come the Bible is so hard to understand?” His answer: “Often, this appears to be the case because the Bible doesn't say what we think it should say.”

The Bible says exactly what God thinks it should say. Every word. Every letter. Every mark. Every paragraph. Every chapter. Every book. From cover to cover, beginning to end. From the creation of all things to the consummation of all things. The things in the Scriptures written before “were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The level of our hope in Christ over any created thing reflects our view of Scripture.

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