By: Kyle French
Perhaps, every now and then, you wonder why being a “good” Christian feels a lot like being back in grade school? Take for instance, a checklist of what are “good” qualities of a Christian that you probably hear so much about:
- Read your Bible | Read your textbooks
- Go to church, listen to the sermon | Go to class, listen to the lesson
- Pray – Ask for grace for your salvation | Pray – Ask for grace for your grades
- Be above reproach | Be a good citizen
- Serve others | Group projects, voice for the bullied, don’t hit anyone in the face in dodgeball
Unfortunately, all too often, being a “good” Christian tends to feel a lot more like a chore than an enjoyable experience. Does that mean then that there is something wrong with Christianity, or is something wrong in our hearts? The simple answer is both, but yet we tend to lean much more on one side than the other. Since we could talk at nauseum about any particular concern, let’s address one of the toughest disciplines of being a “good” Christian, reading the Bible. So, let me explain what I mean.
What is wrong with “Christianity?”
It might not need to be said but to be clear, I’m wholeheartedly not saying that there is anything wrong with the faith that God intended for His people to follow. What I am saying is this, that Christianity as we know it today in the US, has become more of a cultural phenomenon than an all-encompassing identity as it was intended. Or simply put, does our “say,” really match our “do?” Which then leaves Christianity in a precarious position, as the claims that we tend to teach or promote, do not really reflect the lives we ourselves live. In a sense, it can be hard to escape the dreaded term, “hypocricy.”
For example, Bart Ehrman, is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For those who are not aware, North Carolina is considered to be a part of an informal grouping of mostly Southern states into what is deceivingly called the “Bible Belt.” Just as the name implicates, this region is presumed to be socially conservative and typically immersed in evangelical Protestantism (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, just about everything but Catholic). Not only does this group enjoy being identified with the label, they seem to practice such an ideal, as much as possible. Which is important to mention, because of how Professor Ehrman likes to begin some of his courses at UNC. With each new semester, Professor Ehrman asks a question of his introductory Bible courses, “Who has read at least one book from the Harry Potter series?” Almost everyone will raise their hand. Then he follows it up with another question, “Who has read the Bible, from cover to cover?” As you might have guessed, only a handful of individuals are able to raise their hands. With the evidence in hand, Ehrman slyly makes the comment, “If God had written a book, wouldn’t everyone want to read it?” While his brief survey is fairly rigged, he does pose an important point and it still stings quite a bit to realize how little significance we (myself included) can tend to value the Word of God.
Surely, within the region that the school sits, wouldn’t this be the perfect group to break the presumption? To top it off, Professor Ehrman is a staunch Agnostic Atheist, and has made a living in arguing that the Biblical text is not to be taken as the inspired Word of God, but merely as another literary work from ages of old. However, if we push aside the professors own personal beliefs, the issue he raises is an important one. How should we treat the Bible if we truly believe that it is from God? And that’s where we can start to address our next concern.
What is wrong in our hearts?
To be fair, to know what is truly “wrong,” is to know that the good news is not very fair at all. Which can be best summed up by the words of the Apostle Paul, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”In the eyes of the secular world, this is surely foolishness, why should the guilty be set free from their trespasses? But to the church, it is the purest form of love. Therefore, what is truly “wrong” has already been redeemed on the cross, so feel free to take a breath if you’ve ever questioned your salvation based on your capacity and ability to read your Bible (or any other Christian discipline for that matter). Instead of remaining in our discouragement or indifference, lets bridge the gap, by looking into why it can be so difficult to get into the Word, and formulate a practical plan for what to do about it.
Here are some of the top reasons that Christians find it difficult to get into their Bibles, “It is too hard to read,” or “I’m too busy,” or “It is old and out of touch,” or even “My relationship with God is complicated.” Can we be honest with ourselves, and agree that if it’s worth doing, it is probably going to require some form of difficulty. The question then is, is the difficulty it will take to overcome these issues, worth it to you? With the proper motivation and resources, we can overcome just about any concern that we may have with our devotion. So to keep it straight forward, here are some simple solutions that should be recommended.
- Motivation:Nothing can replace a personal commitment to the Lord, for finding the proper motivation. It can be difficult, and you may waiver at times, but the decision is yours, and yours alone.
- To hard and out of touch: Think about this, if you were to take a trip to… India, wouldn’t you take some time to learn about what you may experience? The truth of God’s Word is timeless, but the way in which it has been revealed, is through the human experience of its author in a particular context. Therefore, there will be some drop-off between the authors of Scripture and you as the reader, but with the help of the Holy Spirit and some preparation the text should “come alive.” The more you invest into and the more consistent you can be, the easier it will get.
- It’s complicated:You’re not alone, the Psalms are full of honest, heart-wrenching concerns that God’s people had for Him. No matter how simple or major the problem or issue is, God is always ready to listen!
2 Corinthians 5:21