Inspired by Christoph’s musings on the same subject.
I recently did one of those Facebook memes on books you’ve read. There was a list of 100 most popular/best loved books, and you had to say whether you’d read it, and if you’d read it, whether you loved it. You put a + if you’d read it and an x if you loved it, or something like that.
Halfway down the list was the Bible. I hit the + sign, because I’ve more or less read it. Enough to go to a book club discussion on it anyway.
But do I hit the x button? Can I actually say that I love the bible? I debated, stared, clicked and unclicked for a long time. I almost put a decisive x in the box, but then…
I don’t love the Bible, I thought. I can’t claim I do. I find swathes of it utterly alien to me, written by people whose value systems run dramatically against my own. Overall, I don’t think it’s a good idea to invade alien lands and put the non-believers to the sword, especially because your God tells you to do it. I can’t quite seem to get excited about smitings. I read the psalms and curse David for being a self-righteous git. The prophets give ten times as much airspace to judgement compared to grace.
And the New Testament? With its accounts of driving out demons when it looks to me like they’ve mis-diagnosed someone with epilepsy or mental ill-health? The weird phrases that you just can’t begin to fathom? The constant head-doing tension between passages which seem to imply that salvation is yours if you accept Christ, and the ones that scream ‘but only if you do something about it’?
But I can hardly condemn the whole book can I? The glorious descriptions of a creation enthralled with its creator. The gut wrenching Suffering Servant passages; the social justice of the law; the poetry of the Psalms. The passion of the jilted lover-God, enraged at his people’s prostitution, yet forever taking them back. The unfolding story of redemption, culminating in the revelation and sacrifice of Christ. The first stumbling but authentic attempts at working out what this earth-shattering good news actually means.
I read this book more or less daily. Hardly a brag; as I listen to it far more seldom. I argue with it; I doubt it; I get frustrated with it; I ignore it. Like I do with my wife. But also like my wife, it has shaped me in a way that nothing else ever has or could. I have a relationship with it, and through it, my relationship with God is given context and meaning. And in a cold lonely hotel room, opening the drawer of bedside table and seeing it there lets me know that I’m never alone, and that by opening it up I can come home to the place where I belong.
I love the book. I clicked the x.