B IBLE STUDY MESSES with your Life.
You might not be familiar with Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Booneville, Mississippi. You might have heard the brouhaha that went on there a few weeks ago. Some folks wanted to rent the venue for a wedding. They were turned down because they are an interracial couple.
When asked why, the owner’s response was:
“Because of our Christian beliefs. We just don’t participate. We just choose not to.”
A few days later, the owner apologized, saying she had been taught that people were meant to stay “with your own race” but that after consulting with her pastor she realized nothing in the Bible prohibits interracial marriage. She continued:
“I truly apologize to you for my ignorance in not knowing the truth about this. My intent was … to stand firm on what I ‘assumed’ was right concerning marriage.”
† † †
WE “ASSUME” A LOT about the Bible. In part because we don’t read it. And when we do read, we bring a cultural bias to our reading. That’s why reading and discussing the Bible with other people is important. And that’s why reading and discussing the Bible with people who read it differently is essential.
When the early Christians gather, the apostles teach. Many people have joined the Jesus movement who have never heard Jesus’s teachings. The apostles, who were students of Jesus, teach what they learned from the master. They pass along the truth. They correct misguided ideas of being a Jesus follower. They challenge each other (see Acts 15) and they challenge the faithful.
They gather “at the same place and at the same time,” we are told — what we call Bible study or Sunday school. They “devote” (commit) themselves to each other to learn, to share what they learn, and to live what they learn.
It is mutual commitment that shapes and maintains this fledgling faith community. They meet together. They study the Scripture together. They share together. They disagree, but do it together. They are committed to one another and to the community.
† † †
THAT’S NOT THE WAY this fallen world functions. We block cable channels that tell a version of a story with which we disagree. We “unfriend” people who think differently. And, sadly, that fallen nature we often bring to Bible study.
But, it’s not really study if your interpretation is always the right way or the highway, if disagreement over a biblical understanding means separation from community.
Bible study messes with your life.
† † †
BUT A GROUP OF PEOPLE “at the same place and the same time” for Bible study is critical. There we wrestle with what the Bible means regarding the resident alien. We gather for study and struggle together with why we affirm one verse in Leviticus and ignore another verse from the same book.
Committed to one another, we hear how others address the contradictions between Genesis 1 and modern science. Being devoted to one another means it is safe to ask questions, challenge inconsistencies, and affirm differences.
This idea of community simultaneously attracts and repels us. We long for the life-affirming benefits that community offers, but we resist the demands that community makes.
† † †
AND LET’S TALK about children and study. Adults, children learn from us. As Debbie Schmidt reminded us a few weeks ago, we promise to nurture children in the faith. The church does that through education opportunities. Swift Church does that through Sunday school and VBS and ministries like GFG, SWAG and Refuel. We encourage nurturing through Montreat Youth Conference.
They need to be exposed to different, perhaps radical (in our minds, anyway) understandings of the Bible.
All I got growing up from church was an unquestioned biased biblical understanding. My love for God kept me in church. Not the theology I was hearing. I longed for a more expansive conversation when I was in high school. Someone to hear my questions. To take seriously my doubts. It was not until college that I got that opportunity.
Too many of our youth drop out of church long before that because they’re not allowed to ask the hard and challenging questions.
† † †
BUT PARENTS, the church cannot do this alone. The best children’s ministry is kids watching their parents follow Jesus.
Study. Wrestle. Pray with your children over biblical questions. Allow your children to challenge your opinions of church and faith. When they have faith questions, seek to answer them. Not with trite answers but with nurturing faith. It might mean spending time looking for the answer yourself. Or better yet, do it together.
The early Christians spent much time together in study. They spent much time at home learning and living the faith.