Monday, December 9, 2013

Reading the Bible: Learning from my grandmother's stiff upper lip

My very British grandmother became a nurse at the age of 14 as the war with Germany was escalating and the Germans were practicing the newly developed and imprecise science of rocketry on the stiff upper lips of Londoners. This meant that each time my grandmother took the train back to the hospital in London where she worked, another building around the hospital was gone, along with the people who were in it at the time the rocket fell. In spite of this daily danger the doctors and nurses, including my grandmother, stubbornly fixed their jaws and served the people of London, running up to the roof to extinguish incendiary bombs as they fell on the roof, rescuing patients from the basement as it flooded with water from a broken water main, and in countless other ways demonstrating a kind of courage that we rarely see in o
ur soft and self-centered world today.

As I seek to help young men to understand why they should love the Bible and how to approach such a unique text, it has occurred to me that the same reasons my heart would beat a little faster and a smile would creep over my face as I heard my grandmother tell her stories are the same reasons that should cause us to thrill at the message of the Bible.

Why should I have cared so much about my grandmother’s stories? My grandmother is dead. I wasn't
even there when these stories lodged themselves into the annals of history. I've never been to England. I am a proud American not a Briton. But it is good and right that I should care. These stories are in a real sense my stories. They are the stories of my people and my family. They are stories that not only tell me of who my ancestors were but of who I am, what I should be, and serve to warn me away from the mistakes that were made by those upstream from me in time. As the river of history flows past me these stories explain the quality of the waters I now find myself in. I am not the sum of my ancestry, but without a doubt the knuckleheads and the nobility that came before me were an important force in helping to mold who I am.

What a tragedy it would have been if I had thought of my grandmother’s stories as an inconvenient obligation. What an attitude of self-conceit dishonoring to her if I had kept looking at my watch as she told the stories all the while thinking about what I'd rather be doing. But to our shame this is precisely how we treat God, His story and His message.

Rather than viewing the stories of scripture as a history textbook to be endured, let’s take a different and far more appropriate approach. For those of us who have been rescued out of our former slavish existence in the family of the flesh and who are now adopted sons and daughters of the king of the universe, we need to get to know our family history. There is so much to be proud of and a whole lot more stupidity to be learned from. We have some tendencies in our family that we should be aware of and we have noble moments that we should be proud to recount and to find strength in. More than anything, however, this is the story of our Heavenly Father’s love, care and provision. It is a long history of how he consistently makes and keeps His promises. And so this is not just a family history, it is a letter from our father to us. We hear His voice in all of its shades as we interact with Him in his Word. And in view of the first few pages of our family history we should already have a clear idea that when he speaks those words live. They are active words. They are words that cry out to be interacted with. The Bible is not a book to be read passively. And as we open its pages we ought to be careful. Those edges are sharp and will not leave us unaffected.

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