Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reading the Bible in Community

Last week in our Wednesday Bible discussion class called Cultivating the Word one of the guys in the group was talking about how some people on his street who claim to be religious were shunning and actually saying rude things to a neighbor who had been evicted. He was telling us that even though he and his wife were trying to respond in Christian charity to this neighbor, he felt he had to identify with the neighbors who were in this situation being hypocrites. This class when taken to heart can really challenge your beliefs and your actions.

I wrote an email to the participants. I have rewritten it below to make it more understandable for those of you who were not there.

I've been giving some thought to what _____ was saying about identifying with the church-going people who were being uncharitable to the evicted neighbor. My initial response was that I didn't need to do that, as they were exhibiting unChristlike behavior.

But the more I think about it, the more I think it is a dialectic. On the one hand, consider the part in the Bible where the disciples want to rebuke some people who weren't "of them" yet were preaching Christ. Jesus says to let them be, it is OK. This may be even the passage where he goes on to say, one can't preach me in one breath and be against me in the next. In this sense, even though the neighbors are sinning, we and they both profess Christ.

On the other hand, if we are to be rooting out of ourselves hatred, unkindness, etc., certainly we don't need to embrace/identify with those aspects of Christians who are at certain points sinning...other than the fact that we all have ungodly parts. Maybe that was exactly the point ______ was getting at. We might be better at not calling people "stinky" to their face, but certainly we have other sins that are just as bad or worse.

So, maybe I've come full circle in my thoughts. If we and those neighbors are true followers of Jesus, then we do have a common identity and certainly those outside the church are going to lump us all together. So let us encourage the good, godly, complete parts in each other and also call each other on the sin in our lives that is going to be a blot on who we are as the church in the world.

Let's Get Going!

Over the last year I've been reading portions of the Bible in the manner described in a book given to me by a friend. Search and Rescue by Neil Cole suggests large passages of Scripture be read over and over again for a week. Being a person who thrives on structure and routine, and armed with a log sheet I created to record my observations, I was off and running. From the beginning I determined that for me, reading the same passage over and over in the same version of the Bible would be boring, so each day I read from a different version. After five days of reading, my sixth morning would involve synthesizing what I had read. On Sunday I would journal the ideas gleaned from the passages that had made the biggest impression.

Why Blog? Over this past year I have written a few notes and many emails to my close friends that contained gleanings they might find interesting. I have enjoyed writing them and receiving the feedback. I am hoping this blog and the responses will move me to write more and better.

The Name of the Blog. The beginning of Hebrews 12 is my favorite passage in the Bible. I often refer to my Christian walk as a journey or a moving down the path. In this chapter the metaphor is a "race". And it is not just "my race", it is THE RACE set before US. I have purposed in my heart that I will finish this race and finish it well. Let's run it together and cross the finish line, eyes fixed on Jesus the Author and the Finisher of our faith!